Citizens’ concerns that methadone treatment centers (MTCs) might be focal points for serious crime are unwarranted, a recent NIDA-supported study suggests. Dr. Susan Boyd and colleagues at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore found that crime rates in the immediate vicinities of that city’s MTCs were level with the rates in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The researchers used Baltimore City Police Department records from 1999‒2001 and global positioning data to plot the distribution of FBI Part I crimes (homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson) within a 100-meter (328-foot) radius of 15 MTCs. A statistical analysis of the plots showed that the crimes were no more frequent within 25 meters of the MTCs than they were 75 to 100 meters away.
In contrast to the case with MTCs, the likelihood of Part I crimes rose with closer proximity to convenience stores. The researchers suggest that the high volume of foot traffic around these stores provides opportunities for criminals to find victims. Consistent with this surmise, the frequency of crime declined near mid-block residences, where foot traffic is relatively sparse.
The study MTCs included all but one of the 16 centers located in Baltimore. They were situated in diverse communities, including inner-city, working-class, and middle-class neighborhoods, according to Dr. Boyd. The convenience stores and residences were located in neighborhoods that closely resembled those of the MTCs in demographic and social features that influence crime rates.
“There’s no evidence from our study of increased reports of crime around the methadone clinics,” says Dr. Boyd. She and colleagues are now analyzing data on actual arrests around the study sites to see whether drug sales and possession increase with proximity to methadone treatment centers. The researchers hope that demonstrating that MTCs are not hot spots for crime will reduce public resistance to the building of new centers, and thus remove an impediment to making methadone treatment more widely available.
Crime Rates Around 15 Methadone Treatment Facilities, and Matched Convenience Stores and Residential Neighborhoods in Baltimore, 1999–2001 The annual rate of FBI Part I crimes* per unit area (1692 m2) was not significanly associated with proximity to methadone clinics. In contrast, crime increased with proximity to convenience stores and decreased with proximity to points within residential neighborhoods. *Homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
Text Description of Crime Rates Around Methadone Treatment Facilities, Hospitals, Convenience Stores, and Residential Neighborhoods in Baltimore, 1999–2001 Graphic
Source: Boyd, S.J., et al. Use of a “microecological technique” to study crime incidents around methadone maintenance treatment centers. Addiction 107(9):1632–1638, 2012. Abstract Available