Date of Award

Fall 12-2016

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Sociology

First Advisor

John A. Anderson, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

D. Alex Heckert, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Valerie J. Gunter, Ph.D.

Abstract

Transportation is a cornerstone among public sector services and enjoys a long history of influence on the nation’s culture. These influences emerge from divergent sources and affect each stratum in our social structure: drivers and pedestrians; transients and residents; wealthy and poor. Emergency services depend upon a reliable transportation network. Community activities come to a standstill when faced with weather-related road closures. Local economies suffer when the movement of goods and services is interrupted.

Transportation infrastructure also has influences that are much less obvious. This study explores the influence of transportation infrastructure on criminal behavior. Given the fact that crime is largely an opportunistic event, can communities reduce criminal behavior by removing the opportunities that attract it? Relatively new designs for transportation infrastructure may provide a possible intervention. This research explores opportunities for intervention that relate to transportation and the infrastructure alterations that communities may use to engineer a reduction in criminal behavior.

Finding the necessary resources to address public needs such as transportation and crime prevention is challenging, and often insufficient. Available funding is dwindling as needs continue to increase. Combining initiatives to expand the potential benefits may provide viable options. Where possible, communities may be able to stretch existing resources by simultaneously addressing multiple issues with the same funds.

This study explores one aspect of this strategy by examining the influence of transportation infrastructure on criminal behavior. It has two primary objectives: (a) to determine whether transportation infrastructure projects have the potential to intervene and to deter crime; and (b) to explore the impact of this intervention relative to other elements that influence crime and delinquency. Employing a mixed-methods approach, the study initially examines secondary quantitative criminal data from boroughs across PA to determine patterns and variations in reported crimes before and after alterations in transportation infrastructure. Then, a case study further explores these variations by providing a more detailed understanding of the effect of transportation infrastructure on criminal behavior in a single community. The results of this study introduce community decision-makers to additional information for making informed decisions regarding community investments.

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