Study says crime has not risen around SugarHouse Casino

Increased police presence was cited by a researcher as a possible reason crime did not rise after SugarHouse opened in 2010. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Increased police presence was cited by a researcher as a possible reason crime did not rise after SugarHouse opened in 2010. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 20, 2014

A study by two Philadelphia researchers has found that crime in the immediate area of SugarHouse Casino in Philadelphia's Fishtown section has not increased since the casino opened 2010.

The study, by Lallen T. Johnson, assistant professor of criminal justice at Drexel University, and Jerry H. Ratcliffe, chair of Temple University's department of criminal justice, says crime rates in Fishtown were largely unaffected by the arrival of SugarHouse in the 1000 block of North Delaware Avenue in September 2010.

Before the casino's opening, area residents and civic groups said they worried that the influx of gamblers would draw criminals, too.

The research, which used no external funding, started in 2012 and looked at Philadelphia police crime data from 2004 through 2011, Johnson said.

The study, "A Partial Test of the Impact of a Casino on Neighborhood Crime" was published online by Palgrave MacMillan's Security Journal, a journal for security researchers and professionals. The article, which underwent a peer review, is also to be published in an upcoming print issue of the journal.

Johnson said the study, focused on four kinds of crime: violent street felonies; vehicle crimes, such as auto theft and break-ins; burglaries; and drug crimes.

"We found no statistically significant effect," Johnson said.

Jethro Heiko, one of the founders of the anti-casino group Casino Free Philadelphia, who lives about a block from SugarHouse, said he was not surprised.

He said Philadelphia and State Police had stepped up patrols after the casino opened.

"The issues of crime, as I see them with casinos, is they are not the violent local neighborhood crime issues. . . . It's more of the white-collar crime, embezzlement and fraud," Heiko said.

He said a study should focus on how people with gambling addiction may steal from employers.

Paul Boni, a lawyer who represented Casino Free Philadelphia, agreed, urging a focus on crimes related to gambling addiction, such as embezzlement. He also said he thought the study was "too limited, both in geography and types of crime."

Johnson agreed that an increased police presence might have kept a lid on crime in the area.

He noted that Philadelphia police had created a special patrol district in an area around the casino.

Johnson said there was some evidence of "displacement" in vehicle crime, as shown by a rise of such offenses in areas near Fishtown.

He said it was the sheer increase in the number of people arriving at the casino area may have deterred some crime.


vclark@phillynews.com

215-854-5717

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