Does Public Transit Spread Crime? Evidence From Temporary Rail Station Closures

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We test whether public transit access affects crime using a novel identification strategy based on temporary, maintenance-related closures of stations in the Washington, DC rail transit system. The closures generate plausibly exogenous variation in transit access across space and time, allowing us to test the popular notion that crime can be facilitated by public transit. Closing one station reduces crime by 5% in the vicinity of stations on the same train line. Most of this effect remains after controlling for decreased ridership, indicating that a decrease in the availability of victims does not drive most of our results. We find suggestive evidence that crime falls more at stations that tend to import crime, i.e. stations where perpetrators are less likely to live. We also see larger decreases at stations on the same line when the transit authority closes stations that tend to export crime. These heterogeneous effects suggest that the response of perpetrators to increased transportation costs contributes to the decrease in crime. (C) 2015 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.