Urban Blight Remediation as a Cost-Beneficial Solution to Firearm Violence

Am J Public Health. 2016 Dec;106(12):2158-2164. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2016.303434. Epub 2016 Oct 13.


Objectives: To determine if blight remediation of abandoned buildings and vacant lots can be a cost-beneficial solution to firearm violence in US cities.

Methods: We performed quasi-experimental analyses of the impacts and economic returns on investment of urban blight remediation programs involving 5112 abandoned buildings and vacant lots on the occurrence of firearm and nonfirearm violence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, from 1999 to 2013. We adjusted before-after percent changes and returns on investment in treated versus control groups for sociodemographic factors.

Results: Abandoned building remediation significantly reduced firearm violence -39% (95% confidence interval [CI] = -28%, -50%; P < .05) as did vacant lot remediation (-4.6%; 95% CI = -4.2%, -5.0%; P < .001). Neither program significantly affected nonfirearm violence. Respectively, taxpayer and societal returns on investment for the prevention of firearm violence were $5 and $79 for every dollar spent on abandoned building remediation and $26 and $333 for every dollar spent on vacant lot remediation.

Conclusions: Abandoned buildings and vacant lots are blighted structures seen daily by urban residents that may create physical opportunities for violence by sheltering illegal activity and illegal firearms. Urban blight remediation programs can be cost-beneficial strategies that significantly and sustainably reduce firearm violence.

MeSH terms

  • Cities*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Firearms*
  • Humans
  • United States
  • Urban Renewal* / economics
  • Violence / prevention & control*