The e-newsletter of the COPS Office | Volume 1 | Issue 9 | September 2008

Foreclosures: A Public Safety Issue?

foreclosure sign “Empty homes ‘blight’ nearby residence,” “vandalism and burglary up in 29 percent of cities,” and “drug users moving in” are common problems that have resulted from the increase in property foreclosures in recent years.1 Foreclosed homes and their neighborhoods are magnets for violent crime, metal theft, and property damage. Related white collar crimes such as mortgage fraud (mortgage bailout scams) are also on the rise because people affected by the mortgage crisis and drowning in debt are looking for a lifesaver.

The nation has seen a significant increase in mortgage scams because of borrowers’ inability to make their payments on risky subprime loans. These loans have adjustable rates that grow steeply and quickly. The rate of foreclosures seems to be increasing like the rising fuel costs. According to RealtyTrac CEO James J. Saccacio, “The year-over-year increase of more than 50 percent indicates we have not yet reached the top of this foreclosure cycle.”2 This goes to show that the nation isn’t out of the dark yet.

This month's issue of the Community Policing Dispatch highlights this national crisis of property foreclosures to educate the readers about how greatly it affects public safety and the law enforcement community in its efforts to effectively control crime, and how social disorder is increasing in communities as a result of the crisis.

Current issue of Geography and Public Safety newsletter also focuses on the foreclosure Crisis

gps newsletter image The COPS Office and the National Institute of Justice co-produce a quarterly newsletter that is useful for police practitioners, researchers, policy makers, and others interested in understanding the impact of geography on public safety. Each newsletter examines four substantive areas. The “Practice” section examines practices related to crime mapping and problem analysis; the “Policy” section describes policy related to the use of mapping to better understand crime; the “Technical Tips” section aids practitioners in completing specific spatial analysis tasks. Lastly, the “News Briefs” section lists upcoming geography events, such as conferences and training opportunities.

Geography and Public Safety, Issue 3 ties in with this month’s release of the Community Policing Dispatch and its examination of the effects of foreclosures on crime and public safety. Issue 3 discusses the broken windows theory and how theories of place and crime can be applied to the current housing crisis. Other articles will demonstrate the use of geographic information systems to support broken windows policing and examine how mapping foreclosures can help practitioners understand national and local problems. A policy article notes that policymakers and analysts nationwide are trying to measure the effects of the foreclosure crisis and decide how to distribute resources properly. Still another story talks about the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership, which was created to assist policymakers and researchers in solving problems and helping distressed neighborhoods affected by the foreclosure dilemma. Issue 3 also illustrates a new model for institutionalizing problem analysis in police agencies.

Issues of Geography and Public Safety can be found at The newsletter is available in both print and electronic format. You can also subscribe to this newsletter by pointing your cursor to

  • -Nicole Scalisi,
    Research Analyst,
    The COPS Office

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