We already know that adopting a dog can make you more popular and that long-term pet ownership may help slow cognitive decline as we age, but new research from Ohio State University now suggests that having more pet dogs in your neighbourhood could be linked to less crime.
In a study published last month in the journal Social Forces (aptly titled “Paws on the Street: Neighborhood-Level Concentration of Households with Dogs and Urban Crime”), researchers found a connection between neighbourhoods with more dogs and lower crime rates. Specifically, neighbourhoods with more dogs had lower rates of crimes like homicide, robbery and (though to a lesser extent), aggravated assaults.
But why does a higher-dog area mean a lower-crime neighbourhood? According to the study, the key to the lower crime rates could be a combination of increased trust between neighbours and more people outside walking that comes with more people owning and caring for dogs.
“People walking their dogs are essentially patrolling their neighbourhoods,” Nicolo Pinchak, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University, said in a release. “They see when things are not right, and when there are suspect outsiders in the area. It can be a crime deterrent.”
The study looked at crime statistics from 2014 to 2016 for 595 census block groups (AKA neighbourhoods) in the Columbus, Ohio area as well as 2013 survey data from a marketing firm that asked area residents if they had a dog in their household.
The researchers also used data from another study, the Adolescent Health and Development in Context study, that measured trust in individual neighbourhoods. This study showed that neighbourhoods with high levels of trust showed lower crime rates (that is, lower levels of homicide, robbery and aggravated assaults) in comparison to neighbourhoods with low levels of trust.
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High-trust neighbourhoods with high numbers of dogs had lower crime than those with low concentrations of dogs.
Specifically, the study found that even among high-trust neighbourhoods, those with a high concentration of pups had about two-thirds the robbery rates of those low in dog concentration — and about half the homicide rates.
This supports the idea that having lots of people walking their dogs makes a big impact on neighbourhood crime rates.
“Trust doesn’t help neighbourhoods as much if you don’t have people out there on the streets noticing what is going on. That’s what dog walking does,” Pinchak said in the release. “And that’s why dogs have a crime-fighting advantage over cats and other pets that don’t need walking.
“When people are out walking their dogs, they have conversations, they pet each other’s dogs. Sometimes they know the dog’s name and not even the owners. They learn what’s going on and can spot potential problems.”
What does this all mean? While having a dog can’t guarantee you’ll be less likely to be the victim of crime, there seems to be a strong correlation between you (and your neighbours) having a pup and less overall crime.
It’s further proof that pets (and pups) really can be just the best.