Drugs and Crime in Public Housing, 1986-1989: Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Washington, DC (ICPSR 6235)

Published: Jan 12, 2006

Principal Investigator(s):
Terence Dunworth, The RAND Corporation; Aaron Saiger, The RAND Corporation


Version V1

This study investigates rates of serious crime for selected public housing developments in Washington, DC, Phoenix, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California, for the years 1986 to 1989. Offense rates in housing developments were compared to rates in nearby areas of private housing as well as to city-wide rates. In addition, the extent of law enforcement activity in housing developments as represented by arrests was considered and compared to arrest levels in other areas. This process allowed both intra-city and inter-city comparisons to be made. Variables cover study site, origin of data, year of event, offense codes, and location of event. Los Angeles files also include police division.

Dunworth, Terence, and Saiger, Aaron. Drugs and Crime in Public Housing, 1986-1989: Los Angeles, Phoenix, and Washington, DC. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2006-01-12. https://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR06235.v1

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United States Department of Justice. Office of Justice Programs. National Institute of Justice (89-IJ-CX-0050)

1986 -- 1989

The final report (see Related Publications) is based on analyses of data from five cities: Lexington, Kentucky, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Phoenix, Arizona, and Los Angeles, California. However, this data collection contains data files for only Washington, Phoenix, and Los Angeles. For further information regarding Lexington and Philadelphia, refer to the final report.

Despite the amount of effort devoted to drug control in public housing, relatively little attention has been devoted to the problem of quantifying public housing crime. This study was conducted to provide an objective, quantitative description of the extent and nature of crime in selected public housing developments, an area where sound, empirical information was found to be lacking. Three major questions guided the research: (1) How can crime problems in housing developments be quantified using existing records? (2) What are the rates of drug and other serious offenses in conventional public housing developments, and how do these rates compare to rates city-wide and in urban neighborhoods close to public housing? (3) What is the extent of variation in offense rates among individual housing developments?

The investigators selected three major United States cities and, within those cities, selected 29 housing developments. City police departments were asked to provide incident-based, machine-readable files of all offenses and arrests that occurred between 1986 and 1989 for the areas in the study. Demographic information for the housing developments and nearby neighborhoods was developed from Census Bureau data and from information on resident populations collected by housing authorities in compliance with regulations of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Three cities were selected, and within them 29 housing projects were selected.

Public housing projects in Los Angeles, California, Phoenix, Arizona, and Washington, DC.

The units of observation are the housing projects and nearby neighborhoods.

city police department offense and arrest files, housing authority information, and census data

administrative records data

Variables cover study site, origin of data, year of event, offense codes, and location of event. Los Angeles files also include police division.



2006-01-12 All files were removed from dataset 7 and flagged as study-level files, so that they will accompany all downloads.

2005-11-04 On 2005-03-14 new files were added to one or more datasets. These files included additional setup files as well as one or more of the following: SAS program, SAS transport, SPSS portable, and Stata system files. The metadata record was revised 2005-11-04 to reflect these additions.

1995-03-16 ICPSR data undergo a confidentiality review and are altered when necessary to limit the risk of disclosure. ICPSR also routinely creates ready-to-go data files along with setups in the major statistical software formats as well as standard codebooks to accompany the data. In addition to these procedures, ICPSR performed the following processing steps for this data collection:

  • Standardized missing values.
  • Performed recodes and/or calculated derived variables.
  • Checked for undocumented or out-of-range codes.


  • The public-use data files in this collection are available for access by the general public. Access does not require affiliation with an ICPSR member institution.

  • The citation of this study may have changed due to the new version control system that has been implemented.
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This dataset is maintained and distributed by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data (NACJD), the criminal justice archive within ICPSR. NACJD is primarily sponsored by three agencies within the U.S. Department of Justice: the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, and the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.