Public Housing: Examining the Impact of Banishment and Community Policing

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Virginia Tech


Public housing authorities (PHAs) have enforced banishment since the late 1980s by granting police the authority to ban non-residents from public housing neighborhoods and arresting them for trespassing upon violating the ban. PHAs justify banishment by stating that issuing bans and arrests for trespassing aid in crime prevention by removing non-residents who may commit criminal acts if left unguarded. Nonetheless, there has been no scientific evidence to suggest that banishment works to reduce crime. Similarly, the role community policing can play in enforcing banishment is unclear and scarce research has considered the effects of banishment on racial and ethnic minorities at neighborhood and individual levels. To address these issues this three-part study examined the enforcement of banishment on Kings Housing Authority (KHA; Southeast, US) public housing property from 2004-2012. Collectively these studies address the following overarching research questions: Does banishment reduce crime in public housing neighborhoods? Does banishment disproportionately target racial and ethnic public housing neighborhoods? Does banishment prevent banned individuals from re-offending in public housing? Does banishment disproportionately ban racial and ethnic individuals? What are the residential perceptions of banishment and its effectiveness? How does race and ethnicity affect perceptions of banishment and its effectiveness? Results suggest that banishment is better at reducing property crime than violent crime, though the reductions are modest at best. Increases in bans predicted decreases in drug arrests the following year and predicted that drug offenders can be deterred. Despite these crime control benefits results also suggested that the enforcement of banishment comes at a cost. First, a significant amount of banned individuals are not deterred. Second, while trespass enforcement is used in communities other than public housing, the issuing of bans is concentrated only within public housing communities and bans are predominantly issued to African-American males. Finally, results found that residents are not likely to find them effective if they think they are policing too much or policing too little. Future directions and implications are discussed given the dynamic between the crime control benefits of banishment and its social consequences.



Banishment, Policing, Crime, Public Housing, Race and Ethnicity