Use of a Microecological Technique to Study Crime Incidents Around Methadone Maintenance Treatment Centers

There is no significant increase in serious crime around methadone treatment centers, according to this fine-grained geographic analysis in one city. This finding is contrary to fears commonly raised by neighborhood opposition to proposed centers.

Access to methadone maintenance—a well-established treatment for opiate and heroin dependence—is limited when neighborhoods resist the establishment of methadone treatments centers (MTCs) due to fears of related crime. While crime is known to decrease among individuals treated with methadone, the relationship between neighborhood crime and MTCs is unknown. This study examined the geographic relationship between serious (Part 1) crimes and 13 MTCs in Baltimore, Maryland from January 1999-December 2001. The study also examined the relationship between these crimes and three additional types of control locations, i.e., residential points (a low-traffic control) and convenience stores and medical hospitals (both high-traffic controls.) This study used geocoding methods to measure crimes in 25 meter increments within a buffer zone of 25 to 100 meters from the locations. The incidents were identified as occurring either during daylight (7am-7pm) or night.

Key Findings:

  • Crime counts did not change with increasing distance around MTCs, suggesting MTCs are not a geographic focus for crime.
  • By contrast, crime decreased as the distance from convenience stores increased, suggesting convenience stores do attract crime.
  • Crime increased as the distance increased from residential locations, in keeping with previous findings that crime is less likely in low-traffic areas.

Although the study was limited to one city, the authors suggest Baltimore may be an “ideal setting” due to its significant heroin and crime problems. They also note some drug-related crimes are not Part I crimes and, thus, not reflected in the data. But the researchers believe their work provides strong evidence to combat neighborhood crime concerns related to MTCs.