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Stadiums and crime go hand in hand, say Belgian researchers
Having a football stadium in your neighbourhood increases your risk of being the victim of a crime, according to research from Ghent University. Yet it is not match days that present the greatest risk, but the days between matches when the stadium is not in use.
In order to examine the effect of having a football stadium on the doorstep, criminologists from Ghent University and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR) looked at property crime in Ghent from 2012 to 2014. It was in this period that local football club KAA Gent swapped the Jules Otten Stadium, in a residential suburb, for the Ghelamco Arena in a business park on the edge of town.
The number of burglaries, shop thefts and thefts of and from vehicles decreased across the whole city between 2012 and 2014, yet the decline was strongest in the immediate vicinity of the former football stadium, which relocated in 2013.
“The closure of the football stadium led to 43% fewer property crimes being committed in the vicinity of the stadium on non-match days,” said Christophe Vandeviver, the lead researcher on the study. “In other words, when the stadium was still in use, almost twice as many robberies were committed in the immediate vicinity.”
The explanation for the crime wave around the stadium is that matches brought many more people into the neighbourhood. Criminals in the crowds then had the chance to spot possible targets, but tended not to act immediately.
“During football matches, there are many visitors and a greater police presence. As a result, it is not a good idea to commit crime on a match day, which is why likely perpetrators will commit the crime at another time,” said Vandeviver.
The researchers suggest that police surveillance of neighbourhoods around football stadiums should be increased on non-match days, in order to reduce the risks to local residents. They also recommend taking these findings into account when choosing locations for new football stadiums.
Photo: Neighbourhood crime dropped 43% when Ghent’s Jules Otten Stadium closed down ©Courtesy Fortuna Online