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The Relationship Between Commerce and Crime | Off the Clock Economist Explores

Professor Daniel D’Amico interviews a New Orleans business owner about crime in the city after Hurricane Katrina. They observe that local businesses can play an important role in reducing crime and increasing the safety of communities. Entrepreneurs and businesses create more connections between people, offer support and economic opportunities, and provide what urbanist Jane Jacobs called “eyes on the street.”


  1. Hurricane Katrina — Gulf Coast Recovery project (essays) Scholars at the Mercatus Center researched, testified, and commented on social change in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, including the positive role of churches and the regulators’ knowledge problem.

  2. The Death and Life of Great American Cities (Wikipedia) The book by Jane Jacobs introduced the idea of “eyes on the street,” along with many other insights on how such factors as population size, diversity, and public and private money affect crime and urban prosperity.

  3. New Orleans shows striking potential, persistent problems, 8 years after Hurricane Katrina, economic report says (article) The Wall Street Journal addresses some of the basic and persistent problems in New Orleans, but also the city's incredible potential, eight years after Hurricane Katrina.

  4. Market Urbanism (webpage) An extensive list of readings on liberty-oriented perspectives on social change in cities.


The Relationship Between Commerce and Crime | Off the Clock Economist Explores

Daniel D’Amico: Rather than crime decline being a direct function of more cops on the street and more government involvement in criminal justice, it seems as though the decline in crime in this neighborhood in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is largely the result of more population and more business opportunities in the city.

Jennifer O’Blenis: Surely after Katrina there was a lot of bad crime in that first year. In this neighborhood it was the Wild West, and y’know... Crime was really bad. And crime has subsided here and there, but it, there’s very clear lines as to, the good and bad and ugly. <Laughs>

D’Amico: New Orleans, compared to other cities, is sort of the bad side of the line. We have a high violent crime rate relative to other places.  What do you think is going on in Marigny Bywater, Frenchmen Street that’s substantively different than say, 9th and 7th wards?

O’Blenis: Well, I mean, especially since Katrina and more so lately, more businesses, more people moving, in, more people caring about their neighborhood and their neighbors. The more people you have moving about and caring what’s going on, the less likely something’s gonna happen.

D’Amico: There’s an urban-studies professor named Jane Jacobs, and her theory of urban crime is called “eyes on the street.” And that the more hustle, the more activity, the more people who pay attention and who care and maintain their environment, and so in that sense I really think that business operators like yourself should be proud insofar as you’re doing a great service to this neighborhood.

O’Blenis: Absolutely we’ve known several people that’ve gotten mugged, gotten into bicycle accidents. They know to come here, like if they’re close by, come here, somebody will be here, somebody will help them, somebody will call, y’know, whatever service they need, or make sure they’re taken care of. You know, if somebody’s too drunk we make sure they get a cab whether we have to pay for it out of our pocket.... Y’know , we’re gonna make sure people are getting home safe.

D’Amico: Just sounds like good business.

O’Blenis: Yeah, absolutely.

D’Amico: In the wake of Hurricane Katrina it’s probably the case that the coffee shops, bars, and more activity has led to a decline in crime. They have a vested incentive to make sure that their neighborhoods are safe and secure from the problems of crime.

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