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Estimating Exposure to Neighborhood Crime by Race and Ethnicity for Public Health Research


Lodge, Evans K.; Hoyo, Cathrine; Gutierrez, Carmen M.; Rappazzo, Kristen M.; Emch, Michael E.; & Martin, Chantel L. (2021). Estimating Exposure to Neighborhood Crime by Race and Ethnicity for Public Health Research. BMC Public Health, 21(1), 1078. PMCID: PMC8183080


BACKGROUND: Police-reported crime data (hereafter "crime") is routinely used as a psychosocial stressor in public health research, yet few studies have jointly examined (a) differences in crime exposure based on participant race and ethnicity, (b) differences in measures of crime exposure, and (c) considerations for how exposure to police is captured in police-recorded crime data. We estimate neighborhood exposure to crime and discuss the implications of structural differences in exposure to crime and police based on race and ethnicity.
METHODS: Using GPS coordinates from 1188 participants in the Newborn Epigenetics Study, we estimated gestational exposure to crime provided by the Durham, North Carolina, Police Department within (a) 800 m and (b) the Census block group of residence. We controlled for non-overlapping spatial boundaries in crime, Census, residential, and police data to report crime spatial (crime per km(2)) and population (crime per 1000 people per km(2)) density.
RESULTS: We demonstrate dramatic disparities in exposure to crime based on participant race and ethnicity and highlight variability in these disparities based on the type of crime and crime measurement method chosen.
CONCLUSIONS: Public health researchers should give thoughtful consideration when using police-reported crime data to measure and model exposure to crime in the United States, as police-reported data encompasses joint exposure to police and crime in the neighborhood setting.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Article Type


Year Published


Journal Title

BMC Public Health


Lodge, Evans K.
Hoyo, Cathrine
Gutierrez, Carmen M.
Rappazzo, Kristen M.
Emch, Michael E.
Martin, Chantel L.



Data Set/Study

Newborn Epigenetics Study (NEST)


United States of America


North Carolina