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Football stadium permanent safety risk for the neighbourhood

Research by the University of Ghent and NSCR has revealed that the presence of a football stadium increases the level of criminality in the neighbourhood. The number of thefts is higher on days without matches.

The closure of the Jules Ottenstadion in Ghent gave criminologists Christophe Vandeviver (University of Ghent), Stijn Van Daele (Ghent University Hospital) and Wim Bernasco (NSCR) the chance to determine whether more criminality occurs in the vicinity of a football stadium.

43% fewer property crimes

The researchers studied the number of burglaries, shop thefts, car thefts and thefts from cars in the direct vicinity of the Jules Ottenstadion in the period before and the period after the stadium closed. They compared the figures with the same data for the rest of the city of Ghent and only looked at the days on which no matches were played at the stadium. The property criminality fell most strongly in the immediate surroundings of the closed football stadium. On non-match days, a striking 43% fewer crimes were committed in the vicinity of the stadium. In the rest of the city, the number of property crimes also decreased, but only by 8%.

Motivated offender seeks potential targets

As an explanation for the criminality on non-match days, the researchers point to the regularly returning large numbers of visitors around a football stadium. Some visitors are motivated offenders who spot potential targets during their repeated visits to the neighbourhood. During football matches, they are in the stadium, and there is police surveillance around the match. These aspects make it difficult to commit thefts. Motivated offenders will, therefore, return at another time.

Permanently increased police surveillance

The conclusion drawn from the research is that increased surveillance in the direct vicinity of a football stadium is advisable on non-match days as well. This increased surveillance will limit the safety risk for local residents. The researchers also advise considering this when locations for new football stadiums are chosen.

Publication details and further reading

Vandeviver, C., Bernasco, W. & Van Daele, S. (2018). Do sports stadiums generate crime on days without matches? A natural experiment on the delayed exploitation of criminal opportunities. Security Journal.

About prof. dr. Wim Bernasco


Wim Bernasco is senior researcher at the NSCR and professor ‘Spatial analysis of crime’ at the Department of Spatial Economics of VU University Amsterdam. He studies spatial aspects of crime, including offenders’ travel behaviour and target selection. His work also includes research on situational causes of crime.

Wim is a member of the Criminal Events Cluster, the Life-course Cluster and the Spatial-temporal Cluster.

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