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An Examination of the Assumption that Adult Businesses Are Associated with Crime in Surrounding Areas: A Secondary Effects Study in Charlotte, North Carolina


  • Daniel Linz,

  • Bryant Paul,

  • Kenneth C. Land,

  • Jay R. Williams,

  • Michael E. Ezell

  • We thank John Couchell, Assistant Director, Strategic Planning & Analysis, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department for providing the data analyzed in this study and for helpful advice. Any inadequacies of analysis or errors of interpretation are, however, solely the responsibility of the authors of this article. Address all correspondence to Daniel Linz, Professor, Department of Communication and the Law and Society Program, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106; e-mail:


Recent Supreme Court decisions have signaled the need for sound empirical studies of the secondary effects of adult businesses on the surrounding areas for use in conjunction with local zoning restrictions. This study seeks to determine whether a relationship exists between adult erotic dance clubs and negative secondary effects in the form of increased numbers of crimes reported in the areas surrounding the adult businesses, in Charlotte, North Carolina. For each of 20 businesses, a control site (matched on the basis of demographic characteristics related to crime risk) is compared for crime events over the period of three years (1998–2000) using data on crime incidents reported to the police. We find that the presence of an adult nightclub does not increase the number of crime incidents reported in localized areas surrounding the club (defined by circular areas of 500- and 1,000-foot radii) as compared to the number of crime incidents reported in comparable localized areas that do not contain such an adult business. Indeed, the analyses imply the opposite, namely, that the nearby areas surrounding the adult business sites have smaller numbers of reported crime incidents than do corresponding areas surrounding the three control sites studied. These findings are interpreted in terms of the business mandates of profitability and continuity of existence of the businesses.