Do “Off-Site” Adult Businesses Have Secondary Effects? Legal Doctrine, Social Theory, and Empirical Evidence


  • An earlier version of this article was read at a panel of the American Society for Criminology, 14 November 2007, Atlanta, GA. We are indebted to James W. Meeker, Wendy Regoeczi, and several anonymous referees for comments.

  • richard mccleary is Professor of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. His current interests center on the measurement of ambient public safety hazards associated with hot spot businesses.

  • alan weinstein is Associate Professor of Law & Urban Studies, and Director of the Law & Public Policy Program at Cleveland State University. His research focuses on the intersection of land use regulation and rights guaranteed by the federal constitution.

Address correspondence to Richard McCleary, School of Social Ecology, University of California, Irvine, CA 92697-7080, USA. Telephone: (949) 824-7280; E-mail:


Recent federal court decisions appear to limit the ability of cities to mitigate the ambient crime risks associated with adult entertainment businesses. In one instance, a court has assumed that criminological theories do not apply to “off-site” adult businesses. After developing the legal doctrine of secondary effects, we demonstrate that the prevailing criminological theory applies to all adult business models. To corroborate the theory, we report the results of a before/after quasi-experiment for an off-site adult business. When an off-site adult business opens, ambient crime risk doubles compared to a control area. As theory predicts, moreover, ambient victimization risk is most acute in night-time hours. The theoretical development and empirical results have obvious implications for the evolving legal doctrine of secondary effects.