The Topography of Robbery: Does Slope Matter? [study]

Are there fewer robberies in urban areas where the streets are quite steep? A question investigated in a 2020 research project by Professor Cory Haberman and Professor James Kelsay entitled : The Topography of Robbery: Does Slope Matter? Journal of Quantitative Criminology volume 37, pages 625–645.

“Steeper street blocks may have fewer robberies because they make the physical costs for committing robberies too high, are too difficult to escape from, and/or provide fewer robbery opportunities due to relatively lower usage.”

In empirical terms :

“A 1% increase in street block slope was associated with roughly 4.5% fewer street block robberies per foot of street block length.”

The team cite the work of George Kingsley Zipf who came up with the idea of ‘Human behavior and the principle of least effort’ in 1950. That’s to say, people are often quite keen on avoiding unnecessary effort.

Zipf was, in turn, building upon the work of Guglielmo Ferrero [pictured] who first posited the notion of L’inertie mentale et la loi du moindre effort (Mental inertia and the law of least effort) in 1894  – Revue Philosophique de la France et de l’Étranger 37, 169–182.

Research research by Martin Gardiner