Essay on Crime Rates
Common-sense assumptions and facts on the relations between exotic dance clubs and crime rates
Exotic dance adult entertainment (“strip clubs”) is a visible, profitable and growing form of entertainment in the United States. Despite their popularity, these institutions have rather a bad image, also comparably to other forms of adult entertainment such as casinos and male magazines.
In addition to social and religious objection, adult businesses must confront legal restrictions, in particular those of municipalities in the context of how and where such establishments should run their business. For example, more than a few cities, counties and states prohibit running a sex-related “adult” business within the proximity of e.g. schools, churches or even residence houses, assuming negative secondary effects on the surrounding neighbourhood.
This paper will portray some common-sense assumptions regarding strip clubs, in particular the above mentioned reasoning behind geographical restrictions on such clubs on the basis of presumed “secondary effect”, namely crime and downgrading of property value and compare them to some empirical data, as can be found in the work of Linz et al (2004).
The issue of exotic dance clubs
Exotic dance adult entertainment is controversial and not widely understood. These institutions, which vary from glamorous “gentlemen’s’” clubs to downscale “dive” bars, offer leisure services in the framework of serving beverages and provide topless dance performances, as well as “private” dance with some physical contact between the dancer and the customer. However, despite the explicit sexual nature of the shows, we need to distinguish exotic dance clubs from prostitution, as the existence of any kind of sexual intercourse can generally not to be found in such establishments, nor are being discussed in the sources used for this paper.
Social and legal attitudes towards exotic dance clubs
Although it is impossible to draw an exact description of the general public’s approach to the manner, some generally accepted opinions are noticeable and usually quite negative.
First, exotic dancing is often confused with prostitution and therefore suffers from its image, as well as the general stigma regarding the sex industry, its workers and its customers. Second, exotic dancing has ever been a target for feminist organizations, which perceive this kind of entertainment as a field for practicing male domination and humiliation of women. Some other issues of “political correctness”, inparticular religious influences, can also be considered on this context. Third, the media fuels negative perception by using it as a platform for perverts (e.g., the movie “Showgirls”) or for organized crime (e.g., HBO’s “The Sopranos”).
Additional negative views are related to prejudge regarding the type of customers of such businesses. However, some visits, such as bachelor parties, are seen as socially legitimate and even as normal male behaviour.
However, and most importantly for our discussion, the presence of exotic dance clubs is assumed to have a secondary effect on its immediate premises, including crime rates. Such assumptions, partially supported by controversial empirical data, were suggested by municipalities to justify ordinances to limit the rights of exotic dance businesses, comparably, for example, those of other alcohol-serving establishments.
How did they justify such assumptions? For the sake of a focused discussion, let us assume (although such assumption does not necessarily represents the whole truth) that their claims were not based on the content of the issue (i.e. the sexual nature of the clubs), rather than on pure interest on preventing crime, keeping property value, etc. It is clear, though, that the content of such clubs differ it from other sorts of entertainment, and it would be understandable if municipalities will clearly oppose the phenomenon of using sex as a form of legitimate content of a night club.
However, such opposition should not be done though legislation due to constitutional issues. Therefore, if a mayor, for example, is interested in reducing the popularity of exotic dance clubs in his town, it would be advisable to act through education or by offering alternatives rather than ordering controversial zoning restrictions.
The main assumptions that link adult night clubs to higher crime rates are based on several speculations:
First, the fact that these institutions work at night and are cash-based. Second, the customers are interested in keeping low profile and therefore are less likely to report crimes, and third, the presumed association between exotic dance clubs and general criminal activities such as drug dealing, women trafficking and organized crime.
Empirical results on the correlation between exotic dance clubs and crime rates
Linz et al (2004) have carefully tested the assumption that the presence of an adult entertainment business has a secondary effect of increasing crime in a 1000 feet area. Study and control areas were selected according to the demographic similarity of the areas, such as population size, percentage of the population which is African-American and median household income.
The empirical results do not only contradict any relations between adult entertainment clubs and increased criminal activity, but also suggest some evidences that criminal activity in the proximity of such clubs is lower than in control areas. The study design and the regression analysis of the results undoubtedly reject any bias relating to chose of control sites.
Two main explanations are suggested in the article to support this phenomenon, which clearly contradicts some common-sense assumptions on the matter. First, there is a merit to the claim that state and federal regulations helped to convert these institutions into a more business profitability focused organizations, implying that social and legal standards must be met to ensure profitability, sustainability and growth. In order to achieve these standards, many exotic dance clubs employ security guards, offer valet parking and keep the surrounding areas (e.g., better lighting in their parking lots) as safe as possible to attract paying customers. Second, violent disputes in the areas surrounding exotic dance clubs between men over unwanted attention by other males to dates or partners are minimal due to the fact that the majority of patrons attend the clubs without female partners.
Exotic dance clubs and other establishments in the sex industry are not necessarily a desired phenomenon in our society. However, in view of the First Amendment, restrictions on business activity should be based on true, empirical information regarding the subject matter and its implications rather than assumptions based on prejudge and/or normally accepted criterion of morality, crime patterns and consumer behaviour. Indeed, we are clearly influenced from the generally negative social views towards such clubs and, like in many other fields, prefer to simply resist them instead of bothering to check the issues more carefully.
Concluding this research phase, I did not develop any particular sympathy for this kind of business. Nevertheless, I was very satisfied and somewhat surprised by the results, as simple adoption of social common-sense assumptions on this matter may lead to unconstitutional decisions which discriminate legitimate businesses.
As a member of the society I hope and believe that we must not disregard alternative opinions about controversial issues, especially when there is a body of empirical data that supports them.
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