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How Do Crime Rates Affect Office Occupancy in U.S. Cities?

One of the prevailing theories about why U.S. workers are not returning to offices in greater numbers is the rise in crime rates in major cities. San Francisco stands out in this discussion; the city has witnessed significant office vacancies, compounded by challenges of homelessness and a surge in property crimes. Meanwhile, in New York City, many have raised concerns about crime on public transport as a major factor discouraging office-goers. To delve deeper into this hypothesis and determine the relationship between crime rates and office occupancy, we have analyzed quarterly violent crime data against the latest office occupancy statistics for several of the nation’s largest cities.

CityViolent crime rate/100,000 people (Q1 2023)Office occupancy
Los Angeles18249.3%
New York City16349.1%
San Francisco15846.5%
Washington, D.C.14546.5%
San Jose12339.1%
Sources: Crime figures via Major Cities Chiefs Association first quarter 2023 violent crime survey (January 1 to March 21, 2023) measuring homicide, rape, robbery, and aggravated assault; Office occupancy rates June 28, 2023, Kastle Systems

Of the eight cities measured, Philadelphia had the highest violent crime rate and the second-lowest office occupancy. At the same time, Dallas had the second-highest crime rate and the second-highest office occupancy. In Los Angeles, the nation’s second-largest city, office occupancy was 49.3 percent while the quarterly violent crime rate was the third-highest of the cities measured. Austin had the highest office occupancy of the cities measured, at 59.4 percent. It also had the lowest violent crime rate of all cities measured here, at 110.2 per 100,000 people. 

Interestingly, the city with the lowest office occupancy, San Jose, also had some of the lowest crime figures. San Jose’s office occupancy was 39.1 percent while its crime rate was the second-lowest of the eight cities measured, at 123 per 100,000 people. Though there has been a rise in crime in San Francisco, it’s worth noting that overall crime numbers in the U.S. have dropped in the first three months of this year.

Comparing crime figures and office occupancy rates doesn’t necessarily show a clear-cut correlation between the two metrics. In some cases, like San Jose, lower crime rates didn’t seem to have any impact on office occupancy. In others, like Philadelphia, it could be argued that higher crime is leading to lower office occupancy, but there are likely other factors, like long commutes and a higher number of industries that don’t necessarily require being at the office to do their job. More historical data could be helpful in getting a better understanding of any potential correlation. And of course, there are a lot of other factors in play when it comes to office occupancy. Every market is different in size, public transit offerings, location of office properties, and major industries in the market. But what we can take from this data alone is that while crime rates are a much-discussed issue when talking about the health of cities and CBDs, they may not have as much of an impact as we think.

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