Escort services, strip clubs actually help reduce sex crimes, study shows

PRINCETON, N.J. — Sex workers and strip clubs may cause a “significant” drop in sex crimes, according to a new study. Researchers say they have shown that opening adult entertainment venues like strip clubs, escort services, adult book shops, and adult cinemas caused a decrease in the number of sexual offenses committed nearby.

The researchers also found that the presence of an adult entertainment establishment led to a 13 percent reduction in sex crime in the area one week after the opening. Opening such venues did not affect other types of crimes, which suggests the drop is not linked to an increased police presence on the streets.

This ruled out the theory that these businesses attract other types of criminals, such as drug dealers, the researchers said. They also found no negative effects on neighboring areas, showing that sexual offenses are not moving to other nearby places instead.

The team behind the study writes that their findings add to the debate around sex work and adult venues. Some people suggest strip clubs and escort services could improve safety because people can use these outlets instead of committing sex crimes. Others claim such establishments reinforce the view of women as objects and lead to more violence against them.

“Surprisingly, we find that within the time studied, adult entertainment establishments decrease sex crime and have no effect on other types of crimes. Sex crimes, including sexual violence, are a major public health concern. Apart from the large psychological and physical burden, these crimes also lead to public health issues including unintended pregnancies, induced abortions, and sexually transmitted infections,” explains Dr. Maria Micaela Sviatschi, assistant professor in economics and public affairs at Princeton University, in a media release. “However, little is known about how to prevent sex crimes, including sexual abuse and rape. This paper studies how the presence of adult entertainment establishments affects the incidence of sex crimes.”

The study used a unique data set of high-frequency precinct-level crime information from New York City, due to its controversial stop-and-frisk policing policy. Researchers constructed a new data set that combined the exact location of non-self-reported sex crimes with the opening day and the exact location of adult entertainment establishments in the city.

The crime data included hourly information on crimes observed by the police, including sex crimes. The data covered the period from January 1, 2004, to June 29, 2012. The number of adult entertainment establishments increased significantly during this period, from 76 in 2004 to approximately 280 in 2012.

The study was published in The Economic Journal

SWNS writer William Janes contributed to this report.

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