The study was first prompted by a statement made by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis in 2011, who said if the NFL locked out its players and the season was cancelled, “Do this research… If we don’t have a season, watch how much evil, which we call crime, watch how much crime picks up if you take away out game. [People have] nothing else to do.”
To determine if sports had an impact in crime rates, researchers compared crime statistics from two different time periods – The period while the sporting event was taking place, and the same time period on the same day of the week when the team was not playing. To understand which sports impacted crime rates the most, researchers compared crime data to time periods when the Bears, Bulls, Cubs and White Sox were playing. The study did not include the Blackhawks.
The study uncovered that violent crime, drug crime, and property theft crimes all saw a consistent drop when a Chicago sports team was playing. Most notably, crime dropped 15 percent when the Bears were playing on Monday Night Football, which is especially surprising considering their two MNF games came against the Packers and Cowboys, two fanbases not necessarily known for their decorum. Researchers also noted that crime fell 25 percent during the Super Bowl.
The data revealed “similar but smaller effects for NBA and MLB” games. Researchers did not specify exactly how much crime fell when the Bulls, Cubs or White Sox were playing.
“The consistent drop across all crime types — violent, property, drug and other — in conjunction with the absence of displacement before or after games, suggests the decline in crime is driven primarily by fewer potential criminals on the astreets,” the authors concluded.
Related sources: Social Science Research Network, NBC Chicago