(CN) – Tourists and families spent more than $40 billion on theme parks last year, but according to new research released Tuesday, the areas around the parks are more likely to suffer from higher crime rates.
A study published in the journal Justice Quarterly examined the crime rates in neighborhoods within a mile of Universal Studios in Orlando, Florida. What they discovered was a phenomenal 198% increase in offence rates in the affected areas.
“This study highlights an important relationship between theme park tourism and crime,” said lead author Alex Piquero from the University of Texas at Dallas. “Our results hold implications for understanding the relationship between tourism and crime, and for the practical implementation of police strategies.”
Researchers said the increased presence of bars, restaurants and hotels in these neighborhoods exacerbate the situation, as they found just one of these businesses can increase local crime rates by 19%.
Universal Studios brings in more than 9 million visitors each year, attracting thieves and other criminals willing to target tourists. The study’s authors said more active policing strategies are needed in order to combat this trend, such as reducing the number of nearby bars and placing safety tips for visitors on ATM machines.
“Theme park tourism stands to top record levels in successive years,” Piquero said. “These findings indicate the need for more active policing strategies, not only in the theme park areas but also more distant neighborhoods under the influence of the theme park.”
Using FBI data, the researchers discovered that crime rates decreased by 14% for every 1 kilometer further from the theme park’s location. Orlando receives a third of North America’s theme park attendance thanks to Universal Studios and Walt Disney World both being in the city.
Earlier studies have investigated possible links between crime rates and certain types of businesses such as hotels. Researchers have theorized such locations can influence rates by increasing the amount of people who make “suitable” targets for criminals.