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Audrey Vila

Audrey Vila

Audrey majored in Public Policy, focusing her studies on social policy and criminal justice reform. While at Duke, Audrey serves as an advocate for the Community Empowerment Fund, supporting Durham community members to obtain housing, gain employment, and build savings to sustain transitions out of poverty. During her sophomore year, she received a fellowship to research Durham’s affordable housing efforts to expand her knowledge. Later, Audrey worked with the Durham Criminal Justice Resource Center, the Seattle Juvenile Court, and Lone Star Justice Alliance, a law and policy center in Austin, TX, on reforming the criminal justice system. Her honors thesis is an intersection of this background in housing policy and criminal justice. Audrey hopes to pursue a Law degree and a graduate degree to address systemic racism and inequality in the US.

Honors Thesis:

The Effects of Gentrification on Calls to Service Utilization: A Case Study of Durham, NC

Faculty Advisor: Professor Philip J. Cook

Abstract:  In recent years, urbanization in the United States has led to the displacement of low- income, minority communities for middle and high-income individuals, a process termed gentrification. Scholars debate the benefits and consequences of these changes for the existing populations. One possible effect is the changing of expectations and norms in city neighborhoods as the population shifts. Similarly, it raises questions about the interactions between new populations and existing residents. The following analysis uses urban block groups and Calls to Service data in Durham County between 2006 and 2018. According to established indicators of gentrification, Durham block groups are gentrifying within this time period with increased population, decreased Black populations, increased rent, increased education levels, and increased income. Importantly, the majority of Durham’s urban block groups are experiencing an influx of Hispanic residents, which is different from previous gentrification trends. Next, the paper assesses implications from previous literature that with population mixing, conflict from changing norms and perceptions would lead to increased conflict and result in greater use of the police for minor incidents. The paper uses simple linear regression with all indicators on a dependent variable that measures per capita call frequency. For 911 noise complaints, disturbances, alcohol and drug incidents, and suspicion calls, the regression results demonstrate that gentrification’s common indicators did not correlate with increased calls. The same result is found when focusing on block groups generally susceptible to the effects of gentrification. Therefore, the paper concludes that the city of Durham did not experience an increase in disturbance calls with gentrification as predicted by the literature, providing important information as the city continues to grow.