Business Improvement Districts (BIDs), Philadelphia (Pa.)

Program Goals

A Business Improvement District (BID) is a nonprofit organization created by neighborhood property owners or merchants to provide services, activities, and programs to promote local improvements and public safety. The BID is a discrete geographical area, and all property owners or merchants within that area are charged an assessment to fund BID–determined services and activities. The amount of the assessment largely depends on what the BID collectively decides are the activities that will best meet its priorities. More than a thousand BIDs have been formed in communities nationwide.

Services Provided

In areas where problems such as crime and disorder are evident, BIDs represent a means for facilitating collective action. Through levied assessments, BIDs enable groups of property owners to pool their resources and contribute to the cost of services that they may not be able to afford by themselves.

BID expenditure is largely dedicated to paying for services that contribute toward improvements to the outside environment of the locale in which they are situated. Such services include security patrols, maintenance of sidewalks, graffiti removal, marketing of local businesses, parking and transportation management, and capital improvements, such as improved lighting. The precise package of services contracted by any one BID will vary, as the services selected should be tailored for local problems. These activities are intended to have positive effects on crime and disorder and the prosperity of area businesses.

Program Theory

Studies that have evaluated BIDs discuss numerous relevant theories of crime causation, including broken windows theory, opportunity theories, social disorganization theory, and collective efficacy, as well as theories of collective action.

Additional Information

BIDs have often been viewed as a way to compete with suburban shopping malls and thus as a useful tool for urban revitalization. The formation of a BID is voluntary, but there can be a legal process associated with their establishment. They are usually chartered by State legislation, and local governments regulate them. Pennsylvania’s BID–enabling legislation is among the oldest in the Nation, having its roots in a 1935 law that allowed the formation of municipal authorities. The Pennsylvania Municipality Authorities Act of 1945, amended in 1980, provided for the creation of autonomous financing authorities, such as BIDs. The first BID became operational in 1991.

BIDs usually are chartered for a specific timeframe, such as 5 or 10 years, but BIDs often request reauthorization. For instance, most Philadelphia, Pa., BIDs have 5-year term limits, but all have requested reauthorization and none have been dissolved. Philadelphia’s BIDs together govern 872 blocks. Often, an advisory committee of property or business owners provides governance to the organization. It is not unusual for BIDs to partner with local police departments in formal arrangements. Representatives of BIDs also provide a unified voice in interactions and negotiations with politicians and municipalities.

Intervention ID

No Data.


Property crime and thefts

Hoyt (2005) found that property crimes and thefts showed significant reductions in BID areas compared with those in non-BID areas (5.0 percent reduction in BIDs, compared with 2.3 percent in control areas).

Displacement of crime

No differences in crime were found between the buffer areas of BIDS, compared with control areas.

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