Smith's research focuses on crime and inequality, criminal relationships, and criminal organizations. Overarching themes in Smith's writing include the ways in which relationships unequally embed individuals in criminal markets and violence situations.
Uncovers a unique historical puzzle; women composed a substantial part of Chicago organized crime in the early 1900s before Prohibition, but during Prohibition, when criminal opportunities increased for men and women, women were excluded from organized crime. Highlights how women's entrepreneurial spirit and economic need did not change in a short 20-year period, but the structural barriers of access and prosperity developed in ways that were compounded by status, preferences, organizational restructuring, and by consequence, gender.
Uses the historical case of organized crime in Chicago and a unique relational database coded from more than 5,000 pages of archival documents. Maps the web of overlapping relationships among bootleggers, politicians, union members, businessmen, families, and friends. Discusses how, though not pervasive, overlapping relationships glued these worlds of organized crime together above and beyond the personalities of famous gangsters, ethnic preferences, and other social network processes.
Examines the effects of three forms of gentrification —demographic shifts, private investment, and state intervention— on gang-motivated homicides in Chicago from 1994 to 2005. Suggests that demographic shifts decrease gang homicide, private investment gentrification has a marginally significant decrease on gang homicide, and state-based gentrification increases gang homicide.
Examines the relationship between gentrification and neighborhood crime rates by measuring the growth and geographic spread of one of gentrification's most prominent symbols: coffee shops. Shows that an increasing number of coffee shops in a neighborhood is associated with declining homicide rates for White, Hispanic, and Black neighborhoods; however, an increasing number of coffee shops is associated with increasing street robberies in Black gentrifying neighborhoods.