Environmental criminology and planning: A dialogue for a new perspective on safer cities
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At a time of increasing global urbanisation, research consistently indicates that crime and the fear of crime are key concerns for urban populations in both developed and developing countries and communal safety is considered to be one of the key features of a high quality environment (Dempsey, 2008). Government planning policy in the UK, USA and Australia now advocates high density,mixed-use residential developments in walkable, permeable neighbourhoods, close to public transport, employment and amenities. It is argued that this approach, commonly known as New Urbanism, reduces urban sprawl, contributes to the development of more sustainable cities and also reduces crime by promoting street level activity and at the same time, 'eyes on the street' (Jacobs, 1961). However, Dempsey (2008) has recently challenged the assumption that various features of a quality built environment are actually socially beneficial.Evidence from environmental criminology challenges three of these assertions, indicating that highly permeable street configurations, mixed-use developments and high densities are commonly associated with increased levels of crime by virtue of the increased numbers of both potential offenders and potential targets made available (Brantingham and Brantingham, 1998). This evidence is not commonly utilised by New Urbanists or planners generally, and indicates that there are contradictions between some of the features assumed to contribute to a quality built environment. This paper presents the criminological evidence and discusses the key theories within environmental criminology which can enhance our understanding of crime issues within planning and encourage a more informed dialogue across the disciplines of planning and criminology.
Published in the proceedings of New Perspective on Planning and Design, College of Planning and Design, NCKU, Tainan, Taiwan. May 25-29, 2009.
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