New Urbanist areas more crime prone?

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Iain Murray has linked to a report called "The Cost of Policing New Urbanism". The report concerns "Operation Scorpion", a British research project to determine whether a new urbanist neighborhood is more "criminogenic" than the suburban cul-de-sac form. The report claims that a New Urbanist neighborhood requires three times the police coverage as a neighborhood that is "Secured by Design".

Here is how the report describes the "Secured by Design" neighborhood:

Table 1 - Some Key Features of the "Secured By Design" Scheme * Create defensible space and territoriality. * Organise the built environment so that anti-social behaviour is less likely to be ignored. * Create space that generalises a sense of ownership (so restrict the amount of public space, and create 'buffer zones' between public and private spaces) rather than space which promotes anonymity. * Restrict the number of escape routes available to criminals (which is a large part of the explanation for why the Secured by Design scheme has come to be associated with the cul-de-sac). * Promote natural surveillance from residents' houses. * Restrict the number of crime generators such as: - footpaths which link places together; - supermarkets and other activities which are out of scale with the locality because they are intended for a wider community; - 'honeypots' (such as fast food take-aways) which encourage people to concentrate; - 'hotspots' (places which already have a record of criminal and anti-social behaviour); - 'fear generators' (places which cause perceptions of fear) * Effective site management regimes, that promote the sense of a cared-for environment.

This is the traditional suburban form as we have come to know it in America: Being able to walk from your house to a store or a restaurant is a Bad Thing, because Bad People might walk from the store to your house. A neighborhood is only for the people who live there. Public places should be segregated from neighborhoods.

New Urbanists would point out that Secured by Design neighborhoods will tend to empty out during the work day, making them prime targets for burglary. And because of the cul-de-sacs, chances are the burglars will be able to work unobserved and undisturbed by passing vehicles or pedestrians.

I think the author of the report has misunderstood New Urbanist principles, because the photos accompanying the report, described as of a high-crime, New Urbanist development in the northern Home Counties, show a development that violates many New Urbanist principles: pathways that take pedestrians out of sight of roads and houses, bollards blocking traffic, walls and underpasses that create hiding places and block passageways from public view. Jane Jacobs would not approve. Bricks, paving stones, and decorative lighting do not constitute a New Urbanist neighborhood.

A real New Urbanist neighborhood would allow for parking on the street, would keep pedestrian walkways alongside streets, and would have homes that provide "eyes on the street". This is described as a feature of "Secured by Design" -- "natural surveillance from residents' houses" -- but most homes in cul-de-sac neighborhoods are designed to minimize the view of the street from the home (and vice versa). Garages are prominent, entries are small, and the biggest windows face the fenced backyard, leaving the public space to whatever hooligans wander by.

I look forward to reading a rebuttal of this report from a prominent New Urbanist designer.

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» Is New Urbanism "crimogenic?" from City Comforts Blog

A few days ago (yes that is decades in blogosphere time and this link has probably descended well-below the horizon by now) Crooked Timber had a post on Crime and the new urbanism which referred to a Police Report on Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 23, 2003 11:47 PM.

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