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It Looks Good, but What is it Like to Live There? Exploring the Impact of Innovative Housing Design on Crime

Abstract

This paper reports on the findings of a collaborative project (funded by the Home Office and managed by the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment - CABE) which was conducted in late 2009 and early 2010. The project set out to strengthen and update the evidence base on the impact of design on a range of crime types – with a specific focus upon housing developments acclaimed for their innovative design and award winning architecture. This paper presents the findings of an in-depth assessment of the impact of housing design features on crime. Utilising a comprehensive data collection exercise, the specific design features of thousands of homes were collated and assessed against police recorded crime data. The design features were based upon the key elements of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) including road layout, house design, surveillance, territoriality, car parking, communal space, management and maintenance and physical security. The unique and painstaking methodology not only provided an excellent dataset for analysis, but also highlighted the need both for greater conceptual clarity within CPTED and for crime-risk assessments to be based on the careful operationalisation and measurement of CPTED factors. As well as assessing the impact of specific (and combined) design features upon crime, the research also resulted in the production of a new data collection tool designed to address the weaknesses of existing checklists in assessing innovative contemporary developments, which are often unconventional in nature. The paper explores the degree of conflict and/or synergy between the traditional principles of CPTED and contemporary directions in architecture and design. Finally the paper considers the extent to which traditional CPTED principles remain relevant within contemporary residential developments and explores whether areas of revision are required.

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Notes

  1. For one development, of the 31 crimes recorded, only seven specified the actual block (of five) which the crime took place at, and of those seven offences, only four actually recorded an apartment number. For another development, only 15 of the 34 recorded offences specified an apartment number.

  2. A Sinuous cul-de-Sac is defined by Johnson and Bowers (2010) as: Property is located on a road which leads to a dead-end AND is non-linear in geometry so that there is little visibility down the road from the road to which it is connected OR the road is linear in geometry BUT the road to which you turn off to access the cul-de-sac is NOT a through road. A Linear cul-de-Sac is defined as: Property is located on a road which leads to a dead-end AND is linear in geometry so that there is visibility to the end of the cul-de-sac from the road to which you access the cul-de-sac AND the street is one turn off a through road.

  3. Integration being an indicator of how easily you can reach a specific line – the average number of spaces needed to pass through to reach a specific line for all axial lines in a system.

  4. Statistically significant at 1% level.

  5. It should be noted that the completeness and accuracy of modus operandi fields varied and this was missing for a large proportion of crimes.

  6. The OACs classification was developed by Office for National Statistics (ONS) and utilises information from the census to classify areas see www.areaclassification.org.uk.

  7. Crimes committed against non residential addresses (e.g. offices) and non-private residences (e.g. Children’s homes, nursing homes) were excluded from this total.

  8. Socio-economic classification, property density and crime levels in the wider area did not prove significant predictors of crime counts within the development. This is likely to be a consequence of the observation above that the largest share of variation in crime across the sample is found at the property level, therefore these development level variables did not prove influential in the model.

  9. At the 5% level.

  10. It should be highlighted that one study (Nubani and Wineman 2005) revealed findings which conflicted with the remaining Space Syntax studies.

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Correspondence to Rachel Armitage.

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Dr. Rachel Armitage is a Reader in Criminology at the University of Huddersfield. Leanne Monchuk is a Research Assistant within the Applied Criminology Centre at the University of Huddersfield. Michelle Rogerson is a Senior Research Fellow within the Applied Criminology Centre at the University of Huddersfield.

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Armitage, R., Monchuk, L. & Rogerson, M. It Looks Good, but What is it Like to Live There? Exploring the Impact of Innovative Housing Design on Crime. Eur J Crim Policy Res 17, 29–54 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-010-9133-8

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Keywords

  • Building for life
  • Car parking
  • Connectivity
  • CPTED
  • Designing out crime