Skip to main content

Neighborhood parks, evidence of guardianship, and crime in two diverse US cities

Abstract

Research addressing the link between crime and parks has primarily focused on fear of crime with limited empirical research verifying or denying a crime-park relationship. This article examines the results of two nearly identical studies examining the relationship between neighborhood parks and crime, in two very dissimilar cities, Philadelphia, PA and Louisville, KY. These cities vary greatly in size, population density, median income, per cent minorities and per cent living in poverty, among other factors. Findings of the studies, which are grounded in theories of environmental criminology, show that neighborhood parks are associated with increased crime levels in their immediate surroundings. In addition, although characteristics of parks significantly related to crime levels in each city vary somewhat, findings clearly demonstrate the underlying importance guardianship plays is explaining the criminogenic nature of neighborhood parks.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. The Louisville study originally identified 61 neighborhood parks but two separated by a small residential street were merged into one park for the analysis.

  2. In 2003, Jefferson County and its largest city, Louisville, merged and formed a single governmental agency, Louisville Metro. Several small communities within the county opted out of the agreement and continue to provide their own local government services, including police services. The LMPD was formed at the time of the merger and polices approximately 90 per cent of the population and area.

  3. The number of street corners selected for each city was based on the estimate by an online sample size calculator to ensure a minimum confidence level of 95 per cent and confidence interval of 5 per cent. These estimates were rounded up to the closest hundred cases.

References

  • Brantingham, P.J. and Brantingham, P.L. (1991 [1981]) Environmental Criminology. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brantingham, P.L. and Brantingham, P.J. (1993) Environment, routine, and situation: Toward a pattern theory of crime. In: R.V. Clarke and M. Felson (eds.) Routine Activity and Rational Choice. Vol. 5 New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers, pp. 259–294.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brantingham, P.L. and Brantingham, P.J. (1995a) Criminality of place: Crime generators and crime attractors. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 3(3): 5–26.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brantingham, P.L. and Brantingham, P.J. (1995b) Location quotients and crime hotspots in the city. In: C. Block, M. Dabdoub and S. Fregly (eds.) Crime Analysis Through Computer Mapping. Washington DC: Police Executive Research Forum, pp. 129–149.

    Google Scholar 

  • Burgess, J., Harrison, C.M. and Limb, M. (1988) People, parks and the urban green: A study of popular meanings and values for open spaces in the city. Urban Studies 25(6): 455–473.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bursik JrB.J. and Grasmick, H.G. (1993) Neighborhoods and Crime. Lanham, MA: Lexington Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Chiesura, A. (2004) The role of urban parks for the sustainable city. Landscape and Urban Planning 68(1): 129–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Clarke, R.V. (2008) Situational crime prevention. In: R. Wortley and L. Mazerolle (eds.) Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis. Portland, OR: Willan Publishing, pp. 178–194.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, L.E. and Felson, M. (1979) Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review 44(August): 588–608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crewe, K. (2001) Linear parks and urban neighborhoods: A case study of the crime impact of the Boston South-West Corridor. Journal of Urban Design 6(3): 245–264.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Eastern Kentucky University. (n.d.) Importance of parks and recreation, Eastern Kentucky University Recreation and Park Administration webpage, http://recreation.eku.edu/importance-parks-and-recreation, accessed 22 July 2014.

  • Evans, D.J. and Oulds, G. (1984) Geographical aspects of the incidence of residential burglary in Newcastle- Under-Lyme, U.K. Tijdschrift voor Economische Sociale Geografie 75(5): 344–355.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2011) Crime in the United States, 2010, http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2010/crime-in-the-u.s.-2010, accessed 28 May 2013.

  • Felson, M. (1995) Those who discourage crime. In: J.E. Eck and D.L. Weisburd (eds.) Crime and Place. Monsey, NY: Willow Tree Press, pp. 53–66.

    Google Scholar 

  • Groff, E.R. and McCord, E.S. (2012) The role of neighborhood parks as crime generators. Security Journal 25(1): 1–24.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hakim, S. and Shachamurove, Y. (1996) Spatial and temporal patterns of commercial burglaries: The evidence examined. American Journal of Economics and Sociology 55(4): 443–456.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Herbert, D.T. (1982) The Geography of Urban Crime. New York: Longman.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hilborn, J. (2009) Dealing with Crime and Disorder in Urban Parks. Problem-oriented guides for police, response guide series no.9 Washington DC: U.S. Dept. of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jacobs, J. (1961) The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Vintage Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • Knutsson, J. (1997) Restoring public order in a city park. In: R. Homel (ed.) Policing for Prevention: Reducing Crime, Public Intoxication and Injury. Vol. 7 Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press, pp. 133–151.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kurtz, E.M., Koons, B.A. and Taylor, R.B. (1998) Land use, physical deterioration, resident-based control, and calls for service on urban streetblocks. Justice Quarterly 15(1): 121–149.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Leon Younger and PROS. (2004) A Bridge to the Future: Fairmount Park Strategic Plan. Report to Fairmont Park Commission; Philadelphia, PA.

  • Lockwood, D. (2007) Mapping crime in Savannah: Social disadvantage, land use, and violent crimes reported to the police. Social Science Computer Review 25(2): 194–209.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Louisville Metro Parks. (2009) Parks guide. Louisville, KY: Louisville Metro Parks.

  • Madden, K., Love, K. and Davies, S. (1982) User Analysis: An Approach to Park Planning and Management. Washington DC: American Society of Landscape Architects.

    Google Scholar 

  • McCord, E.S. and Ratcliffe, J.H. (2007) A micro-spatial analysis of the demographic and criminogenic environment of drug markets in Philadelphia. The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 40(1): 43–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • McCord, E.S. and Ratcliffe, J.H. (2009) Intensity value analysis and the criminogenic effects of land use features on local crime patterns. Crime Patterns and Analysis 2(1): 17–30.

    Google Scholar 

  • Miethe, T.D. and McDowall, D. (1993) Contextual effects in models of criminal victimization. Social Forces 71(3): 741–759.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miller, M.M., Gibson, L.J. and Wright, N.G. (1991) Location quotient: A basic tool for economic development analysis. Economic Development Review 9(2): 65–68.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nicksa, S.C. (2014) Bystander’s willingness to report theft, physical assault, and sexual assault: The impact of gender, anonymity, and relationship with the offender. Journal of Interpersonal Violence 29(2): 217–236.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Perkins, D., Wandersman, A., Rich, R. and Taylor, R.B. (1993) The physical environment of street crime: Defensible space, territoriality and incivilities. Journal of Environmental Psychology 13(1): 29–49.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Reeves, N. (2000) The condition of public urban parks and greenspace in Britain. Journal of CIWEM 14(3): 157–163.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rengert, G., Ratcliffe, J.H. and Chakravorty, S. (2005) Policing Illegal Drug Markets: Geographic Approaches to Crime Reduction. Monsey, NY: Criminal Justice Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rengert, G. and Wasilchick, J. (1985) Suburban Burglary: A Time and a Place for Everything. Springfield, IL: Charles Thomas.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rengert, G.F. (1996) The Geography of Illegal Drugs. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sampson, R.J. and Raudenbush, S.W. (1999) Systematic social observation of public spaces: A new look at disorder in urban neighborhoods. American Journal of Sociology 105(3): 603–651.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schroeder, H.W. and Anderson, L.M. (1984) Perception of personal safety in urban recreation sites. Journal of Leisure Research 16(2): 178–194.

    Google Scholar 

  • Voicu, I. and Been, V. (2008) The effect of community gardens on neighboring property values. Real Estate Economics 36(2): 241–283.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Westover, T.N. (1985) Perceptions of crime and safety in three Midwestern parks. Professional Geographer 37(4): 410–420.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wilcox, P., Quisenberry, N., Cabrera, D.T. and Jones, S. (2004) Busy places and broken windows? Toward defining the role of physical structure and process in community crime models. The Sociological Quarterly 45(2): 185–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wortley, R. and Mazerolle, L. (2008) Environmental Criminology and Crime Analysis. Portland, OR: Willan Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

McCord, E., Houser, K. Neighborhood parks, evidence of guardianship, and crime in two diverse US cities. Secur J 30, 807–824 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/sj.2015.11

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/sj.2015.11

Keywords

  • Parks
  • guardianship
  • location quotients
  • routine activities theory
  • crime pattern theory