The physical design features in crime prevention.
Physical features in the environment can play a great role in the prevention and reduction of crime. The prevention of crime through physical features focuses on the scenarios in which crimes take place and how to reduce the vulnerability to crimes. This article discusses the assumptions made in this area and the major studies linking the physical features with criminal activity, the fear of crime and other outcomes (Kaplan, 1978).
Physical features in a particular setting can affect both the offenders and the residents. Offenders mostly operate rationally, and prefer crimes that call for the least effort, give maximum benefits and expose them to minimum risk. Therefore, crimes mostly occur when offenders identify a suitable target with least chances of detection i.e. where the crime scene does not have a natural guardian. Physical features determine the kind of reaction to potential offenders (Kaplan, 1978).
Among the several approaches to make an area less prone to criminal activity are block design, circulation patterns, territorial features, and physical deterioration. The block design or house layout would complicate crimes by reducing target availability of crimes, removing the barriers that make it easier to detect offenders, and increasing the physical obstacles of a crime. Circulation patterns can reduce the exposure of offenders to crimes by concentrating on streets, traffic patterns and operational hours of public places. Having control over physical deterioration reduces the perception that an area is vulnerable to crime and has no control over the crime rates of the area (Kaplan, 1978).
Physical features offering better surveillance, depiction the private and public space, and division into segments of outdoor space into smaller controllable segments enable the control of outdoor space by residents leading to reduced fear, delinquency, and victimization. Among the major limitations of increasing the number of space designs that are defensible is the absence of enough research on exactly how the offenders use the physical features.
The traffic patterns, internal layouts ad boundary characteristics play a major role in crime occurrence. At the level of neighborhood, planners have grouped the features to movement generator like streets of high volume and those that attract commercial land users that will attract outsiders. Movement generators cause more people to move through a residential locality, while attractors and commercial land users increase the number of people travelling to a residence. There is a very strong relationship between these physical features and the levels of crime in a residence.
It is important to consider both the social and organizational conditions when considering changes in layout of traffic and land use. The involvement of the community, organizations in the neighborhood and local businesses is important for the achievement of a design that will reduce the crime levels. Among the early steps in redesigning to reduce crime is the understanding of the location of the criminal, as the offender may be external or may be living in the neighborhood. Use of land by non residents and high vehicle traffic has been associated with reluctance of neighbor interactions making it difficult to distinguish legitimate land users from potential criminals (Kaplan, 1978).
A lot of research done has proven that many features of the physical environment at the neighborhood and street block levels are useful in predicting the levels of crime and crime related outcomes like neighborhood confidence and fear. It is however hard to separate the fear reducing and crime preventive effects of redesigning from the positive effects of the organizational development or ongoing social dynamics that surround the efforts of redesign. The physical environment’s relevance becomes constringent on some non physical factors and the crime in question.
Kaplan. H. M (1978). Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Portland, Oregort: Westinghouse Electronic Corporation.