Linear Parks and Urban Neighbourhoods: A Study of the Crime Impact of the Boston South-west Corridor

Katherine Crewe

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Crewe, K. (1). Linear Parks and Urban Neighbourhoods: A Study of the Crime Impact of the Boston South-west Corridor. Journal of Urban Design, 6(3), 245–264.

This study tests the crime impact of the Boston South-west Corridor parkland, a 5-mile transit and linear park, on its adjoining neighbourhoods 15 years after its completion in the early 1980s. The study responds to concerns of local neighbour- hoods during the time of planning and construction, and to evidence of general public uneasiness about the dangers of linear parks to communities. In an analysis of two residential neighbourhoods adjoining the corridor, the study searched ®rst for evidence of crime spill-over from the corridor, and secondly for neighbours’ perceptions of corridor safety. To test crime spill-over, police calls from houses adjacent to the corridor were compared with calls from houses further away; interviews with residents investigated perceptions of the corridor’s safety. Findings revealed that though police calls were marginally more frequent from houses next to the corridor, these were considerably less frequent than calls from houses next to commercial streets. Interviews with residents revealed generally positive estimates of park safety by day, with low estimates of night-time safety and mixed estimates of its safety during twilight hours. Interviews also revealed heavy reliance on the corridor by the elderly and people with small children. The study concludes with recommendations for the future design of linear parks in cities.

Main finding
This study demonstrates the safety of linear parks in cities. The study found no significant increase in crime for those living next to the corridor. In fact, there was less crime than for those bordering the quiet commercial streets on the edge of each study area, and significantly less than for those abutting the busy Columbus Avenue in the South End. Interviewees’ perceptions of park safety related strongly to its physical layout, to the time of day and to the numbers of people assumed to be walking out at a given time. The advantages of the linear parkland to residents by day, particularly to the elderly and parents with small children, stress the social possibilities and equalizing powers of enhanced pedestrian spaces in urban settings. Strategic planning and design might help cities accommodate a range of linear park types with no ill effects.

Description of method used in the article
The two study neighbourhoods abutting the corridor were selected because of their solidly residential character, with each maintaining an inner consistency of household size, household type and units per dwelling. Records of police calls from private households within the two study areas between 1996 and 1998 were tested for variations that might relate to proximity to the corridor.

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Organising categories

Crime and Aggression
Case Study
Physical types
Geographic locations