Perkins, D. D., Wandersman, A., Rich, R. C., & Taylor, R. B.
Perkins, D. D., Wandersman, A., Rich, R. C., & Taylor, R. B. (1993). The physical environment of street crime: Defensible space, territoriality and incivilities. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 13, 29–49. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0272-4944(05)80213-0
This study systematically examines the physical context of crime on urban residential blocks. A conceptual framework for understanding the relationship of the objective permanent (defensible space) and transient (territorial markers and incivilities) physical environment and the subjective environment to crime is presented. Forty-eight blocks were selected from three working-class urban neighborhoods. Data were obtained from four sources: a telephone survey of 1081 randomly sampled residents, a 15-month follow-up survey (n = 471), block-level police records of 1190 crime complaints, and the Block Booster Environmental Inventory--a new procedure for objectively measuring physical signs of disorder, territoriality and the built environment of 576 homes on all 48 blocks. Five different indicators of block crime were used: perceived crime and delinquency, reported serious and 'quality-of-life' crimes, and surveyed victimization rate. All data were aggregated to the block level. Although the various measures of crime were not consistently intercorrelated, objective environmental items correlated more strongly and consistently with the crime indicators than did the subjective environment, even after controlling for the demographic profile of the block. Defensible space features of the built environment, demographics and, to a lesser extent, the transient environment (disorder and territoriality) contributed significant variance to a series of regression equations explaining up to 60% of the variance in block crime. Implications for environmental criminology and for community policing and crime prevention are discussed.
This study tests hypotheses that reduced crime is associated with (a) defensible space features and (b) display of territorial markers and absence of physical incivilities. By studying relationships between (a) observed physical features, (b) perceived crime, and (c) reported crime in New York City in the 1980s, the authors find: the presence of non-residential property is the strongest predictor of reported crime. However, the presence of "other" non-residential properties (particularly, open land) is related to reduced: resident victimization, perceived crime, and perceived delinquency. Additionally, perceived crime and delinquency are higher on wider streets and in areas less visible from building interiors. Outdoor seating areas were associated with higher crime perceptions, but lower reported serious crime. These results indicate a complicated relationship between physical aspects, crime perceptions, and reported crime. The authors find that objective environmental items correlated more strongly and consistently with the crime indicators than did the subjective environment.
Description of method used in the article
Unit of analysis at the block-level of three residential neighborhoods in New York City (two in the borough of Brooklyn and one in the borough of Queens) in the spring and summer of 1985. Data collection includes (a) phone survey (N=1,081) of randomly sampled residents with a (b) 15-month follow-up survey (N=471), (c) block-level crime records, and (d) an environmental inventory of 576 homes on 48 blocks. Analysis includes Pearson and partial correlations then multiple regressions.
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