After reading the book "The Tipping Point" by Malcolm Gladwell back in late 2010, I chose to look more into the chapter The Power of Context (1). This was all about a man called Bernie Goetz and the Rise and Fall of New York crime rates. In my research proposal I plan to explore further into how residents feel living in an area of criminal activities and how street design can reduce crime rates.
I chose to focus more on "The Broken Windows Theory" and how it links the psychological reasons behind the people who commit the crime. The theory states that by keeping an area monitored and clean, it may reduce further vandalism and the escalation of more serious crimes. So by creating a clean-up scheme and making area's a more pleasant place to live, can instantly reduce crime rates.
“Crime, Shame and Reintegration” by John Braithwaite is book I looked into which offers a perspective of crime and punishment in the US. Braithwaite believes that the current system of dealing with crime and punishment today is not effective, due to people using the shaming technique incorrectly. The book also looks into the psychology behind criminal behaviour and the reasons why people do it or in some cases do not participate.
I also looked at a journal called “Neighbourhood design and fear of crime: A social-ecological examination of the correlates of residents' fear in new suburban housing developments” by Sarah Foster, Billie Giles-Corti and Matthew Knuiman. The study explores the connection between neighborhood design and residents’ fear of crime in suburban housing areas. Both primary reports and second hand data were collected as part of a project called: the RESIDential Environments (RESIDE) Project. They came to the conclusion that people feel a lot safer in a pedestrian area with a higher density and more accessible space to get to shops etc. The article speaks about fear and how it creates anxiety and can affect someone’s mental health. For example small things such as litter, vandalism and graffiti can all heighten insecurities and prevent residents from wanting to go out into their own neighborhood and socialise.
Linking back to the “The Broken Windows Theory” this article is similar in suggesting that if areas of wider land space are created, the less crime that is going to be produced and the level of resident’s fearfulness is reduced. Same as if an area has the beginning of windows being broken, vandals will see this area as being a place excellent for disrupting even more and the criminal behaviour is continued.
I plan to investigate further into residents living in fear due to criminal behaviour and how this can be reduced through a change in street design by using a range of different methods and service design tools. I aim to find out of these residents are feeling using techniques I have learned throughout the year in design studies.
I would use interviews as my main method of gathering information, as I feel it was the most successful. I would measure the level of residents fear by myself and the ideas they have on reducing crime rates within the neighborhood they live in. This would also allow me to and interact closely with the people involved and make them feel part of the community which they live in.
Mind mapping is a technique I would most definitely use to organise and record the data gained from the interviews, to make it clear if there is a connection between how residents living in the same high crime rate area are feeling.
Another technique I would use to collect my own opinions of the criminal activity happening is the observation tool. I first used this technique when we went to the Bingo as part of an assignment to see how people act in a certain environment. Although it isn’t the safest of tools (I would go to a neighborhood with a friend), it allows data to be collected first hand on how children and vandals today are acting within quite a rough housing scheme. By observing people and going to the areas myself I could think of ideas myself by changing the street design to reduce crime and mention these to the residents when carrying out the interviews.
I also find it intriguing to go to an area that has already been cleaned up to see the difference for myself if the “Broken Windows Theory” really does work and that crime does reduce. By interviewing residents who live in an area that has already been cleaned up, I’m hoping would prove to me that changing street design really can reduce residents fear.
Here are some of the questions I would ask the residents:
· On a level of 1 to 10 how secure do you feel living in this area?
· Do you let your children play outside and feel secure knowing so?
· Have you ever witnessed criminal activities going on in your neighborhood?
· Do you feel criminal behaviour has decreased or increased over the years living here?
· How do you think that street design can reduce crime happening?
I used the brainstorming technique myself, using post it notes to come up with my own ideas of how criminal behaviour such as violence, graffiti, theft, littering and drug use, can all be reduced through changing the street design in the areas affected most.
The ideas I came up with were:
· Better street lighting
· Lowering hedges and fences
· Increased CCTV
· Higher density streets e.g. Wider pavements
· Re-vamping the houses e.g. resurfacing, new windows and doors
· More police checks, doing rounds of the area
· Plants and flowers creating a more pleasant environment (linking back to the “Broken Windows Theory”)
· Fitting houses with Burglar Alarms
By going ahead with these ideas advertises a nicer environment to live in attracting more residents to live there and hopefully in the end opening up more opportunities for the younger generation, keeping them off the streets and inspired. It makes the youth feel like they are more connected to one another and part of the community they live in. It will include showing them more authority figures and people to look up to, overall creating a more pleasant area to live in.
From using the techniques I discussed, I hope to gain a better insight on how Design really can reduce crime rates in a neighborhood and overall create a more cheerful and homely place to live in.