This research proposal of the theoretical comprehensive based study will explore the relationship between the built environment and crime. Due to increasing urbanization of the world and better data collation techniques coupled with most of the worlds populous being policed by varying degrees of law and order organizations such as the police or religious volunteers, the collation of crime statistics has reached a level of recording and sophistication not afforded to many other human actions. Invariably due to urbanization most crimes take place in the built environment and this has given rise to theories by social researchers, urban planners and politicians which explicitly imply that the built environment has got a part to play in criminal activity. The two statements below underline this thinking by those who have carried out research in this area.
“The physical environment can exert a direct influence on crime settings by delineating territories, reducing or increasing accessibility by the creation or elimination of boundaries and circulation networks, and by facilitating surveillance by the citizenry and the police.” Angel (1968)
Historically, social scientists have argued that human behaviour is, to a large degree, a response to environmental conditions. Recently, a group of criminologists posited a direct relationship between certain environmental structures and reported crime rates. Studies exploring this area have pointed to the association between crime rates and high rise residences as support for their position….Using victimization techniques, the experiences of residents of several high and low rise structures in a traditionally low crime area such as the college campus were investigated…..Although causality cannot be inferred from the findings, a positive association was observed between high rise areas and property crime rates. (Bynum pages 179-180)
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This proposal seeks to look at the connection between the built environment and crime by taking three subheadings to act as the aims of the research and act as a pole so that the proposal does not veer off the aims and objectives. The concept map (appendix 1) has focused the research and given the objectives and aims the necessary fields from which the aims and objectives can be realised.
These three aims are:
Cause: Is the design of the modern built environment the high rise blocks, densities of up to 9,639.0/sq mi, (District of Colombia), the pace of life, no feeling of citizenship between inhabitants, the gap between the rich and poor which is wider in cities than in the countryside a cause of crime. In short the premise to be answered is that does living in a built environment make you more likely to commit a crime.
Facilitator: Does the design of the modern built environment afford criminals the opportunity to carry out criminal enterprises. Does the design, dark alleys, maze of streets, blind spots, decreased surveillance by natural sight make it an aide to the opportunist criminal who can take advantage of local knowledge e.g. escape routes and shortcuts. And if the built environment is designed better will it lead to a reduction in crime. This theory has its proponents as is evidenced by the statement below.
“Jeffery’s CPTED concept arose out of his experiences with a rehabilitative project in Washington, D.C. that attempted to control the school environment of juveniles in the area. Rooted deeply in the psychological learning theory of B.F. Skinner, Jeffery’s CPTED approach emphasized the role of the physical environment in the development of pleasurable and painful experiences for the offender that would have the capacity to alter behavioural outcomes. His original CPTED model was a stimulus-response (S-R) model positing that the organism learned from punishments and reinforcements in the environment. Jeffery “emphasized material rewards . . . and the use of the physical environment to control behaviour” (Jeffery and Zahm, 1993:330).
The major idea here was that by removing the reinforcements for crime, it would not occur. (Robinson, 1996)
The Human Condition: This premise asks the question that is it just the human condition that is the cause of crime and that crimes will be committed whatever the design of the built environment and that it is the thinking that needs to change as is expounded by:
“The environment never influences behaviour directly, but only through the brain. Any model of crime prevention must include both the brain and the physical environment. … Because the approach contained in Jeffery’s CPTED model is today based on many fields, including scientific knowledge of modern brain sciences, a focus on only external environmental crime prevention is inadequate as it ignores another entire dimension of CPTED — i.e., the internal environment.” (Robinson, 1996)
The aims above will help to describe the development of the understanding between crime and the built environment, however more importantly they will help to illustrate the difference of opinion in the subject of different practitioners and give the research paper material to further develop, analyse, compare and justify the research. The above aims when researched will lead to answers which are subjective to the reader.
The main objectives of this research proposal are:
1) To expand the understanding and broaden the thinking of practitioners of the built environment to views that they would not normally consider such as that human behaviour is affected by more complex internal structures rather than a simplistic approach of blaming external built structures on modes of behaviour.
2) The research proposes to add another dimension to the connection of crime and the built environment and the wider debate, the dimension of ethics, belief and morality.
3) The research aims to test this notion that stronger religious beliefs will lead to less crime by comparing two distinct communities both racially and in religious belief residing in the same city of Birmingham in almost similar built environments. These two communities are the overall majority in each area of the city the first being the ward of Aston and the second being Stechford. The census information and latest crime figures are attached (Appendix 2).
The research will revolve around analysing, criticising and defining literature written by a plethora of commentators, researchers and practitioners in the field of the built environment, illustrating how it developed why it still needs to go further and how this research can add to this.
The main focus of the literature review will be theories expounded by papers written and books published by the CPTED (Crime Prevention through Environmental Design) formulated by criminologist C RAY Jeffrey. As far back as 1968 this theory was studied by Schlomo Angel.
The physical environment can exert a direct influence on crime settings by delineating territories, reducing or increasing accessibility by the creation or elimination of boundaries and circulation networks, and by facilitating surveillance by the citizenry and the police. (Schlomo Angel, 1968)
Other commentators added to this by saying:
Historically, social scientists have argued that human behaviour is, to a large degree, a response to environmental conditions. Recently, a group of criminologists posited a direct relationship between certain environmental structures and reported crime rates. Studies exploring this area have pointed to the association between crime rates and high rise residences as support for their position….Using victimization techniques, the experiences of residents of several high and low rise structures in a traditionally low crime area such as the college campus were investigated…..Although causality cannot be inferred from the findings, a positive association was observed between high rise areas and property crime rates. (Bynum 1984)
However the research moved on and new literature published opened up new ideas and thinking into the subject. The CPTED model evolved and the new thinking was that:
The environment never influences behaviour directly, but only through the brain. Any model of crime prevention must include both the brain and the physical environment. … Because the approach contained in Jeffery’s CPTED model is today based on many fields, including scientific knowledge of modern brain sciences, a focus on only external environmental crime prevention is inadequate as it ignores another entire dimension of CPTED — i.e., the internal environment. (Robinson, 1996)
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In a space of less than thirty years the whole thinking has changed and the recognition that not only the external environment needs to change but internal changes need to take place. However the internal environment under examination needs to be further developed in the sense that how the internal environment i.e. beliefs resulting in better morals and ethics can help to prevent crime in the built environment. This research will be making a start in this new field.
The main core of the research will consist of reference to secondary sources thus the research will take on a quantitative nature. Qualitative research has not been ruled out as this is an area with limited knowledge. This will take place in the form of a primary approach to the research by interviewing one of the 13 Crime Prevention Design Officers employed by the West Midlands Police and conducting the interview on the basis of gauging personal experience of crime in architecturally similar neighbourhoods populated by distinct communities who believe in and operate within the confines of separate moral and ethical value systems which may be very similar but adherence is stricter in one community than the other. This research can be viewed as exploratory in nature. (Naoum 1998)
Interrogation and comparative analysis West Midlands Police crime statistics and also census statistics of the two wards selected will establish where there is a difference and ask why, is there is a certain religious prohibition is one community that doesn’t t exist in the other. Problems in this type of research are that the reliability of the data can be questioned or the recording method of crime statistics can be questioned or for that argument the recording method of any set of statistics (Kumar 2005) however due to the strict guidelines under which this date is collated there is little danger of that.
The research will develop via an extensive reading list and research on not just planning and built environment but also crime how it’s increased and how religious belief is on the decrease. The research will initially be a desk based exercise and the primary research aspect will come into the study when the 3rd notion is written on and the input of the Crime Prevention Design Officer is included in reference to an interview which will ask for expansion of explanation on crime figures of the two neighbourhoods.
The research findings may prove to be controversial if the notion tested is correct however the main problem is to present the information in a concise manner which will give rise to further enquiry.
Findings should give impetus to researchers to conduct research on a wider basis i.e. comparing crime in urban environments in New York and New Delhi for example.
The main tasks to be completed can be viewed on the Gantt chart attached (appendix 3). The main crux of this study and the overall aim is to add another dimension to the debate in the guise of a moral and ethical dimension to the built environment and crime. The findings once established will either reinforce the current view that crime in the built environment can only reduce by better and intelligent design, or it will give credence to the new ideas that you cannot simply design your way out of crime in the built environment but something more fundamental, the human condition needs to change and that crime prevention by environmental design (CPTED) although useful is not the final answer.
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