Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Follow Up on Crime in the Urban Discourse

A few months ago, I wrote about how crime concerns have been lost in the urban discourse. Urbanists aren’t studying crime and neighborhood safety the way they’re studying things like transit, walkability, and sustainability. published a study that shows just how important neighborhood safety is. They surveyed about 1,500 people. Over half (55%) said that a neighborhood’s safety rating was extremely important in choosing where to live. A whopping 92% put neighborhood safety in the top two concerns; the next closest in this category was proximity to shopping, at 60%.

As I’ve said before, it’s not enough for a neighborhood to be safe; it has to feel safe. 75% of respondents said that they would use a neighborhood’s general appearance to judge how safe it is. 75% of respondents also said that they would use word of mouth to judge how safe a neighborhood is. In other words, actual crime rates aren’t as important as the perception of crime.

I should thank Chronicle writer Nancy Sarnoff for bringing up this study in her blog. But she, too, wrote about house sizes rather than neighborhood safety. Let me once again call on my fellow architects and urbanists to revisit “Defensible Space” and the writings of Jane Jacobs. Let’s give neighborhood safety and crime their fair place in our discussions about cities.

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