Richard M. Titus, Ph.D.
National Institute of Justice *
The role of place in crime causation and control has in recent years received increasing attention from criminologists: routine activity theory and opportunity theory being two examples. The same can be said for criminal justice practitioners; examples being crime analysis, crime mapping, problem-oriented policing, community policing, Weed and Seed, and COMPASS. The situation with planners and architects is different: as the authors of this text point out, those who create the environments in which we live, work, play, and travel too often seem to be minimally conscious of how their work can affect the safety of those who use these environments. And while avoidance of victimisation may not be uppermost in the minds of those who locate and operate businesses, decide where to live, plan an evening's entertainment, etc., it is a factor in all these decisions.
The authors are not arguing an environmental determinism. While thoughtless planning and architecture can create environments that criminals find to be more congenial, it does not follow that security-conscious design can eliminate the risk to people and their property: the authors point out the need for involvement of the users and managers of these environments, along with public and private security.
The authors are careful to place their recommendations in the context of the available research and evaluation. They point out that this literature is rather scanty. Nonetheless, the burden of the evidence they review is that changes in the environment can lead to reductions in various types of crime. This evidence is difficult to assess: much of it was accumulated during a period when crime rates - at least in the USA - were trending downward. It is tempting to assume that the many environmental crime prevention strategies put in place over the period ** may have contributed to this decline, but if not, it remains to be seen how they will perform if crime rates rise again.
* For identification only. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not represent policy of the National Institute of Justice or the US Department of Justice
** e.g. the placement of security guards or concierges in the lobbies of almost all downtown office buildings.