Urban environments, safety, and crimes

Journal Artical

Minimizing the Gender Difference in Perceived Safety: Comparing the Effects of Urban Back Alley Interventions

Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2017, IF= 7.649

Urban alleys are perceived as unsafe, especially by women. We conducted a photograph-questionnaire survey to examine gender difference in perceived safety of alley scenes. Photograph simulation tech-nology was used to create three categories of intervention scenes: Cleaning, Vegetation, and Urban Function & Vegetation. For the existing (Baseline) and Cleaning scenes, perceived safety remained low for both genders, though men’s perceived safety was significantly higher than women’s. Vegetation scenes were perceived as moderately safe for both genders, but men’s ratings were still significantly
higher. For Urban Function & Vegetation scenes, perceived safety was high for both genders, and the gender difference largely disappeared. Geometric vegetation yielded higher perceived safety than naturalistic vegetation for both genders. These findings provide clear evidence to support the efforts of policy makers, environmental designers, and community associations seeking to create safe and vital back alley environments for men and women in high-density cities across the world.

From Broken Windows to Perceived Routine Activities: Examining Impacts of Environmental Interventions on Perceived Safety of Urban Alleys

Frontiers in Psychology, 2018, IF= 4.232

In high-density cities around the world, alleys are common but neglected spaces that are perceived as unsafe. While cities have invested resources in environmental interventions to improve safety in urban allies, it is not clear how these interventions impact perceived safety. We review two important criminology theories that discuss the environmental and social factors that lead to crime: the Broken Windows Theory and the Routine Activity Theory. We argue that these theories can also be used to explain safety perceptions of urban environments, and then develop urban alley interventions based on these theories.
We test people’s perceived safety of these interventions through a photograph survey. Results show that all interventions yielded higher perceived safety than existing alley scenes. Interventions based on the Broken Windows Theory (cleaning or vegetation interventions) yielded only modest improvements in perceived safety, while interventions based on the Routine Activity Theory (urban function interventions) yielded higher ratings.
Our findings question the dominant use of the Broken Windows Theory in environmental interventions to promote perceived safety and argue for a more effective approach: urban function interventions inspired by the Routine Activity Theory.