The topic of “urban design and crime prevention” has significantly increased in importance over the past few years within the broader context of community-based crime prevention. Besides traditional approaches and strategies, the discussion now increasingly focuses on the role of local authorities and residential developers. These parties are actively involved in the development of public spaces as well as the design of their patterns of use, through the adoption of urban zoning guidelines which aim at once to limit future opportunities for crimes as well as to address existing criminality. Thus, their impact is such that depending on their effectiveness, they may increase or diminish opportunities for the perpetration of crimes.

Pro­ject De­scrip­tion:

The main­ten­ance of se­cur­ity and or­der has tra­di­tion­ally been re­garded as one of the most im­port­ant du­ties of cit­ies and loc­al au­thor­it­ies. Al­though Crim­in­o­logy has ad­dressed geo­graph­ic­al and urb­an prob­lems for a long time, the prac­tic­al rel­ev­ance of the top­ic was ex­clus­ively con­cep­tu­al­ised in con­nec­tion with the in­creas­ing dis­cus­sion on situ­ation­al crime pre­ven­tion and the renais­sance of op­por­tun­ity-based the­or­ies of de­vi­ant be­ha­viour. The sub­ject of the present ex­am­in­a­tion is the em­pir­ic­al ap­prais­al of crime pre­ven­tion ini­ti­at­ives in the struc­tur­al and ar­chi­tec­tur­al con­text of two large hous­ing es­tates re­spect­ively loc­ated in East- and West-Ger­many. Formerly con­sidered achieve­ments of mod­ern­ity, these es­tates are now of­ten re­garded as “hatcher­ies of crime”. Struc­tur­al dam­age, van­dal­ism and the co­ex­ist­ence of prob­lem­at­ic cir­cum­stances are com­mon at­trib­utes con­trib­ut­ing to the gen­er­al im­age of de­cay of high-rise res­id­en­tial es­tates. Crim­in­o­logy has made sev­er­al re­com­mend­a­tions for the re­duc­tion of crime and fear of crime in pub­lic spaces. Many of these sug­ges­tions have since been im­ple­men­ted but large-scale stud­ies on the suc­cess of these meas­ures are still lack­ing – at least in Ger­many.
Giv­en the scarcity of fin­an­cial re­sources and their some­times ques­tion­able at­tri­bu­tion, it is also ne­ces­sary to ex­am­ine the suc­cess of crime pre­vent­ive ini­ti­at­ives in Ger­many as has already been done in oth­er coun­tries. This pro­ject there­fore at­tempts to eval­u­ate the suc­cess of urb­an meas­ures par­tic­u­larly with re­gard to crime trends and to fear of crime. The fol­low­ing un­der­ly­ing ques­tions are cent­ral to the re­search:

  • To what ex­tent do struc­tur­al in­ter­ven­tions have an im­pact on the gen­er­al well-be­ing, the turnover rate and the so­cio-demo­graph­ic struc­ture of the res­id­ents?
  • Are re­hab­il­it­at­ive meas­ures suc­cess­ful in to re­du­cing the fear of crime and the crime rate and dis­order?
  • To what ex­tent do re­hab­il­it­at­ive meas­ures in­flu­ence the res­id­ents’ sense of re­spons­ib­il­ity and the de­gree of so­cial con­trol?
  • Do re­hab­il­it­at­ive meas­ures dis­place crime and to what ex­tent are meas­ures like this ef­fi­cient with re­gard to cost and be­ne­fit?

Work­ing plan 2005-2007:

Sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ences re­gard­ing the ar­chi­tec­tur­al and so­cial struc­ture in East- and West-Ger­man large hous­ing es­tates re­quire con­duct­ing the ex­am­in­a­tion in both parts of Ger­many. Where­as East-Ger­manys “Plat­ten­bau”-areas are char­ac­ter­ised by struc­tur­al ho­mo­gen­eity and so­cial het­ero­gen­eity, West-Ger­man large hous­ing es­tates are ar­chi­tec­tur­ally more var­ied but pop­u­lated by a very ho­mo­gen­eous so­cial group. There­fore it is ques­tion­able wheth­er sim­il­ar meas­ures have the same res­ults in these dif­fer­ent con­di­tions.
In the ini­tial phase, the ana­lys­is of loc­al sites through pho­tos, ar­chi­tec­tur­al plans, press re­ports, etc. will im­part a pre­lim­in­ary visu­al im­pres­sion of the loc­al cir­cum­stances. In ad­di­tion, crime stat­ist­ics from the time be­fore, dur­ing and after the im­ple­ment­a­tion of the meas­ures stud­ied will provide in­form­a­tion about long-term trends in re­cor­ded crime. Sub­sequently, so­cial data provided by loc­al au­thor­it­ies and res­id­en­tial de­velopers will be used in or­der to gain in­sight in­to the so­cio-demo­graph­ic com­pos­i­tion of the loc­al pop­u­la­tion. Stand­ard­ised in­ter­views with se­lect ex­perts will then be used to sup­port the primary data through qual­it­at­ive ana­lys­is.
The found­a­tion of the re­search activ­ity will however be a sur­vey of 500 ran­domly se­lec­ted res­id­ents in both re­search loc­a­tions. The sur­vey aims to shed light on the num­ber of un­re­por­ted cases and to com­plete the of­fi­cial data through the vol­un­tary and an­onym­ous com­ple­tion of ques­tion­naires by mem­bers of the loc­al pop­u­la­tion. In ad­di­tion, the in­quiry should provide in­form­a­tion about the de­gree of in­di­vidu­al in­sec­ur­ity as well as about crime rate trends since re­hab­il­it­a­tion meas­ures were im­ple­men­ted in the area. In­deed, meas­ur­ing trends pre­sup­poses the data col­lec­tion both pri­or to and fol­low­ing the im­ple­ment­a­tion of a par­tic­u­lar meas­ure. Giv­en the lim­ited time-frame of this ex­am­in­a­tion on the one hand, and the ob­vi­ously longer dur­a­tion of struc­tur­al meas­ures on the oth­er, it is however im­possible to con­duct the sur­vey in terms of a pre-/post-design. There­fore a ret­ro­spect­ive eval­u­ation was chosen, which ap­peals to the col­lect­ive memory of the res­id­ents in or­der to trace trends in crime and fear of crime.
Fi­nally, the quant­it­at­ive ana­lys­is should serve to val­id­ate hy­po­theses about the cor­rel­a­tion between urb­an struc­ture, re­hab­il­it­a­tion meas­ures and trends in crime and fear of crime, which are de­rived from pre­lim­in­ary ideas and loc­al site-vis­its. Ideally, in or­der to guar­an­tee both in­tern­al and ex­tern­al valid­ity as well as to ana­lyse dis­place­ment-trends it would be help­ful to in­cor­por­ate nearby non-re­hab­il­it­ated areas. However, eco­nom­ic con­jec­ture in re­cent years has made ne­ces­sary the ad­op­tion of new strategies by de­velopers, in or­der to com­bat rising va­cancy rates. Al­though re­hab­il­it­at­ive ini­ti­at­ives in large hous­ing es­tates abound, the ef­fect­ive­ness of these meas­ures has yet to be as­cer­tained. The aim of the pro­ject presen­ted here is to ad­dress this ex­ist­ing gap.


AGIS 2004
With fin­an­cial sup­port from the AGIS Pro­gramme: European Com­mis­sion - Dir­ect­or­ate-Gen­er­al Justice, Free­dom And Se­cur­ity (2004/AGIS/164).

Na­tion­al re­ports see above Down­loads and links.