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Physical Environment and Crime

NCJ Number
Date Published
May 1996
35 pages
Publication Series
Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is discussed with respect to the assumptions surrounding research in this area; empirical research findings; and the policy implications of four major sets of physical features emphasized in the research literature.
CPTED focuses on the settings in which crimes occur and on techniques for reducing vulnerability in these settings. It assumes a rational offender perspective. Major studies have linked physical features of neighborhoods and street blocks with crime, fear of crime, and related outcomes. The literature emphasizes four types of physical features: (1) housing design or block layout, (2) land use and circulation patterns, (3) resident-generated territorial features, and (4) physical deterioration. Some of the studies make it difficult to separate the relative crime-preventive or fear- reducing effects of redesign from the beneficial effects of ongoing local social dynamics or the organizational development surrounding the redesign effort. Thus, the relevance of the physical environment appears contingent on a range of nonphysical factors and the type of crime or crime-related outcome in question. Further research should integrate different theoretical perspectives and consider such issues as the sequence of relationships between physical change, crime events, fear of crime, and perceptions of place vulnerability. Figures, photographs, footnotes, and 71 references

Date Published: May 1, 1996