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Preventing Neighborhood Crime: Geography Matters

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2009
6 pages
This article discusses what research has found regarding how the geography and physical features of a neighborhood relate to preventing neighborhood crime.
In all the research regarding neighborhoods and crime, one primary theme is evident, i.e., that geography affects how people, residents, and potential offenders view a neighborhood. Programs such as Neighborhood Watch, therefore, must take into account the full range of community characteristics in implementing a successful approach to crime prevention. Neighborhood crime prevention should take into account the neighborhood's physical features. Physical features that offer better surveillance, delineation between public and private space, and proximity to well-used locations provide stronger control of spaces by law-abiding residents. Such control leads to less delinquency, less fear, and less victimization. Land use and circulation patterns are also significant in reducing crime. The layouts of low-crime neighborhoods often have more one-way, narrow, and low-volume streets, which make entry more difficult and suspicious vehicles and surveillance activities by suspicious persons more evident. Another important physical feature of a low-crime neighborhood consists of neighborhood markings and signs by local residents that influence perceptions of crime. Such signs show residents' concern about behaviors in and uses of the neighborhood. Residents should also control the physical deterioration in a neighborhood by limiting graffiti, trash accumulation, and other signs of distress in public areas and on personal property. Neighborhood Watch programs must work with other community organizations in promoting physical and environmental features that reduce crime. 17 notes
Date Published: June 1, 2009