As described by Ronald V. Clarke (the author of ‘The Theory of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’) “crime results partly from the opportunities presented by the physical environment. This being the case it should be possible to alter the physical environment so that crime is less likely to occur.”(Clarke) However, the idea that crime is caused by the physical environment has been a large topic of debate among criminologists. I find this particular topic to be of great interest and I am keen to investigate whether Clarke’s theory is indeed correct. I plan on focusing primarily on personal security in the Stobswell area of Dundee to discover if Clarke’s theory can be applied.
Initial Research and Investigation Aim
The area is well known to have suffered serious decline from the 1980’s onwards where “deprivation indicators had emerged, accompanied by physical signs of dereliction, lack of property maintenance and a stagnant declining property market.”(Smyth) In recent years, the general opinion of many of the people in the Stobswell area is that “young people are being neglected, with not enough activities to tempt them away from alcohol.”(Smyth) Crime statistics for the area, particularly for underage drinking, and related violence, have been extremely high in recent years. By using Clarke’s theory, that crime can be a result of the physical environment, I would like to find out why this happens, particularly in this area? Who is most affected? What can I, as a designer, do to help?
Of course it would be unrealistic to instantly put a stop to the problems associated with the underage binge drinking, but by implicating some kind of increased security measure, to protect those who feel at risk, these small changes would make a big difference . On beginning my research my attention was drawn to an article in the Dundee Courier, by Katie Smyth, ‘The Baxter Park Events Programme to Benefit Young People in Stobswell’. In this article Smyth has interviewed a number of residents from the area (long and short-term) to hear their feelings about the surrounding neighbourhood. The main concern was for personal security in the area. As a result this project has been put in place by Dundee’s Community Safety Partnership to lay on a host of diversionary activities in an attempt to steer young people away from under-age drinking and its associated antisocial behaviour. The project will coincide with the, ongoing, ‘Stobswell Regeneration Strategy and Development’ programme (outlined in the attached diagram), of which was established with a vision to transform the neighbourhood into a vibrant, high quality area where all residents can “live and work in a safe, well-maintained environment of which they can be proud.”(Smyth) It is planned for there to be a whole new range of properties to suit people of all ages and levels of income. It is also an aim to provide a greater choice of “facilities for all ages for leisure, education, employment and shopping. Stobswell will be a place where individuals are respected and the community has strength and influence.”(Smyth) If this is achieved it is hoped that the areas reputation will soar and as a result attract more people, businesses and capital. I aim to use the ideas and theories voiced in the above literature to focus my research. I will work on the principal of helping with these projects and existing frameworks, from my point of view as a designer.
The brainstorm diagram, shown here, gives a brief overview as to how I would go about researching the area of personal security in Stobswell, where I would include possible solutions to the problem. This brainstorming tool, I find to be an extremely effective method of documenting all of my information into one manageable page of which I would then use to lead me to my three research methods.
Questionnaires are a form of extensive research which can cover a wide range of issues in a short space of time. For this particular area of research it would be an excellent way of gathering a really good range of information from different age groups, locals, business owners, passers by, etc. For example, it would be useful to know exactly how safe local people feel living in the area and do they think increased security measures would be beneficial. However, with this kind of research it is important to be “aware that respondent answers could be inaccurate due to personal desires to be helpful, or to answer in a way which will please the interviewer.”
Interviews would be used to balance the extensive data, you can gather from questionnaires, with intensive data. For my research the interviews would be informally carried out without too much of a structure to allow for points to be expanded on freely and to also make the interviewee more relaxed. By carrying out the interviews in this way more accurate answers could be obtained as the individual would not feel they were required to answer in a specific way. In addition, “face to face interviews allow for the reading and interpretation of social cues such as body language and intonation” which would make qualitative data more detailed and therefore make an interview a better research method than a questionnaire.
Observations are another good way of gathering information. This method of research would allow me to get direct answers to common questions. For example; Are particular times of the day worse than others? What is the main age group? Are they a mix of both males and females? Is it the same people in the same spots all the time? Simple sketches, photographs and brief note taking would be enough to gain a considerable amount of data to answer these questions. Also by noting how I personally feel in those areas would give an indication of what issues I should be aware of when designing questionnaires and carrying out interviews. However my interpretation of the area could not be used as evidence as they are subjective notes, and not wholly representative.
To conclude, my main area of research is the ways the physical environment contributes to crime, particularly in the Stobswell area of Dundee. I am keen to find out the demographic affected by the crime in the area, and how I, as a designer, could help? By using the aforementioned research techniques , particularly the interviews, I aim to obtain a great deal of accurate and informative information around the issue of personal security in the area and its links with the physical environment and crime. After gathering this information I plan to use both qualitative and quantitative data in designing a piece which could help combat an issue or work alongside positive frameworks which are already in place.
Jane Sykes. (1979). Designing Against Vandalism. London: Design Council, p.128.
Katie Smyth. (2010). Baxter Park Events Programme to Benefit Young People in Scotland. The Courier.
The Stobswell Partnership. Stobswell Neighbourhood Regeneration Strategy. Dundee City Council.
- (Veal, A. J see Bachman and O’Malley 1981; Chase and Godby 1983; Chase and Harada 1984)
- (Opdenakker 2006)
C. Ray Jeffery (1971). Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Sage Publications, p.290.
Malcom Gladwell. (2002). The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. New York: Back Bay Books.