NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 20, 2005

Advocates of New Urban neighborhoods claim that common public spaces, walkable areas, mixed land use and high density housing create more interaction among folks and provide more "eyes on the street," thus, reducing crime.

Ironically, this has not been the outcome for many neighborhoods that have adopted New Urban designs, says Reason magazine. For example, New Urban policies:

  • Discourage closed-off streets or cul-de-sacs, but a British crime survey found that houses along grid streets were more likely to be burglarized than those in a cul-de-sac.
  • Prefer more foot paths and areas that restrict cars, but this often prevents emergency vehicles from accessing an area in the event of a crime or other emergency.
  • Urge use of common space for gathering, instilling in people a sense of protecting their communities from crime; but evidence suggests that people are more likely to protect private property from crime than public spaces.
  • Advocate high-density housing and mixed land use to provide more community interaction, but neighborhoods in England which contained only single-family, detached homes had the fewest crime problems.

Furthermore, English researchers have compared New Urbanist neighborhoods with "Defensible Space" neighborhoods, which maximize private areas, limit densities and mixed land uses, and close off or eliminate alleys. They found that New Urbanist neighborhoods had five times the crime rate and three times the policing cost of Defensible Space neighborhoods.

Source: Stephen Town and Randal O'Toole, "Crime-Friendly Neighborhoods," Reason, February 2005.


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