Urban Criminology

21.03.2012 01:09

Funding Programme: Marie Curie European Re-Integration Grant (ERG) 2010, GA 268280






A research and training programme for the study of security and crime prevention by planning and management of urban infrastructures

Conceptual background:

“Crime prevention by urban planning and design” represents an ideology to work towards urban safety based on physical, social and management techniques in contrast to punitive policies and technology-driven surveillance.

“The first thing to understand is that the public peace of cities is not kept primarily by the police, necessary as police are. It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves. … No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down (Jacobs 1961)”. 

“Proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to the reduction in the fear of crime and the incidence of crime, and to an improvement in the quality of life (Jeffery 1972)”. This translates into many practical and useful applications.

Defensible space is a model for residential environments which inhibits crime by creating the physical expression of a social fabric that defends itself. All the different elements which combine to make a defensible space have one common goal – an environment in which latent territoriality and sense of community in the inhabitants can be translated into responsibility for ensuring a safe, productive and well-maintained living space. The potential criminal perceives such a space as controlled by its residents, leaving him an intruder easily recognised and dealt with (Newman 1972)”.


Aims and objectives:

  • Development of a European knowledge hub at the interface of (1) architecture and facility management, (2) urban sociology and (3) criminology.
  • The establishment of an inter-disciplinary “Network for Urban Security”, which connects research and practice in the fields of security and urban development. Various practitioners in each of the four quadrants shall be integrated in a network that includes academics and practitioners in both thematic fields.

This Marie Curie project comprises 2 activities (research and training & education) and 5 work-packages:







Training and Education






Work Packages


Criminological Social Area Analysis


Crime Hot Spot Analysis


Crowd Control and Policing in Mass Private Properties


National Consultancy for Practitioners


European Academic CPTED-Training

Expected Results

Understand informal social control mechanisms and public order management

Understand opportunity structures for crime

Integration of crowd monitoring technology in security management of large  commercial developments

Establishment of regular training for stakeholders

Academic Masters in Urban Criminology




























Criminological Social Area Analysis

(A1) Objectives

Study informal control mechanisms and the consequences for well-being and social order in 4 aspects of urban space:

  1. Physical features
    • Target hardening: security technology, access control
    • Psychology of urban space: lighting, design, material, texture, colour, smell, heat;
  2. Social structure: Demographic composition, crowding, community, local history, social capital, territoriality
  3. Infrastructure: shopping, housing, recreation, retail, traffic, medical doctors; attractions and landmarks; night-time economy
  4. Facility Management and the built environment
    • Cleaning and maintenance, delivery and disposal services, sanitation
    • “Capable guardians” such as train conductors, newspaper vendors, taxi drivers, bus drivers, flower shops, etc.
    • Public transport management accordance with opening hours

(A2) Methodology

Social Area Analysis

Sociographic method

Quantitative surveys and secondary data analysis of demographic data

Observation studies

Social network analysis

Lifeworld analysis

Expert interviews


Crime Hot Spot Analysis

(B1) Objectives

Routine Activity Theory is used to explain the opportunity for crime and states that ordinary crime emerges when a motivated offender converges with a suitable crime target in the absence of witnesses. Crime patterns show a geographic concentration of offences according to socio-spatial opportunity structures. Crime Hot Spot Analyses study the geographic concentration of criminal offences in a given urban area and help identify high-risk places in a city. Research shall link quantitative geo-coding techniques with a qualitative analysis of physical, socio-economic, demographic and social characteristics of crime hot spots. A systematic analysis of social and geographic features of crime hot spots shall help develop place-specific crime prevention measures.

(B2) Methodology

Crime mapping and geo-coding (kernel density function)

Focus group discussions with stakeholders

Observation studies together with police


Crowd Control and Policing in Mass Private Properties

(C1) Objectives

The emergence of large privately operated building complexes with public access (shopping centres, railway stations, leisure centres, exhibition centres, university campus, etc.), has generated debates on private policing and security liability. The debate on responsibility and accountability for security management in these places are vital for public police and private security services in general and for facility management in particular. Research in that field shall evaluate new technology for crowd control, which can measure frequency, retention, directional flow, speed and time of customers in a given time and space. New computer technology can tell: how many people stopped at one place for how long; where the main paths of the traffic flow are and where people intersect; how many people move with the same speed; the number of people that exceed an assumed limit and sudden crowding effects. This information shall help detect any potential safety risk, allocate staff effectively by early detection of potential congestions, and adopt structures to the frequency variations.

(C2) Methodology:

Implementation of a crowd monitoring software (“Streaker”) in a shopping centre

Data collection: Enhanced iso-lines and vector field presentations

Data analysis

Participant observation

Expert interviews with facility managers


National Consultancy for Practitioners

(D1) Objectives

This project shall facilitate cooperation between police, urban planners, developers, facility managers, security managers, school management and social services. In a first professional workshop stakeholders shall exchange ideas and information about a better integration of security issues in planning and design processes in Austria. Secondly, a regular input shall be offered as part of existing professional training in facility management and other architectural courses at the Department of Building and Environment at Danube University Krems, Austria. Thirdly, a separate training course on “urban security” shall be established for specific professional stakeholder groups – police, city council, developers, architects and urban planners.

(D2) Methodology:



Academic courses for continuous professional education


European Academic CPTED-Training

(E1) Objectives

Training in design-led crime prevention has been offered in many countries by a variety of educational institutions. A detailed analysis of schedules of existing training courses world-wide shall provide information and experience for the establishment of a European Masters in “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)”. This programme shall be based on an extensive exchange of students and lecturers in Europe to experience a variety of security issues, cultures of control and organisational conditions in other countries and to learn from each other. Finally, an international trainer network will set up a supervision programme for design-led crime prevention teaching.

(E2) Methodology:

Content analysis



Impact for the society at large

  • Natural surveillance: An alternative concept for public order management

This project shall support the significance of crime prevention and public order management as an alternative to authoritarian control mechanisms. In addition to organised surveillance (police patrol) and mechanical surveillance (CCTV, alarm systems, security technology) natural surveillance can be encouraged through a human-centred design of urban social environments.

  • Integration of urban sociology in crime prevention policies

The consideration of urban sociology in design-led crime prevention will help understand the way in which urban lifestyles produce spatial structures and opportunity structures for crime and delinquency. “Urban Criminology” will demonstrate how some concern for security in urban planning and design can improve decisions in all political domains: Education (schools, universities, youth facilities); consumer culture (shopping centres, malls); night-time economy (pubs, bars, concert venues); housing (suburbia); traffic (underground car parks, public transport stations, railway stations); employment (home office, opening hours), and other political fields with regard to urban planning and design.

  • Crime prevention AND community safety in urban spaces

The technique of territorial reinforcement links two objectives - crime prevention and community safety - in a single policy: To deflect offenders and to reduce fear of crime. This leads to an overall increase of safety and urban quality of life.

“The first thing to understand is that the public peace of cities is not kept primarily by the police, necessary as police are. It is kept primarily by an intricate, almost unconscious, network of voluntary controls and standards among the people themselves, and enforced by the people themselves. … No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, casual enforcement of it has broken down (Jacobs 1961)”.