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The Architecture of Fear

Tunde Agbola

2. Urban violence & urban design: Infrastructures in Time and Space

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1The urban environment is the locus of various forms of violence. The city is a meeting point for peoples from diverse cultural, racial and religious backgrounds, a place where they struggle for scarce economic resources as well as political power. The heterogeneity of the urban environment makes it an attractive place for thieves, rapists, assassins, murderers, etc., who can commit crimes with little fear of recognition. According to Gibbert and Gugler (1982), a city provides the anonymity required for individual crime and the space for a specialized and organized underworld (see highlighted text, p. 17). This chapter provides the necessary theoretical framework for a proper understanding of the urban violence dilemma, and a detailed search of the appropriate literature to put in broader perspective the context of differential responses to the violence.

Theoretical Perspectives

2Various theories can be applied to issues of urban violence. There are, for example, behavioural theories which give insight into why individuals engage in criminal activities; and urban design theories of fear and the reaction to fear, which are appropriate to the object of this study.

3Three behavioural theories were used in this study. They are: the differential association, the frustration-aggression, and the anomie theories. The differential association theory was formulated by Edwin H. Sutherland, and is based on the premise that criminal behaviour is learned in intimate personal groups (La Gory and Pipkin, 1981). It argues that crime is a product of socialization. It goes further to posit that people become criminally inclined because of close association with criminals and also because they are unaware of anti-criminal patterns. People, therefore, become deviant because of contextual factors, rather than personal inclination.

4The main argument of the frustration-aggression theory of violence is that there is a gap between expectation and achievement in the social life of the urbanized, which invariably leads to frustration and the urge to react aggressively, through such acts as assassinations, demonstrations, bombings and riots (Salami, 1994). The social amenities which exist in urban centres attract rural dwellers; most of those who come are educated youths in search of jobs. Since only a few of them are employed, they add to the population of unemployed people in the urban centres and this creates frustration, anger and aggression, which ultimately results in violence.

5The anomie theory, is intimately associated with the theory of crime prevention through the proper design of open spaces. The theory addresses the issue of why certain social spaces are conducive to crime. Anomie or alienation can occur in any society where social disruption, such as sudden economic depression or prosperity, or rapid technological change, leads people to aspire to goals that are structurally unattainable (La Gory and Pipkin, 1981). According to Merton (1957), the five strategies of adjustment to a situation of anomie are conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. Innovation, which is more relevant to this study, involves a situation in which the individual accepts culturally defined goals but chooses illegi- timate means to achieve them. Highly segregated lower-class communities are likely to have many more of these innovators simply because the legitimate means to achieve such goals are out of their reach.

City Quotes
Contemporary cities have different attributes and these have been captured by different people at different times and under different circumstances. Some of these reflections are captured here:
1. But the great towns have grown intolerable because of such suffocating vulgarities and tyrannies. It is not humanity that disgusts us in the huge cities; it is inhumanity. It is not that they are not human beings; but that they are not treated as such. We do not, I hope, dislike men and women; we only dislike their being made into a sort of jam: crushed together so that they are not merely powerless but shapeless.
2. When asked why he lived in Rome, novelist Gore Vidal once replied that ‘Since the city had already been destroyed several times over, what better vantage point to watch the rest of the world go down the drain!’
3. ‘Today’s city is the most vulnerable social structure ever conceived by man.’ Today’s cities are: Too big to whip; usually misunderstood; usually broke; going in a dozen directions at once; and sadly in need of management.
Source: Stephen Boyden, The City: So human an ecosystem.
Nature & Resources 1996, 32 (2): 3.

6Despite the relevance of these theories, none is as appropriate as the theory of fear, the immediate reaction to violence; and the theory of defensible space, which is a practical response to fear. These theories are discussed in turn because this study is anchored on them.

The concept of fear

7Fear is the immediate response of most people to violence. It has been defined as an emotional reaction to danger (Kaplan and Kaplan, 1978). When danger is sensed or perceived, there is the likelihood of emotional disturbance and this is expressed as fear. An attempt has been made by Hebb (1972) to theorize the cause(s) of fear. Hebb began with the proposition that emotional susceptibility increases with intellectual capacity. He observed that the development of a large cortex in mammals presumably increased their capacity to acquire knowledge and to solve problems, but it also increased their capacity for altruistic behaviour and their susceptibility to emotional disturbance. Emotional susceptibility also correlates with intelligence in younger animais, such that it is the older rather than the younger subject that is most easily disturbed.

8With increased knowledge about danger, there is a corres- ponding increase in the fear of that danger. Conversely, an absence of knowledge about danger means that fear does not exist. The more highly developed the intellectual capacity of an organism, the more that can be comprehended and anticipated and therefore, the greater susceptibility to fear of danger. For example, strange surroundings will generate fear in rats; while dogs bred for security (such as Alsatians) react more quickly to strangers than dogs bred as domestic pets. Similarly, emotional response to danger tends to increase with age and understanding, such that adults are more likely to sense and understand the danger within the environment than children.

9The relevance of the theory to this study is readily apparent. Since fear tends to increase with age, and affluence in most cases is also age-related, either in individuals or in the development of a nation, there seems to be a correlation between crime and affluence. For example, about 50 years ago in this country, there was little fear of crime as shown in the precautions taken against crime in the design of buildings. Over the past 25 years however, there has been a steady increase in the rate of crime. More and more people have become victims of criminal activities, which is reflected in the fortified nature of the designs of buildings and the surrounding walls and gates. It is the more educated and the more affluent who are most susceptible to the fear of crime, and it is this segment of society that uses more sophisticated and expensive measures to safeguard their residential space.

Defensible space: An alternative to fear

10Defensible space is a theory of crime developed by Oscar Newman in his seminal study of public residential buildings in New York. Newman’s goal was to present a model for residential environments which would inhibit crime by creating the physical expression of a social fabric that defends itself. In simpler terms, he attempted to solve the problem of getting a person to and from his or her living quarters without the fear or occurrence of crime. His first preoccupation was to study the physical characteristics of housing projects, to determine which of these might present an opening for criminal activity.

11He first observed the large open spaces around project buildings, often designed for recreation and leisure. Since these areas are situated away from traffic, they become the most vulnerable part of the building project, because even at the peak of daily activities, their detachment makes them a no-man’s-land; they are avoided at night because they provide opportunities for criminal violence without observation. Another observation was about high-rise buildings with long corridors that have exits on both ends, several elevators, and fire escape routes which could provide a criminal with multiple escape routes. The scale of a building project could be a problem by itself (Newman, 1978). For example, the larger the numbers of units, the less the ability of the residents to recognize strangers; they thus become less involved in the control of the area surrounding the project. Moreover, the social stigma associated with public housing projects encourages a feeling of isolation in their residents. This stigma is like a flag that invites exploitation by criminals.

12In correcting these observed anomalies in building design, Newman suggested the ‘defensible space model’ to discourage attempts by criminals to commit crimes. He presented the concept of defensible space as a surrogate term for a range of mechanisms — real and symbolic barriers, strongly defined areas of influence and improved opportunities for surveillance — that combine to bring an environment under the control of its residents. A defensible space, therefore, is defined as a residential environment which can be employed by inhabitants to enhance their living conditions, while providing security for their families, neighbours and friends.

13Defensible space, in terms of the arrangement of building grounds and the interior grouping of apartments is achieved when residents can easily observe and control all activities taking place within it. Residents can then be seen to employ a full range of encounter mechanisms which show their observation of questionable activity and their control of the situation. The criminal, on the other hand, will perceive the space as being controlled by its residents, thus exposing him as an intruder who can be easily recognized and dealt with. The defensible space or environment extends into the street which surrounds the residence.

14There are four elements of physical design that contribute, separately or jointly, to the creation of secure environments. These are: territorial ownership, natural surveillance, image and milieu, and functional location of buildings.

15Territorial ownership refers to the territorial definition of space in development, reflecting the area of influence of the inhabitants. This is a function of the amount of space and the number of occupants. Accordingly, reducing the number of people sharing a given access space increases the chance of spotting suspicious visitors. Territoriality covers the lobby and the grounds in principle, unless there are observable and commonly acknowledged zones and private spaces where natural and artificial surveillance methods could be employed to deter criminal activities.

16Natural surveillance refers to the positioning of apartment doors, windows, corridors, elevators, mail boxes, stairways, etc., and the manipulation of building plan configuration in such a way that the residents will be able to monitor activities outside their own unit, naturally, as well as the inside and outside spaces. For example, the knowledge that constant observation is possible can allay the fears of the residents and deter criminals. Since most crimes occur in visually deprived semi-public interior buildings, the ability to keep such buildings under surveillance will definitely make them less accessible to criminals. In designing buildings that will allay fear and deter crime, it is suggested that the main entrances should not be located in obscure locations; elevators, mail boxes and staircases should not be tucked around a corner in a blind spot; plants, shrubs or trees should not be planted at corners since they can provide natural hiding places for criminals. These methods should be combined with security provisions.

17Image and milieu refer to the adoption of building forms and idioms that do not allow others to perceive the vulnerability and isolation of the inhabitants. If a building is seen to be vulnerable, the structure and its inhabitants can be easy prey to criminals. In addition, if it is a government building, it often wears a characteristic identity of neglect. These negative images seem to attract undesirable elements, who further vandalize such buildings and their inhabitants.

18Lastly, functional location refers to the character of the location: Is this a sympathetic area where crimes are easily detected or an area where criminals can operate easily without detection? Residential estates located close to, adjacent to or opposite parks, commercial areas or school facilities are often felt to be safer than those located in isolated areas - interior or quiet places. This feeling originates from the idea that users of these high activity areas — store owners and staff, school children and teachers, visitors to parks, etc. — provide some security by their presence, at least during working hours. However, the effectiveness of functional location should still be compared to the three other principles to ascertain whether such areas become vulnerable after working hours.

19These four goals of defensible space as outlined above are germane to this study. They are all expressed, albeit implicitly in some cases, in the housing designs and construction strategies observable in Lagos. Territorial ownership, for example, is expressed in the creation of buffers and boundaries through hedges, walls and fences around buildings. Within these walled boundaries, a very strong sense of ownership and involvement exists. The residents maintain the building and any stranger would be expected to justify his presence there.

20The principle of surveillance is also expressed in the positioning of windows, doors and other openings in the residential unit in places where vigilant observation will be possible. In addition, there has been an increasing use of artificial surveillance, such as closed-circuit video cameras, which monitor activities outside the unit and transmit visual images or signais into terminais placed inside the unit. The location and designs of some buildings within the study area seem to have taken into consideration the two goals of image and milieu, and functional location.

21These theoretical perspectives are now used to examine how the housing design and construction strategies in Lagos follow the principles of defensible space.

Literature Review

22Research on the different aspects of urban violence and other criminal activities has been the almost exclusive preserve of sociologists, political scientists, criminologists, and penologists. Over time, as urban violence has become more endemic and its effects more pervasive, social and environmental scientists have become interested and involved in the nature, causes and consequences of urban violence. Urban planners, architects, urban designers, real estate surveyors, etc., have become active researchers in the field of urban violence, especially as it relates to and affects urban infrastructure. Studies on urban violence were, however, pioneered by sociologists and criminologists. The late arrivai of planners into this field of study is probably rooted in the general lack of knowledge of the relationship between land use patterns and crime. A review of the literature shows that there are five major issues of concern in the study of violence and crime. These are: The meaning and conceptualization of urban violence; the classification of violence; the patterning of crime; the costs of crime, both social and monetary; and the prevention of crime.

Meaning and conceptualization of urban violence

23An in-depth survey of the literature reveals that there is no consensus with respect to the definition of violence. As can be expected, scholars continue to view the concept of violence, from the perspective of their various disciplines. While some scholars hold the view that the state is the only body which has the moral right to embark on any act of violence (Webber, 1947; Walter, 1964; Anifowose, 1982), others are of the opinion that violence serves different purposes. To buttress this fact, Anifowose (1982) observed that violence has been used by groups seeking power, by groups holding power, and by groups in the process of losing power. He further stated that violence has been pursued in the name of justice by the oppressed and in fear of displacement by the threatened.

24Tamuno (1991) has thus defined violence as the unlawful use of threat or force, which could be a manifestation of despair and desperation, while Hibbs Jr. (1973) says violence implies the use of physical force and is generally evinced by the destruction of property, the killing or wounding of people or the use of riot control equipment. Anifowose (1982) views violence as the use of the threat of a physical act carried out by an individual or individuals within a political system against another individual or individuals, and/or property, with the intent to cause injury or death to persons and/or destruction of property. According to Degenaar (1990), violence is the intentional application of extreme force against X in such a way that it is destructive to objects and physically injurious to animais and persons. Mackenzie (1975) also interpreted violence as (a) the exercise of physical force so as to inflict injury on or cause damage to persons or property; (b) action or conduct characterized by this; and (c) treatment or usage tending to cause bodily injury, or to forcibly interfere with personal freedom.

25Domenach (1978) views violence from three angles: the psychological, involving emotional and murderous use of force; the ethical, involving the vandalism of a neighbour’s property or an abuse of his liberty; and the political, involving forceful seizure of power or the illegitimate use of political power. Both Domenach and Mackenzie consider violence as the use of force, whether overt or covert, in order to wrest from individuals or groups something they are not disposed to give of their own free will. They conceive violence as any act that involves a threat to, or destruction of lives and/or property.

26To provide an all inclusive definition of violence, Galtung (1981), suggested that it is necessary to identify what is cornmon to all phenomena termed violent. He suggested two commonalities. These are: the destruction of lives and property; and on a more abstract level, anything that impedes human self realization. The latter, being inherently subjective, also indicates that violence is not always a directly observable phenomenon. A reasonably all encompassing definition of violence is provided by Albert (1994) who posits that acts of violence are produced by, characteristic of, or attain their mark in the cities as a resuit of their social, political and economic importance. Urban violence will, therefore, include rape, armed robbery, assault, bloody ethnic and religious conflicts, coups, demonstrations, riots, hooliganism, woman and child battering, police brutality, internai war, explosions, assassinations, etc.

27Most of the violence committed in contemporary times is found in urban areas (Uyanga, 1982). Although violence may occur in rural areas, it is not as prevalent as in big urban centres, where there is more competition for facilities. Uyanga noted that the incidence of violent crimes and personality disorders is higher in big cities than in small ones. The definition of what constitutes an urban centre varies and is often defined from the perspective of different disciplines such as geography, demography, sociology, public administration, etc. A report pub- lished by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and quoted by the Population Reference Bureau (1990) showed that there were no common criteria by which African urban centres can be defined. It showed, for example, that whereas the typical Nigerian city had a population of 20°000, cities in Ghana had 5°000, Kenya 2°000, and Gabon 1°000. This calls for caution in the interpretation of any comparative data on urban violence in Africa.

28For the purpose of this study, we shall adopt the UN standard which defines a city as a settlement of 20°000 or more in population.

Classification of Violence

29Violence has been classified in several ways in order to reflect the diverse forms it takes, and for analytical purposes. The basis of the classification has ranged from the level of the actors involved to the extent to which violence is endemic or incidental in a polity.

30At the level of actors, violence has been classified into inter- personal, inter-group, intra-group, inter-societal and intra- societal. Classification on the basis of the level of actors distinguishes between mass or collective violence, and isolated individual violence (Hibbs, 1973; Welch, 1980). The inter-group and inter-societal violence involves small and large groups. It is likely to be politically significant, and have less of a criminal nature than inter-personal violence.

31Violence has also been classified into political and non- political. Right from the time of Thomas Aquinas, the notion of violence as the legitimate revolt against tyranny (quoted in Osaghae, 1994), has been defined by the political scientists within the context of the state. This has led to the distinction between ‘legitimate’ or ‘justified’ violence, and ‘illegitimate’ or ‘routine’ violence. The former has been viewed by some political scientists as rebellion, civil strife, internai war and political conflict. The latter has been neglected by the political scientists because it is not relevant to the state. Shupilov (1981) distinguishes between ‘progressive violence’, which he regards as the struggle against capitalist oppression and tyranny and ‘destructive violence,’ which comprises criminal activities and often is the resuit of the aspirations of the individual pursuing his Personal aims.

32Gurr (1970), in his own contribution, classified violence into three, namely: turmoil, that is, relatively unorganized and spontaneous political violence with the participation of a large number of people in activities such as riots, strikes, démonstrations, and localized rebellions; conspiracy, that is, highly organized political violence with limited participation such as assassinations, coup d’etats and small-scale guerilla wars; and internal war, that is, highly organized violence with mass participation designed to overthrow a regime or state — large scale terrorism, large-scale guerilla warfare and revolution. Political violence, according to Hibbs Jr. (1973) should meet three conditions:

  • it should be anti-system
  • it should be politically significant by being actual and not a mere threat to the status quo
  • it should involve mass political action.

33Non-political violence can be economic, social and cultural, but not necessarily criminal.

34Another classification takes into account the extent to which violence is endemic or incidental to the polity. The major distinction under this classification is between structural and non-structural violence. Structural violence occurs in a state in which force is used on people to ensure compliance by the ruling body. Non structural violence is not endemic. It operates in societies in which inequalities and other injustices are not entrenched in the social structure, and in which the state permits citizen participation. Such violence is used sparingly and only in situations where the survival of the state is seriously threatened.

35In the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation index, crimes are classified into personal crimes and property crimes (O’Sullivan, 1996). The victim of a personal crime is in physical danger. For some personal crimes such as murder, rape and aggravated assault, the criminal’s objective is to injure the victim. For other personal crimes, the objective is to steal property, but the criminal uses a show of force to coerce the victim (e.g., robbery). Property crimes are crimes of stealth, not force. Examples are burglary, illegal entry into a building, larceny, such as purse snatching, picking pockets, and bicycle and car theft. This is similar to Glaser’s (1972) classification of violence into predatory and non-predatory offences. The predatory crime is further divided into personal and property.

36Quetelet (1842) rightly observed that crime is an inevitable part of the society. It is a creation of the society and cannot be completely eradicated. Violence is subject to cultural, ideological and religious idiosyncrasies (Osaghae, 1994). This is particularly true of Nigeria where, as Perouse de Montclos (1994) noted, violence is no longer coterminous with crime in the present urban setting. Violence in Nigeria ‘betrays an unimpeachable trend, actualized in form of roots and confrontation engendered by economic, religious and ethnic realities’. Despite all these advances in knowledge, however, the classification of what to include in the term violence and whether to regard violence as a subjective or objective phenomenon still pose serious problems to the academic world.

The Patterning of Crime

37There have been several studies on the spatial patterns of crime, generally referred to in the literature as the ‘geography of crime’. These studies reveal that crime co-varies with socio-economic status. For example, Brantingham and Brantingham (1975), who studied Tallahassee, Florida (USA), discovered that burglaries occur at high rates on the borders of some natural areas, and at a much lower rate in the interiors of these natural areas. Thus, for the first time, a spatial distribution of burglary, which was later to prove useful to planners, was uncovered. Furthermore, Harries et al. (1984) postulated that crime is a social problem with a decidedly territorial component. In their study, using the neighbourhood unit as an appropriate area unit of analysis, Harries discovered a strong correlation between neighbourhood socio-economic status and the occurrence of crime. In support of this, Brantingham and Brantingham (1984) showed that the rates of homicide and assault were inversely related to socio-economic status. A number of other studies have confirmed this finding (Harries, 1974; Harries and Stadler, 1986).

38In Nigeria, Mukoro (1994) studied the spatial distribution of crime in metropolitan Lagos. His findings indicated that Ikoyi had the highest concentration of violent crime, closely followed by Apapa and Victoria Island. Other neighbourhoods of high crime included Oshodi, Ogba, Mushin, Shomolu, Ilupeju and Surulere, in descending order of concentration. Yaba, Onikan, and Ikeja are, however, relatively peaceful. He then went on to examine the relationship of certain violent crimes to the socio- economic status of the neighbourhood and concluded that the severity of crime in Lagos tends to increase as the socio- economic status improves. In a similar study carried out in Ile- Ife, Nigeria, Aguda (1994), focussed on two major crimes — burglary and robbery, and analysed the spatial distribution of crime in the ancient city. In order of intensity this was, OAU Campus, Sabo, Iremo, Modakeke, Okerewe, Ilare, Ilode and More. This order reflects the socio-economic status of the neighbourhoods, and corroborates Mukoro’s findings.

The Cost of Crime

39The cost of crime refers to the effects of crime on people. In the literature, two costs of crime are identified: the monetary and the social. Studies on the monetary cost of crime have been carried out by a number of economists (O’Sullivan, 1996), while studies on the social cost of crime have been carried out by sociologists, victimologists and environmentalists (Abodunrin, 1981; Carter and Jones, 1989). Either of these costs can be direct or indirect. Direct costs are the actual costs incurred by the victims of crime, while indirect costs are those incurred by potential victims trying to prevent crime, i.e., the cost of security guards/devices. Thus, we can have four combinations of the cost of crime. These are: direct monetary; indirect monetary; direct social; and indirect social.

40Direct monetary costs of crime include all monetary costs incurred by victims of crime. In a nationwide cost estimate carried out in 1983, Reynolds (1986) included in his calculation of direct monetary costs, such costs as: personal loss — homicide, rape, assault, robbery (cost of injury); property loss — burglary, theft, robbery (cost of property), motor vehicle theft; and business loss — arson, shoplifting, employee theft and business fraud. According to a related study of crime involving a victimization survey (CVS) by the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1994), the direct costs of crime include: losses from property theft or damage; cash losses; medical expenses; amount of pay lost because of injury or activities related to the crime; and others, such as costs of psychological counselling, increased insurance premiums as a resuit of filing claims, decreased productivity at work, moving costs incurred when moving as a resuit of victimization and intangible costs of pain and suffering.

41Indirect monetary costs include all the monetary costs incurred by the potential victim in an attempt to prevent the occurrence of crime, that is, the monetary costs of crime prevention. Reynolds (1986) included in his calculation of these costs, the costs of engaging the services of the police, the cost of legal services, the cost of correction, and the opportunity cost of improvement. In addition, there are the costs of security personnel, watch dogs, electronic surveillance apparatus, the costs of burglar proofing, fences, gates, and walls.

42The direct social costs of crime relate to the social effects of crime on victims. The primary social cost of crime, is the fear of crime that is generated in people. Carter and Jones (1989) observed that in the social and behavioural impact, the fear of crime may be as potent as victimization itself. Fear of crime generates anxiety which may cause people to change their life- styles, to withdraw into themselves, to fear going out at night, to shun associations with strangers and to live a localized social life (Abodunrin, 1981). Many have been known to change their residences, change their jobs, build their houses in a particular design, etc., and as Smith (quoted in Carter and Jones, 1989) emphasized, this can be extremely debilitating. Fear of crime subjects people to emotional stress, restricts their movements and imposes all manner of personal and even financial costs on them.

43The major impact of these costs may be felt more by the elderly and children who are most prone to the feeling of vulnerability. Fear of crime may not necessarily be related to the experience of victimization itself or to the statistical probability of victimization. While it is natural for crime victims to express more anxieties than non victims, there are many categories of non victims for whom the possibility of victimization is a daily worry. This group of people live in perpetual fear, confined to portions of secure time and space, living a socially isolated life.

44The last impact of crime is the indirect social cost of crime. This cost of crime refers to the social (including environmental) effects of the security devices put in place to combat crime, either on the users themselves or on their neighbours. Inclusive here is the isolation of occupants in walled gardens and buildings from their social environment, the restriction of air circulation where small windows are used, the difficulty of escaping from fire outbreaks in heavily burglar-proofed buildings, the incessant howling of security dogs, and a host of others. All of these costs are examined in relation to the study area. The response to fear is to begin to look for ways to safely mitigate the incidence of crime and reduce its various costs.

Prevention of Crime

45Available literature (Yongcho, 1974; Bowker, 1980) shows that the conventional and most pervasive approach to crime prevention is the criminal justice system. This approach represents the entire array of governmental institutions that function as the instrument of a society, to enforce its standards of conduct necessary for the protection of the safety and freedom of individual citizens, and for the maintenance of order (Yongcho, 1974). This task is performed by means of detecting, apprehending, prosecuting, adjudicating and sanctioning those members of the society who violate the established rules and laws of society. Yongcho and Bowker concluded therefore, that the main thrust of the criminal justice system is directed toward the control of crime and criminal offenders after the crime is committed — a palliative role, rather than crime prevention — a preventive role. Given the performance of this role, crime becomes a symptom rather than a cause of violence and other deviant behaviour. It is on these grounds that the criminal justice system is faulted.

Crime prevention through social development

46A relatively new approach to crime prevention, pioneered by sociologists and victimologists is ‘crime prevention through social development’. This approach relies on the premise that there is a well-established body of research that can identify factors contributory to crime. It is the effects of these contributing factors that crime prevention through social development strives to alleviate. The efforts of this approach include initiatives to reduce poverty and to increase the availability of proper housing, employment, education and adequate recreational facilities. Proponents of this approach (Abodunrin, 1981; Aguda, 1994; Obateru, 1994; Audy, 1995) all agree that there is a group of people in the society who bear the brunt of social injustice. They are the downtrodden and poverty-vulnerable groups. Having come to the end of their wits, these people resort to crime in order to correct societal imbalances.

47Abodunrin (1981), for instance, wrote that there is a dichotomy between the mode of life of the robber and of his victim. The robber is often half literate and unsuccessful, while his victim is often successful, either by virtue of his education or profession. For the criminal, his daily social contacts reinforce his feelings of impotence and erode his self-confidence. Having been locked out of the game of success both materially and psychologically, he resorts to criminal behaviour with the intent of changing the rules. To bridge the gap between the rich and the poor, and discourage criminal tendencies among the poor, Abodunrin recommended what he called social harmonization.

48Aguda recommended social restructuring, after discovering a relationship between crime and the social-economic status of the neighbourhood/area in his study (1994) of Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His contention is that most societal crimes are committed out of frustration and desperation by the poor; and, therefore, to prevent crime, the national economy should be totally restructured so that everybody, especially the low and middle income classes (including the security agents, serving or retired), can have access to good food, employment, shelter, clothing, and transportation, and be able to take good care of their children. Obateru (1994) shared this opinion when he wrote that planned urban growth promotes urban efficiency and consequently urban productivity, which in turn reduces urban crime and violence through raising the standard of living of urban residents. The trio of Abodunrin, Aguda and Obateru were writing from the point of view of African urban violence, where the high rate of urbanization and the increasing rate of modernization and its attendant problems have contributed immensely to the increasing wave of urban violence.

49On the international scene, Audy (1995), the former president of the Quebec Association of Police and Fire Chiefs and a one time Director of the Hull Police Force, wrote to support the view of the social developers when he observed that certain factors make people more involved in a whole range of antisocial behaviour, including criminal acts. When these factors are addressed through social planning, crime can be reduced and other beneficiai results may be realized. In his view, such social planning benefits or advantages may include: less truancy in schools, fewer health-related problems, increased and better employability, independent living, effective parenting, and the productivity of citizens. He, however, did not fail to add that these are long-term programmes for crime prevention whose positive impact and cost effectiveness may take a long time to materialize. The cycle of cause and effect which lends credence to this approach has been ably captured by Aluko who observed that:

The poor cannot sleep at night because they are hungry; the rich cannot sleep because the poor are awake; when there is no more social injustices that breed crime, no more haves and have-nots, then, there will be no more assassinations, poison-gas attacks, or terrorist bombs!
(Watchtower Bible Society, October 8, 1996, p. 11)

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design

  • 1 Pronounced sep-ted.

50Despite the appeal of the social development approach, the current strategy for crime prevention which has been receiving attention from various authors is: crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED1). Crime prevention through environmental design is basically concerned with the manipulation of the physical environment in order to deter crime. It is not intended to create an impregnable fortress, but merely to make penetration more difficult and time consuming.

51At the forefront of this approach is Jacobs (1961), who put forward the notion that the physical environment and criminal behaviour were related in an architectural context. Jacobs believed that the development of activity areas within the city, such as commercial, industrial, financial, educational, etc. have led to the reduction of surveillance of streets and other public areas and consequently, the reduction of community cohesion, the feeling of territoriality, and the responsibility for one’s turf. This brought about the classic statement — Streets with eyes are safe streets — which triggered further investigations.

52Angel (1968), following Jacobs, studied the city of Oakland, California. His findings are that crime takes place in areas where the intensity of the pedestrian use of street is at a critical level. He further argues that when pedestrian density is low, there will be virtually no crime, as not enough potential victims are present and the likelihood of rewarding opportunity is small. At this low intensity of use, the neighbourhood is safe. As intensity of use increases, enough potential victims are on the scene to warrant the attention of potential offenders; this situation becomes an attractive crime opportunity because adequate surveillance is generally absent. This is the critical intensity zone, where most crimes take place. When intensity increases further and the street or section becomes populated, the street becomes safe again (Angel, 1968). Both Jacobs and Angel saw in surveillance, a solution to the intrusion of criminals into residential buildings.

53A theory of crime which has attracted considerable publicity over time and which would seem to have benefited from the works already cited above is that developed by Oscar Newman in his book Defensible Space: Crime prevention through urban design (1973). The concept of defensible space, suggests that territorial ownership, natural surveillance, image and milieu, and functional location are measures which can be used to mitigate residential crime in urban areas. This concept is being adapted as the theoretical basis for this study and was discussed in detail in Chapter 1.

54Some CPTED approaches to crime prevention tend to focus on the distance travelled by different criminals to reach their targets. Notable among these are those of Davidson (quoted in Taylor and Harrell, 1996) and Harries (1974). Davidson, in his study of residential burglary in Christchurch, New Zealand, sheds light on the travel pattern of burglars. In his words, ‘burglars are opportunists and prefer to commit their offence within a short distance of the location of their activities’. He cited the example of England where 54 per cent of breaking-in offences occurred within one mile of the offenders’ residence. The reason for this, he said, was that getting in and out quickly is more important to the criminal than maximizing his haul. Davidson concluded that ‘If burglars are so opportunistic, increased police patrols are unlikely to do more than displace the event to another place or time’. He then recommended foreclosure of opportunities through target hardening.

55In his book, the Geography of Crime and Justice, Harries (1974) presented the spatial pattern of crime in selected cities by using published crime statistics. In his analysis of the observed pattern, Harries noted that the new techniques of burglary could be likened to that of ‘smash and grab’ in which the offender, ‘like a thief in the night’ — comes in, grabs whatever he wants and goes. With this smash and grab technique, Harries posited, the criminal operates on the assumption that his intrusion time (Tï) would be short enough to ensure escape by the time the police arrive. The Ti factor and the time of police arrivai are intercorrelated and also closely related to the micro-environment. To control crime, therefore, the Ti factor could be lengthened through various environmental design and security strategies.

56Mukoro (1986) in his work ‘Curbing residential burglary through environmental design: A prospect in Warri’ wrote that the response to the problem of crime in our society has occurred in different guises. One of these is fear of burglary syndrome (FOBS) for which Mukoro proposed a new concept geared towards regulating movement patterns, providing space that engenders social cohesion and enhances surveillance.

57The views held by Jacobs (1961), Angel (1968) and Mukoro (1996) emphasize the need for surveillance and a community approach to crime prevention which is different than the personal approach of ‘target hardening’. Recent literature on CPTED has further widened the scope of the concept beyond mere improvement in security hardware and site designs to an increased knowledge of psychology in crime prevention. Notable among these writers are: Gardner (1995), Audy (1995), and Mckay (1996) who have added generously to the elements of CPTED. Gardner, for example, wrote:

To understand fully how CPTED is used, one must examine its components and the philosophy them. Although crime prevention, through design is itself relatively new, its individual elements. are common security techniques.

58The elements of CPTED advocated by these writers include the following: territorial behaviour strategy; surveillance; barriers; lighting; landscaping; and scare tactics. These are discussed in relative detail below.

Territorial Behaviour Strategy

59Territorial behaviour strategy as an element of CPTED involves an individual’s perception of and relationship to his/her environment. A strong sense of territoriality encourages an individual to take control of his/her environment and defend it against attack. A sense of territoriality is fostered by architecture that allows easy identification of certain areas as the exclusive domain of a particular individual or group. This feeling is enhanced when the area involved is one which the individual can relate to with a sense of pride and ownership or proprietorship (see figs 1 & 2). It is not enough for a person to simply be able to define his environment; he must also WANT to defend it. The want results from territorial feelings of pride and ownership.

60The term ownership, when used in this context, does not necessarily mean actual legal ownership. It can be and very often is a perceived ownership resulting from an individual’s relationship to his/her environment. Office workers, for instance, may feel a sense of ownership for the office in which they work. In physical design, territoriality is achieved or supported by the construction of fences, buffers or walls round one’s property. Within this micro boundary, the property owner maintains ownership by familiarity and he is prepared to defend any attack from anybody within the boundary.

Surveillance Strategy

61Surveillance as an element of CPTED refers to the ability of legitimate occupants of an area to exercise a high degree of visual control over the entire area. This is a principal weapon in the protection of a defensible space in the sense that criminals are least likely to act when there is a high risk of their actions being witnessed. There are two forms of surveillance, viz: natural or informai and artificial or formal.

62Natural surveillance occurs as a direct resuit of architectural design. Designs that minimize visual obstacles and eliminate places of concealment for potential assailants offer the most protection against crime. Some of the accompanying design strategies under natural surveillance include the following:

  1. Ensure that features of the landscape, such as, trees, shrubs, flower beds do not block the vision of the legitimate users of the property, and do not create areas of concealment where intruders could hide to perform nefarious activities.
  2. Ensure that trees, telephone or electric poles or any other objects do not provide climbing paths to the upper levels of buildings.
  3. Endeavour to use glazed windows, expansive windows or other forms of windows that allow a ‘see through’ wherever the occupants of buildings are in the house.
  4. Ensure that the fencing materials eliminate blind spots or places of concealment.

63Artificial surveillance refers to the uses of various security devices/personnel to ensure visual control over space. The strategies include:

  1. the use of fixed guard (human guard) posts
  2. organized security patrols, such as vigilante groups
  3. the use of guard dogs or security dogs

64The primary intention of the three strategies above is not necessarily as a physical defence against intruders - security guards are often retired workers, who may be too old to be of any threat to an armed bandit - the intention is to alert the residents of any strange occurrence or intruder within the guarded space and quickly contact the police

  1. Electronic monitoring which involves the use of electronic gadgets like cameras which are positioned in a concealed environment outside the building to record all activities that take place within viewing range and send signais into a terminal located within the building. The most sophisticated of these electronic monitoring devices is closed circuit television (CCTV).

65The CCTV uses a powerful video recorder that transmits images onto the screen. Although the CCTV is a costly device, it is a reliable method of surveillance. Its effectiveness in crime prevention, however, depends on the ability of the person monitoring the screen and the speed with which help can be summoned from the police when the need arises. This last condition is very important in the sense that ability to survey without follow-up help to defend is useless. The use of the artificial surveillance method is effective in elevators, interior corridors, parking lots and exterior pedestrian pathways.


66Lighting as an element of CPTED refers to the illumination of all areas that surround the guarded space. Security lighting could be discussed under four headings: the type, the colour, the qualifies of a good lighting system and the importance of lighting as a security device. With regard to type, there could be bulbs, fluorescent tubes, flood lights, and search lights. Search lights are the best form of lighting for security purposes. This lighting system moves to and fro in a searching manner or rotates at regular intervais. Flood lights are next in importance. They are powerful forms of lighting that can focus on any object within view range, but they do not rotate.

67Lights produced by bulbs are better for security purposes than those produced by fluorescent tubes. The reason is that fluorescent tubes work better when used within an enclosed area, especially in a room where reflection from the four walls of the room add to the intensity of the light. In an open space, there will be no walls to reflect lights from the tube to add to its intensity; and this is why it is not often used externally.

68With regard to colour, four major categories of light can be identified according to the amount and quality of colour they project. These are mercury vapour, metal halide, high pressure sodium (HPS), and low pressure sodium (LPS). Mercury vapour lights do not provide an accurate representation of colour. They enhance blue-green and distort reds and yellows. They are of high quality, but are expensive to buy and install, and are therefore, not considered a cost-effective security solution. Metal halide lights are more energy efficient than mercury vapour lights and radiate a white light that brings out strong colours in objects. This light is most often used in sports facilities, where distinct colours make the sportsmen and the environment more attractive. High pressure sodium (HPS) lights are used in most security lighting programmes and thus may be the best for security purposes. Low pressure sodium (LPS) lights are monochromatic and are most common on major highways. Low pressure sodium lights make objects appear black and white.

69A good lighting system should allow for overlapping lights. This will ensure that no area within the guarded space is unlit. A good lighting system should not expose users to attackers but should expose attackers to users. In other words, the object is to light up the criminal without spotlighting the victim; this will enable the user to see the intruder without himself (the user) being seen by the intruder.

70The importance of lighting as an element of CPTED lies in the fact that it reduces fear in the legitimate occupants and creates confidence in them. It is a good strategy for surveillance, as well as a strategy that encourages the feeling of ownership and proprietorship of the environment of the user, thus, lighting, when adequately used could combine with other elements of CPTED to deter criminal activities effectively.

Security Barriers

71Barriers as elements of CPTED reduce crime by restricting access to the target area (a building, a street or park, etc.) to people who have valid reasons for being there. There are two types of barriers, physical and symbolic. Physical barriers, as the name implies, are substantial in nature and physically prevent movement/access. Examples include fencing, burglar proofing, heavy metal doors, locked doors and/or gates, small windows, unbreakable glass windows and some form of landscaping.

72Symbolic barriers are less tangible. Nearly anything could serve as a symbolic barrier. The only requirement is that it defines a boundary, and it may not prevent physical movement. What it does is that it leaves no doubt as to who should have access and when access should be made. Examples include the use of low decorative fences, flower beds, changes in sidewalk patterns or materials and prominent use of signs, for example: No Trespassing. A good use of security barriers could enhance the territoriality of legitimate occupants.


73Landscaping is versatile and can be used to perform a variety of design functions. As an element of CPTED, it can combine effectively with symbolic barriers, surveillance and territoriality to ensure a protected environment. As a symbolic barrier, landscaping can mark the transition between zones. Features such as decorative fencing, flowerbeds, ground-cover and varied patterns in cement work can clearly show separation between zones. If more substantial barriers are needed, shrubbery such as evergreen hedges can be used to create more formidable obstacles.

74From a surveillance standpoint, landscaping can be critical. Factors such as the growth characteristics of plants and their placement in relation to potentially vulnerable areas are extremely important. Visual corridors must be maintained in open park-like areas, as well as in densely planted areas — this can be maintained by limiting shrubbery to a maximum height of 3 feet and trees to a minimum height of 6 feet at the lowest branches. This approach ensures that visibility between 3 and 6 feet from the ground will always be relatively unimpaired.

75Landscaping also fonctions in crime prevention through aesthetics. An aesthetically pleasing environment is attractive and will generate a sense of pride and ownership in occupants. An environment that is well looked after can be a deterrent to criminals as it means that the owner is likely to have good security devices as well.

Scare Tactics

76Scare tactics function by scaring intruders away from the protected environment. This could be achieved through the use of alarm systems, electric shock, signs like: Beware, Dogs on Patrol or Beware of Dogs. One may add the use of African traditional protective devices (ATPDs) such as charms.

77All these are elements of CPTED and they are examined in relation to Lagos in chapter four. In conclusion, CPTED is most useful if it is designed into the architect’s original plan, and it can dramatically change criminal activity on and around a site (McKay, 1996).


1 Pronounced sep-ted.

© IFRA-Nigeria, 1997

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