Using remote sensing to assess the relationship between crime and the urban layout
Duque, Juan C.
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The link between place and crime is at the base of social ecology theories of crime that focus in the relationship of the characteristics of geographical areas and crime rates. The broken windows theory states that visible cues of physical and social disorder in a neighborhood can lead to an increase in more serious crime. The crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) planning approach seeks to deter criminal behavior by creating defensible spaces. Based on the premise that a settlement's appearance is a reflection of the society, we ask whether a neighborhood's design has a quantifiable imprint when seen from space using urban fabric descriptors computed from very high spatial-resolution imagery. We tested which land cover, structure and texture descriptors were significantly related to intra-urban homicide rates in Medellin, Colombia, while controlling for socioeconomic confounders. The percentage of impervious surfaces other than clay roofs, the fraction of clay roofs to impervious surfaces, two structure descriptors related to the homogeneity of the urban layout, and the uniformity texture descriptor were all statistically significant. Areas with higher homicide rates tended to have higher local variation and less general homogeneity; that is, the urban layouts were more crowded and cluttered, with small dwellings with different roofing materials located in close proximity to one another, and these regions often lacked other homogeneous surfaces such as open green spaces, wide roads, or large facilities. These results seem to be in agreement with the broken windows theory and CPTED in the sense that more heterogeneous and disordered urban layouts are associated with higher homicide rates.
Editor URLApplied Geography, Volume 55, December 2014, Pages 48–60
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