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Natural Surveillance

Earlier, when the ideas of Jacobs and Newman were discussed, their belief in the importance of natural surveillance in preventing crime was emphasised. Central to this is Newman's idea of creating 'defensible space' where natural surveillance is maximised. The simple assumption behind this idea is that natural surveillance increases observation and, therefore, raises the probability of offenders being apprehended. Natural surveillance can be achieved in the early stages of planning when blind alleys, closed spaces, multiple exits and the like are designed out. Other means for aiding natural surveillance include good street lighting and the careful placement of fences, barriers and greenery to avoid providing concealment.

There is mixed evidence from research on the benefits of this type of strategy. In their study of burglars, Bennett and Wright (1984) found that they were less likely to choose a property that was overlooked, thus suggesting that natural surveillance provides a significant deterrent. There has been much controversy about the impact of street lighting upon crime and fear of crime. In Britain, improved street lighting was shown to have little impact on recorded levels of crime (Atkins, Husain, & Storey, 1991), though it did appear to reduce levels of fear of crime (Tien, O'Donnel, Barnett, & Mirchandane, 1979; Atkins et al., 1991). Painter's (1996) research suggests more substantial effects on rates of recorded crime, though in more restricted areas. This might suggest that improved street lighting will be most effective when employed in extremely localised sites alongside other specific initiatives.

Street lighting can reduce crime and disorder when focused on badly lit, mixed-use, pedestrian transit routes, in localised trouble spots where offender and target convergence is predictable, visibility is poor, and surveillance restricted. In short, the results from these projects may be indicative of the conditional circumstances in which street lighting can be effective (Painter, cited in Pease, 1997, p. 974)

The following page will review reducing the rewards of offending