Research on Vandalism
Research on Car Crime
Research on Break and Enter (Burglary)
Research on Robbery
Research on Vandalism
The research suggests that vandalism is primarily the work of adolescent boys, between the age of 10-15, that involvement in vandalism is linked with other delinquent behavior such as theft and mischief with some link with socio-economic status (Clarke 1978). Vandalism is often carried out in groups, sometimes for economic gain (money) such as stealing change from paper boxes. The motivation for vandalism is an aggressive act that may give a sense of control and it is mostly a game that can be won easily (it is rare to get caught and suffer consequences). Some studies suggest that vandalism does not correlate with broken homes. Vandalism was found to occur in places that were not "owned" or watched by "guardians" whether informal (neighbours) or formally (employees or security personnel). It happened more on pathways where there was a presence of the young males.
Sheena Wilson in Clarke (1978) tried to test whether Newman's principles had an impact on the level of vandalism in Britain. That is, she studied different building forms from houses to low rise flats, to tower blocks and collected information on the levels of vandalism. The highest correlated factor was the child density, the more children, the higher the vandalism. Socio-economic factors were not part of the study due to insufficient scope. The findings were that; (1) relatively small amounts of damage were found on the private dwellings themselves rather it was found in semi-public or communal areas that were not owned by the individual, (2) levels of observed vandalism were high on large scale projects with extensive semi-public areas that could not be easily supervised by residents, (3) high-rise blocks experienced more vandalism in ground floor communal areas, (4) in low child density blocks, vandalism was greater if entrances were impersonal and used as a through-way to other locations (a cut-through or pathway). The study also indicated that spaces which were not owned suffered more vandalism than those which were owned. The most common type of vandalism was broken windows to the point that windows were being removed. There was also a question that there was displacement of vandalism to elevators if there were no windows to break.
Patricia Mayhew (1979) looked at the way surveillance impacted vandalism in public areas and on telephone kiosks (booths) in Britain. The study showed that the number of windows overlooking the kiosk had a low correlation with the amount of vandalism. The highest correlating variable was the presence of council housing (government subsidized housing). She suggests surveillance does have a small impact on crime but that the chances of a watcher taking action is low and depends on the role of the watcher i.e. police, security personnel, residents, working people in the public as employees (bus drivers, car park attendants), or general public. Surveillance works best when it is formal; by employees or monitored cameras. She suggested that crime such as vandalism, like most types of crime, is relatively rare making the chances of anyone seeing the event unlikely. Mayhew suggests that Newman's work gave too much weight to environmental factors when these broad categories of defensibility, surveillance and territoriality are complex and that the environment can impact crime but only in very specific circumstances.
Research on Car Crime
Car crime primarily falls into 2 types; stealing from cars and stealing the car itself. Although these are both car related, the motivation for each and the characteristics vary slightly. Stealing from cars tends to be much more prevalent and opportunistic than stealing of cars.
Webb and Laycock (1992) provided an interesting historical perspective of securing cars in Britain. In the 1920's there was a law against securing cars so that they could be moved if they were blocking streets due to a lack of parking spaces. This was changed in the 1930's when cars became mass produced and car security was more important. This illustrates how the definition of crime changes over time.
Light, Nee and Ingham (1993) studied the offender's perspective of car crime in Britain by interviewing convicted thieves. Again, confirming other findings, the offender was found to be mostly males, ages 14 B 35, offending peaks at age 20, stealing mostly for excitement then at a later age, stealing for financial gain. Generally, stealing was influenced and undertaken by groups. Desistance was also studied where offenders suggested they had stopped stealing because they grew out of it, they did not want to go to prison or that they had a girlfriend. Choosing a location to steal was found to be on the street or public car parks but they also found that almost half on the offenders said any location was acceptable even though police records showed the locations noted as the most prevalent. Timing was mostly anytime, then secondly at night. There was a sense that location and timing influenced each other. For example, at night, stealing from the driveway of a house would be considered but not during the day.
Barry Poyner (1992), an architect, looked at crime prevention in parking facilities in Britain. In 3 open parking lots, initial improvements to natural surveillance by increasing lighting at night and lowering landscaping had minimal reduction of crime. The introduction of closed circuit television (CCTV) and security personnel watching and ready to take action in 2 of the 3 lots had significant reduction on crime not only on the 2 lots with cameras but also on the third unwatched lot. This proved the effectiveness of deterrence that is swift and sure by formal surveillance and action. Poyner attributed the "positive effect" to transfer to the third parking lot.
In another example, Poyner studied a parking garage and 2 adjacent open parking lots in Dover, England where vandalism and theft were a problem. There was significantly more crime in the garage as opposed to the open lot which Poyner attributed to lack of natural surveillance. By fencing in the lower levels of open parking garage, gating the exits, improving the look of the elevator entrance lobby and, most importantly, by improving surveillance by leasing out a ground floor section of the garage to a taxi company, crime was reduced. It is interesting to note that there was a slight reduction in car crime in the 2 adjacent open parking lots, implying the same positive effect to the open lots and that there was no local displacement from the garage to the lots.
Poyner and Webb (1991) studied car crime in housing in Britain. They found that large scale target hardening (making the target more difficult to break into by locking, reinforcing etc.) initiatives such as steering column locks installed by the manufacturers was initially effective, that theft was not uniformly distributed related to public housing projects. The study was limited to observing only environmental factors rather than demographic indicators such as socio-economics and number of children. Of the public housing studied, the projects that experienced high car crime levels appeared to have communal parking rather than individual garages. Where individual cars were left unwatched by the houses, crime levels increased. Pathways passing by the communal parking lots also increased crime. Theft from auto was considered with the results of the study being similar to car theft; that houses with individual parking and good surveillance had the least theft from cars.
Fleming, Brantingham and Brantingham (1994) in a study of theft of auto in Vancouver, B.C., found that the majority of cars being stolen were by young teenagers for "joyriding" rather than an organized effort by older, more experienced thieves. The primary motivation for stealing was found to be the thrill, the market for used parts for older cars became dependable, and the penalty for stealing cars was low at the time due to the attention of the courts being directed at violent crimes of young offenders rather than property crimes. The young thieves showed a preference for parking garages and car dealership lots as places to steal from. Although a study of the victims showed that the majority of cars were stolen from homes or parked on the street, at nighttime and in well lit locations such as under a street light so the offender could see better. Again, this runs counter to what some people consider as a well lit location being less prone to crime. Parking garages ranked second to the street in prevalence for theft location. The study found that the offenders felt the best deterrent for car theft was "target hardening" with car alarms or steering wheel restraints.
In a study of car crime in parking garages in Vancouver, B.C., Rondeau and Graf (1996) found that stealing from cars was 3 times more prevalent than stealing of cars, that both property and violent crime was higher in public parking garages than residential garages but that violent crime was insignificant in both. This finding suggests that contrary to fear of being mugged or assaulted in parking garages, that actual risk to person is very low. Fear of crime is sometimes contrary to actual risk. Bicycle theft was also high in both types of facilities.
Stealing of and from cars are prevalent crimes, again, mostly undertaken by young males in their teens and twenties. The studies by Barry Poyner express the importance of proper management through formal security measures where the design was less important. This is a constant question about how much formal security is too much toward a police state and what are the circumstances where shifts in the treatment of the environment can reduce a lot of crime. The ideas of pathways where more crime occurred also shows as important. Stealing from cars tends to be more opportunistic, can be done quickly and with relative privacy in parking garages. The goods to be obtained can be quickly marketed for small amounts of cash often used to support a drug habit. Stealing cars tends to take a certain amount of skill and planning and is less prevalent than stealing from cars. Joy riding is the most common reason for stealing cars. In British Columbia, there appears to be few "chop shops" for marketing car parts or for the entire car.
Research on Break and Enter (Burglary)
In a comprehensive study of burglary in Texas, Cromwell, Olson and Avary (1991) studied the habits of burglars and the houses that they or their cohorts broke into. The main reason for stealing was for money. That is, money to live, to keep a family, to maintain a vice such as gambling or heroine addiction, or to have a fast lifestyle. Some burglars stole for kicks or excitement and some also stole because of pressure of the group. Cromwell refers to a Bennett and Wright study in Clarke (1984) where burglars were found to have 3 typologies; planners select targets well in advance, searchers reconnoiter an area seeking out a suitable target and the opportunist acts on a selected target there and then. Most experienced burglars were not found to be opportunistic. This is more likely to be young teenagers which were not part of Cromwell's study.
From an offender's perspective, Cromwell found that deterrents are consistently claimed as;
- house being occupied by people,
- dogs in the house,
- accessibility to a covered place to break in i.e. the back or side (area of concealment),
- visibility to neighbours and passers-by (surveillance),
- poor escape routes.
Hope, in Clarke and Hope (1984) discusses cues and cue sequences emitted by the environment as suggested by the Brantinghams (1981) and environmental risk factors reviewed by Winchester and Jackson (1982). These risk factors were tested against the break and enters and found that houses that had been victimized were more likely to have a higher number of environmental risk factors. Hope suggests risk factors are;
- distance from other houses,
- overlook from other houses,
- public views obscured by bushes, trees, fences and setback from the road,
- access from the rear,
- adjacent land uses that did not provide overlook.
Brown and Altman (1981) also looked at the sociological issues of privacy and territoriality as they relate to burglary and how burglars perceive the cues and markers of territoriality. They suggest that territory is defined by primary areas as the most private with the most personalized markers. Secondary areas are semi-public, perhaps shared by a strata corporation with markers such as gates or signage. Public areas rarely have any personal markers except by clubs or neighbourhood groups. Their hypothesis is that burglars would make a series of sequential judgements about territorial qualities of a neighbourhood, site or specific building.
The work of Macdonald and Gifford (1989) in Victoria, B.C. used Brown and Altman's definitions of territorial markers to have burglars assess photographs of single-family houses and assess the attractiveness of the houses as potential targets. The easily surveillable houses were rated as the least vulnerable. However, the territorial markers showing ownership and defensibility did not make a house less vulnerable. It was suggested that people who care about the exterior of their house possess goods that make the house a good target.
Wright and Decker (1994) undertook a field study interviewing active burglars in St. Louis, Missouri. The burglars were predominantly young, poor males that chose to commit a burglary primarily to obtain enough money to support a high-living lifestyle which included illegal drug use. The selection of targets was made during routine day-to-day activities. The physical cues that attracted the burglars were the homes that were perceived to have the biggest payoff in terms of goods; the size of the structure, the level of maintenance and ownership of flashy cars. These burglars sought homes that were not occupied and chose entry points that were reasonably concealed from public view.
In summary, break and enter is difficult to stop by the police since it is quick and generally does not leave a trail to the offender. Break and enter is prevalent and is likely be displaced from one building to another building that is more vulnerable. There is a strong sense of violation of the person that owns the property particularly residential break and enter. Much of the research of break and enter is on residential single family dwellings which constitutes only one type of building form and therefore more research is necessary to be useful to the field of architecture which generally deals with larger scale forms. Many of the questions of how it can be stopped involve root causes such as upbringing, reducing motivation to steal and enforcement. Suggestions for design of the environment are to reduce areas of concealment outside of doors and windows, keep these visible to the street and to neighbours that can watch. Target hardening such as providing locks and hardware also reduce crime.
Research on Robbery
Maurice Cusson in Cornish & Clarke (1986) studied robbery in Montreal, Quebec and focused on the reasons for eventual desistance. Feeney in Cornish & Clarke (1986) studied robbers as a type of angry burglars that want to have control over people as part of the thrill of doing the work so they escalate to robbery. Although robbery is for material gain, called an economic crime, it has added excitement. It appeared that robbers do not want to hurt anybody, they want the sense of power and use weapons to establish control over the victim. The rational choice of the robber is figuring out who to rob and what methods to use for persuasion i.e. choose a woman that is not as strong and use a weapon to show that you are serious.
Gabor et al (1987) discuss armed robbery trends in Canada and the United States. They show that both countries had an increase robberies in the 1960's and 1970's but that Canada had a consistently lower armed robbery rate. Within Canada, the province of Quebec had significantly higher rates of armed robbery than the other provinces. Their study in Quebec suggested that the vast majority of these robberies were concentrated in the two urban areas of Montreal and Quebec City. The detailed study suggested that the offenders were almost exclusively males with an average age of 21 years old. They found that the majority of victims were female. The location of the armed robbery were performed in banks, financial institutions or convenience stores. Only 17.3 % of the robberies were mugging of individuals and of these, the majority of the individuals were taxi drivers and parking lot attendants. There were few random mugging of individuals on the street or in public places. Interestingly, the monetary gain from robbery was an average value of $100, which is comparatively low considering the risk of injury and the stiffer penalties for this crime. Gabor et all suggested that the motivation for this primitive crime, other than for quick cash, was described by those interviewed as a heightened sense of euphoria that came after the completion of a successful robbery.
Wright and Decker (1997) studied armed robbery in St. Louis, Missouri. They found similar results through interviews with active robbers. The primary reason for undertaking robbery was to obtain cash usually to buy drugs or entertainment. However, they observed that it was not just financial gain that motivated these offenders, it was also the attraction of a lifestyle that prolonged involvement with the self-indulgent street culture. They found that the choice of target was more typically other local criminals such as drug dealers that carry cash or people that obviously had ready cash. The targets were rarely selected away from the home neighbourhood. The interviews showed that the best physical setting for the robbery was a place shielded from public view with good escape routes. Few of the offenders interviewed intended to harm or kill their victims but creating the illusion that such was their intention was an important part of committing the actual crime. Interestingly, Wright and Decker suggested that an important way to prevent armed robbery was to move toward a cashless society.