Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2019, Vol. 74 ›› Issue (2): 238-252.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201902003

• Population and Urban Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The impact of urban built environment on criminal behavior and residential security in Beijing

ZHANG Yanji1(),QIN Bo2,ZHU Chunwu2   

  1. 1. Department of Urban and Rural Planning, Fuzhou University, Fuzhou 350116, China
    2. Department of Urban Planning and Management, Renmin University of China, Beijing 100872, China
  • Received:2017-06-16 Online:2019-02-25 Published:2019-01-29
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41371007;Natural Science Foundation of Fujian Province, No.2018J01747


When the concept of 'Narrow Road, Intensive Grid, and Open Space' commenced to be popularized in Chinese urban planning, some citizens had serious doubts about whether permeable environment could cause crime and unsafety or not. Theoretically, which one was safer, open or enclosed space? Which one was more critical on safety, design or management? What were the differences between factors influencing crime behavior and safety perception? All these academic debates were not resolved in criminal geography. This paper discussed how built environment around communities influenced crime behavior and sense of security on the basis of social investigations, criminal cases and geographic data in Beijing. Among them, the subjective evaluation and objective indicators were introduced to measure features of physical environment. On the other hand, crime occurrence was illustrated by both the criminal recalls and crime cases on record. This research indicated that the theory of which was better open or enclosed space actually depended on its space dimension. An enclosed community could make the residents feel safer and restrain low-dimensional crime activities, yet it caused the 'crowding-out' effect of crime activities. Therefore, 'Door closing' was unable to decrease crime rate essentially. Secondly, the influencing mechanism of crime behavior was quiet different from safety perception. Open space with intensive social activities, mixed urban function and high permeability had positive effects on sense of security. However, it allowed criminals to have more targets and increase their survival possibility which contributed to the occurrence of crimes. Thirdly, compared with the 'hard' section of physical environment, the 'soft' section of management and maintenance played a more important role in improving safety perception. Meanwhile, it could decrease the number of criminal activities in a higher spatial dimension. In summary, planners and governors should pay more attention to environmental maintenance and management as well as urban design in order to pursue crime prevention.

Key words: built environment, criminal geography, sense of security, criminal offense, Beijing