The effects of building size on personal crime and fear of crime

Oscar Newman, Karen A. Franck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


The research that formed the basis of Newman's book Defensible Space demonstrated that building height is one of the leading predictors of robbery rate in low-income public housing projects. Research reported in this article was undertaken to extend the scope and detail of the earlier work and, most importantly, to examine the causal mechanisms underlying the relationship of physical design to crime and fear of crime. The study sites in this new research are moderate-income, federallyassisted housing developments and low-income public housing projects. The major source of data is a household survey of residents. The findings provide important empirical support for the postulates of defensible space theory by showing that building size affects personal crime and fear of crime through residents' control and use of the space outside their apartments. Building size has a large total effect on residents' fear of crime, but despite its important indirect effects on personal crime, the total effect of building size on personal crime is not as strong as expected. Possible reasons for this unexpected finding are used to suggest refinements to defensible space theory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)203-220
Number of pages18
JournalPopulation and Environment
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1982

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Demography
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)


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