In this urban planning classic, Newman addresses the question of why some public housing projects are insanely dangerous, and others only moderately so. Generally, he emphasizes the importance of surveillance- that is, that crime is lower where residents can see what is going on around the building. He also believes that such projects should not be too large [with over 1000 residents] or too dense [over 50 units per acre].
Some of his other key points:
*Streets near housing projects should not be closed off, and their lobbies should face public streets, because "streets provide security in the form of prominent paths for concentrated pedestrian and vehicular movements; windows and doorways, when facing streets, extend the zone of residents' territorial commitments and allow for the continual casual surveillance by police in passing cars." (P. 25) At a minimum, lobbies should be in a straight line from public streets because "Winding access paths provide many opportunities for muggers to conceal themselves while awaiting the arrival of a victim." (P. 82).
*Housing projects should be designed so that residents can see bordering streets from their windows; where housing projects look inward on themselves, "these bordering streets have been deprived of continual surveillance by residents and have proven unsafe to walk along". (p. 80) Newman prefers rowhouse neighborhoods because police and neighbors can "spot at a glance any peculiar activity" (p. 81).
*People generally feel safer on "heavily trafficked public streets and arteries combining both intense vehicular and pedestrian movement" because "the presence of many people is seen as a possible force in deterring criminals." (P. 109) Some commentators have asserted that Newman is a critic of mixed use, because he states that crime is higher in projects near certain land uses- in particular, high schools and other teenage hangouts. But it appears to me that Newman is making a much narrower argument: that land uses that primarily attract teenagers are particularly problematic, probably because teenagers are particularly likely to commit crimes.
Moreover, this book does not seem to endorse low-density sprawl; he admits that "a correlation between density and crime rate for all New York City projects reveals that there is no evident pattern until one reaches a density of fifty units per acre" - far more dense than most urban neighborhoods outside New York City, let alone suburbs.
I did notice a couple of weaknesses in Newman's analysis. His use of statistics is not always persuasive; among low-rise buildings with over 1000 residents, the median crime rate was 45 crimes per 1000 people, while high-rise buildings had 67 (p. 28). However, the standard deviation among the latter group was 24- a fact which suggests that this difference might not be statistically significant.
And although Newman provides readers with some pictures, I wish he had added even more: sometimes I found it hard to understand him without visual aids.
Also, his own figures show that the crime rate for high-rise buildings with under 1000 residents is almost as low as the crime rate for low-rise buildings. Doesn't this fact suggest that his critique of high-rises is erroneous?