Controlling Crime on W. Lisbon Avenue
When defining the term "defensible space," Oscar Newman explained that using architecture in different ways can create a space that is unwelcoming to the nature of an individual criminal. By using different methods of special enclosure, lighting, and sense of community, Newman explained a way to create an ideal neighborhood through architecture. This was present in the areas of Washington Park where community members are more involved than those in other areas. This gives the neighborhood a layer of social control where people more involved with the community will have more control over their environment. When owners took a sense of pride in their property, it directly related to the crime rate in the area; it gives them a title of ownership and something they need to protect. Newman looked at three of his own projects to study the human behavior after creating these spaces. He was well-known for his writing in assisted housing, crime prevention, and racial integration. He liked to limit access to certain places to give people a "route" that dictates where people can and cannot go; this is creating a territorial environment and gives people their own space. When using architecture to create a defensible space, it creates a controlled crime area.
In the beginning of this project, the lots on the 35th and 36th blocks of W. Lisbon Avenue were examined and found to hold both residential and commercial buildings among some vacant lots. The focus was then turned toward the vacant lots to find the reasoning behind them. Paul Martinka, the owner of Kehr's Candy, explained that there had been a lot of illegal activity in the area that ultimately led to the closing of businesses and the abandonment of nearby residential buildings.
Moving into the second part of the project, the crimes occurring in the W. Lisbon Avenue area as a whole were mapped out in order to find patterns and to find a way to decrease the amount taking place. It was found that areas with local businesses that are heavily involved in the community, such as Amaranth Bakery & Cafe, Kehr's Candy, and Westside Academy II, tend to push crime away. Both the owners of the bakery and the candy shop do what they can to help the community. Dave, the owner of Amaranth Bakery, opened a studio across the street from his business and uses art as a way to bring the community together.
The lots that have survived over the years have been able to take a stand and territorialize their spaces, giving them a sense of ownership. This results in better care of the spaces and seems to branch out to the surrounding lots, driving out crime in a larger radius. Programs can be brought into this community that will repair homes, vacant and occupied, while teaching residents and landlords how to care for the homes themselves. This would also result in a greater sense of pride for the environment as a whole. Use of the empty lots as gallery spaces helps, as does the purchase of vacant buildings for revitalization. These new uses draw in the public and create a sense of security by keeping more eyes on the spaces during the day.
Good architecture and careful planning helps keep crime out of communities. Defensible space relies on self-help rather than on government intervention. As was seen in the case of the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, bad building planning can create chaos. The problem in that case was that there were simply too many shared public spaces. The people living there were unable to identify with the place in which they were living, and residents typically only maintain and control areas that are clearly defined as their own. This is true in the larger, neighborhood scale as well. When there are large, shared, public spaces for people in a neighborhood to use, it becomes hard to tell resident from intruder. In low income areas, the architect must design spaces where the residents are in control of their own areas and limit places where intruders may enter. These types of communities do not have finances to pay people such as doormen and security personnel to keep things under control.
In the case of the private streets in St. Louis "the residents owned and controlled their own streets, and although anyone was free to drive or walk them (they had no guard booths), one knew that one was intruding into a private world and that one's actions were under constant observation. We were able to identify the essential ingredients of the private streets and provide a model that could be replicated throughout the city." When there is a large number of residential lots, it can be used to deter crime, as was seen in St. Louis and in the mini-neighborhoods of Five Oaks, or it can draw crime, as was the case in Pruitt-Igoe; It is through careful planning that residential communities achieve the former.