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Environmental interventions to reduce fear of crime: systematic review of effectiveness

Theo Lorenc1*, Mark Petticrew1, Margaret Whitehead2, David Neary2, Stephen Clayton2, Kath Wright3, Hilary Thomson4, Steven Cummins15, Amanda Sowden3 and Adrian Renton6

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Social and Environmental Health Research, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, 5-17 Tavistock Place, London, WC1H 9SH, UK

2 Department of Public Health and Policy, University of Liverpool, PO Box 147, Liverpool, L69 3GB, UK

3 Centre for Reviews and Dissemination, University of York, York, YO10 5DD, UK

4 Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, 4 Lilybank Gardens, Glasgow, G12 8RZ, UK

5 (formerly) School of Geography, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End Road, London, E1 4NS, UK

6 Institute for Health and Human Development, University of East London, Water Lane, London, E15 4LZ, UK

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Systematic Reviews 2013, 2:30  doi:10.1186/2046-4053-2-30

Published: 12 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Fear of crime is associated with negative health and wellbeing outcomes, and may mediate some impacts of the built environment on public health. A range of environmental interventions have been hypothesized to reduce the fear of crime.

Methods

This review aimed to synthesize the literature on the effectiveness of interventions in the built environment to reduce the fear of crime. Systematic review methodology, following Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidance, was used. Studies of environmental interventions which reported a fear of crime outcome and used any prospective evaluation design (randomized controlled trial (RCT), trial or uncontrolled before-and-after study) were included. Eighteen databases were searched. The Hamilton tool was used to assess quality. A narrative synthesis of findings was undertaken.

Results

A total of 47 studies were included, 22 controlled and 25 uncontrolled, with total sample sizes ranging from n = 52 to approximately n = 23,000. Thirty-six studies were conducted in the UK, ten studies in the USA and one study in the Netherlands. The quality of the evidence overall is low. There are some indications that home security improvements and non-crime-related environmental improvements may be effective for some fear of crime outcomes. There is little evidence that the following reduce fear of crime: street lighting improvements, closed-circuit television (CCTV), multi-component environmental crime prevention programs or regeneration programs.

Conclusions

There is some evidence for the effectiveness of specific environmental interventions in reducing some indicators of fear of crime, but more attention to the context and possible confounders is needed in future evaluations of complex social interventions such as these.

Keywords:
Fear of crime; Systematic review; Built environment; Intervention effectiveness