The defensible space theory for creating safe urban neighborhoods: Perceptions and design implications in the United States and South Korea

Suk Kyung Kim, You Mi Lee, Eunsil Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Safety from crime in multifamily housing environments, where residents usually share hallways, common outdoor facilities, and parking spaces, has been a subject of research for decades. Strategies and tactics employed to enhance the safety of these environments may differ depending on residents ' characteristics. This study explored residents ' perceived and actual safety in multifamily environments in the United States and South Korea, as well as significant environmental variables. Using Newman s defensible space theory as the primary theoretical framework, we focused on how perceived safety in public and semipublic spaces relates to overall perceptions of safety in residential environments. We also examined crime experience in these environments and verified significant demographic and socioeconomic variables associated with residents ' perceptions of safety. Data were collected from site visits and questionnaires administered to residents living in multifamily environments. The level of residents' safety perceptions differed between the two groups of residents. However, both groups exhibited strong correlations between perceived safety from crime in their communities and perceived safety in public spaces, such as recreational areas and parking lots, and semipublic spaces, such as building entrances and the vicinity. These findings underscore strong relationships among residents ' perceptions of safety in different outdoor spaces, which the defensible space theory also supports. Based on these findings, we suggest ideas to improve residents ' actual safety and perceptions of safety from crime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-196
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Architectural and Planning Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013 Sep 1


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Architecture
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Urban Studies

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