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Better urban design a possible solution to reducing crime in Ghana's communities

September 21, 2015

Rapid and unplanned urban growth can stretch resources in terms of delivery of services, including policing and security services. Thirty-five percent of respondents to a recent survey of four of Ghana's major cities said they felt unsafe walking alone in their communities after dark; 20% did not feel safe when alone in their own homes after dark. In response to rising crime rates in the face of limited police presence, researchers from the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana are exploring alternative strategies to prevent crime. One tactic they are examining is crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED).

Building design and the urban plan of neighbourhoods and communities – in terms of how easy it is to enter and exit – can either attract or deter potential criminal activity. Research has shown that modifying designs and the physical environment, for example, by allowing residents to control the areas around their homes, and by placing walls, lighting and landscape in a careful manner in order to limit or control flows of people, can reduce opportunities for crime, and reduce residents' fear of crime and their concerns about safety. However, poor planning might have a negative impact on community bonding and social cohesion, which can work to prevent crime.

In their policy brief, Urban Crime Prevention and Community Social Cohesion: The Case of Urban Ghana, the research team recommend that decision-makers consider carefully how the built environment and social aspects of community life interact when seeking to reduce crime through architectural changes.

The brief is part of a broader study, "Exploring crime and poverty nexus in urban Ghana," funded through Safe and Inclusive Cities, a global research program that aims to document the links between urban violence, poverty, and inequality. Jointly funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), SAIC is working with experts from around the world to identify what works — and what doesn’t — to reduce violence in urban centres.

Read ISSER’s Policy Brief, Urban Crime Prevention and Community Social Cohesion: The Case of Urban Ghana (PDF, 195 KB).

Read about the IDRC-supported project, “Exploring the crime and poverty nexus in urban Ghana”

Learn more about how IDRC supports research to make cities safer through our partnership – Safe and Inclusive Cities – with the UK’s Department for International Development.