THE PREVENTION OF CRIME AND THE TREATMENT OF OFFENDERS IN ISRAEL: 1995 REPORT

REDUCING THE FEAR OF CRIME IN POOR NEIGHBORHOODS IN ISRAEL

Hagit Hovav, Director
Project Renewal,
Ministry of Housing

Background: Project Renewal

Project Renewal is the largest project in Israel for the improvement of the social, economic and physical state of poor, urban neighborhoods. It was founded in 1978 and in every year since then has been operative in an average of 90 neighborhoods. The project lasts in any one neighborhood for from 8 to 12 years.

The founders and managers of the Project set for themselves seven key goals:

* To improve housing conditions and the physical infrastructure;
* To improve the quality of the social services to the neighborhood;
* To widen the range of opportunities for social and employment mobility;
* To improve the quality of life of weak groups (the elderly, the disabled);
* To impart a sense of security and prevent criminality and social deviance;
* To increase the residents’ responsibility for what goes on in their neighborhood;
* To arrest the socio-physical deterioration of the neighborhood and the outflow of population.

The order among these priorities will change from neighborhood to neighborhood and from population group to population group according to the disparities in the sources of their deprivation, their socio-geographical location and the opportunities for improvement.

Project Renewal has a number of operational principles:

* The intervention must be multidimensional (physical, social, economic);
* The intervention must be of a pre-set duration;
* Neighborhood residents will be involved at all stages (identifying needs, planning and implementation);
* The Project must benefit all neighborhood residents and not just the weaker or delinquent sections;
* The Municipality must take responsibility for the implementation of the various local programs.

The Public Attitudes Surveys: Findings on the Fear of Crime

Project Renewal residents are regularly surveyed as to their attitudes and priorities with regard to the Project and their neighborhood. From a study of a series of such surveys it was found that, whereas in 1983 32% of residents had cited cutting back local crime levels as one of their top three priorities, by 1992 this proportion had risen to 42% and took second place only to improvement of the communal courtyards of apartment blocks and neighborhood open spaces. The third priority was the reduction of local unemployment, while enlarging and renovating the apartments was no higher than fifth.

This change in priorities reflects improvements in the state of the housing and the range of local social services that, by 1992, Project Renewal had brought to these neighborhoods. Once these fundamental needs had been met other needs began to assume more urgency.

A 1989 one-off survey found that almost half the residents of the poor neighborhoods in which Project Renewal was working were afraid of/worried by local crime and a further 16% somewhat so (63% in total). This rate of fear is twice that found in middle class neighborhoods.

The Variables Associated with the Fear of Crime

The academic literature proposes three explanatory models for fear of neighborhood crime:

1. As a function of the socioeconomic situation of the individual or his household. Variables such as sex, age, marital status and employment status are felt to make him/her feel more or less vulnerable. (Demographic Model)

2. As a function of housing conditions and the physical aspect of the neighborhood. Bad apartment building design, for instance, can create "no go" areas ruled by gangs etc. (Physical Fabric Model)

3. As a function of a general dislike of the neighborhood, which leads the person to attribute to it various negative features, among them criminality. (Attitudinal Model)

We used statistical analysis by Pearson Correlation Coefficients and Multiple Regression to test the explanatory value of the three models for the fear of local crime voiced by Project Renewal neighborhood residents. The two units of analysis were the individual resident and the aggregate of residents, i.e. the neighborhood population.

At the Level of the Individual Resident

When the unit of analysis is the individual, none of the three models explain much of the variation in fear of crime, although the Attitudinal Model accounts for more than the other two. However, in the case of this model, it must be borne in mind that the causative connection could be going either way, i.e. the resident may attribute criminality to the neighborhood because he dislikes it but equally possibly, he may dislike the neighborhood because of its real criminality.

At the Level of the Neighborhood

When the unit of analysis is the aggregate of all residents, then the explanatory power of, together, the physical Fabric Model and the Attitudal Model is of a quite higher order they account for 60- 66% of the variance in the dependent variable, fear of crime. The two independent variables most highly correlated with this fear are the percentage of neglected structures in the neighborhood and f residents living in large apartment blocks. This finding goes to the percentage o apartment blocks engender a sense of support the theory that multi-storey anonymity and, physically, tend to contain areas where people can hide or gather unobserved and thus provide opportunities for crime and anti-social behavior.

Two other variables highly correlated with fear of crime are the ethnic homogeneity of the neighborhood and the rate of mate unemployment the less homogeneous the neighborhood and the higher the rate of unemployment, the greater the fear of neighborhood crime.

Recommendations on Reducing Urban Crime and Fear of It

The findings of the statistical analysis suggest direct and indirect practical measures that can be taken to mitigate residents’ fear of crime:

* No more multi-story apartment blocks should be built. Where there is no other choice, then either the apartment entrances and the adjacent areas should be designed to allow social surveillance of them, or each entrance and adjacent area should be enclosed/marked off so as to make the apartment residents feel responsible for it.

* The external environment must be accorded resources to prevent its neglect just as much as internal apartment renovations. A useful step is to organize block committees and public collaboration in planning the improvement of the external surroundings.

* Resources have to be invested in a comprehernsive upgrading of social services to the neighborhood (education, leisure, welfare and employment services). Paying attention to the physical fabric only and ignoring the social fabric is liable to leave the fear of crime as strong as it was.

* Action should be taken to improve the neighborhood’s image both in the eyes of its residents and of outsiders. Such action is of the utmost importance when combined with improvements to the physical and social fabric.