Environment and crime

Don’t go there! There is glass, you can fall and get hurt! Taking a walk in the yard, be careful, there are cars… It is just a small portion of ‘instructions’ from mums to their kids before leaving the house. Empty bottles, sweets papers, cigarette stubs on the children’s playground are a real threat not only to the ecology of our planet, but to people’s life. Yulia Radosteva, Candidate of Legal Sciences, Senior Advocate of Puchkov&Partners, is explaining which environment is considered safe.


In Yulia Radosteva’s view, any environment can become safe if it is looked after properly: for example, when car drivers never park their cars on well-kept grounds with flowers. If there is no grass but only litter, a driver will not hesitate to park their car on the territory which otherwise may serve as a lawn.

The protecting space must be well-shaped and have clearly identifiable limits, i.e. obvious signs showing the owner of this territory. A stranger to this place should immediately feel that he is on the territory owned and protected by somebody. The protecting space may increase the feeling of territoriality, both of dwellers as well as guests. At the same time, the territory should have the right zoning. For example, the yard should have comfortable benches for elderly people, benches, sand playpits, a playground with chutes and swings for kids and their mums, a sports ground and several benches for young people.

Besides, a necessary prerequisite for maintaining safe environment is communication between neighbors. If neighbors know each other, they can easily identify a stranger, who is throwing litter and violating their order, because they know how people should behave on the playground, they control the order in their yard and are more inclined to protect it, i.e. it is a type of informal control. In southern America sociologists conducted an experiment: they brought two painters in one of the most dangerous districts and offered locals to paint together with them; as a result, during these days the level of crimes decreased; criminals did not dare to commit offences because there were too many people around.

The protecting space should provide a possibility to informally control what is happening around (who is passing by, what people in the yard are doing, etc.), i.e. the space should be open and visually accessible. Though trees and bushes protect houses and people from the scorching sun, the yard where children are playing should not have trees and bushes, because whatever happens on the playground should be seen from any window of a multi-storey building.

But in Russia most houses are built in such a way that there are many nooks and corners suitable for committing crimes and offences. In foreign countries, houses have huge glass doors on the first floor and rather small fences which just symbolically show the limits of a territory. It prevents strangers from committing wrongs, because while walking along the street they subconsciously feel that they are under control of local dwellers.

Besides, Yulia Radosteva states that arches between houses are a dangerous place. When entering it, you may face criminals, and if two of them will be in front of you and two behind you, there is no way for you to escape. Moreover, nobody can see it happening from the windows.

When houses are built in Russia, there are obligatory requirements to be met, for example, the current fire safety regulations concerning maintenance and design of blocks of flats (approaching roads). Such requirements are determined by construction rules and rules of “Urban Development, Planning and Renovation of Town and Rural Settlements”. However, these requirements do not take into account many other intricacies which would guarantee the safety of people’s lives. In 1972, a whole district of 33 houses named Pruitt-Igoe was completely demolished, since it had become infamous for an increasing number of crimes committed every year. The project became a failure of urban renewal. Now this area contains a park and a set of educational establishments of St. Louis Public School as well as low buildings.

Kate Kostromina