Some of our previous posts have mentioned how mixed-use neighborhoods support healthy bodies, a healthy economy and a healthy environment (particularly through transit). Now, a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania Law Review suggests that areas with a mix of residential and commercial uses are safer than areas with only commercial uses.
This isn’t totally a novel idea. In her (very) influential book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, author and activist Jane Jacobs suggested that city streets are safer when more people use them. Her “eyes on the street” theory states that, the more active the neighborhood with both residents and retail visitors, the less likely a criminal will find an opportunity to strike.
While Jane Jacobs’ book is still widely read today, some criticize her methodology, which focuses mainly on observation. However, this study uses empirical evidence to study Jacobs’ theory. The researchers find that “areas with mixed-use zoning have lower reported crime rates than areas zoned for commercial uses only. [They] also found that exclusively residential blocks exhibit lower reported crime than blocks zoned for commercial or mixed-use, even in relatively high crime neighborhoods.”(Interestingly, the point that exclusively residential blocks have lower reported crime is the opposite of what Jacobs’ claimed, as she believed commercial uses reduced crime and shop keepers acted as guardians of the street).
While the study only looks at neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the authors explain that more research should be done, these findings are good news for White Flint, where residential uses are being introduced into what is currently a highly commercial area.