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Using smartphone applications to record real-time, spatially located information from large groups of people about their perceptions of safety (fear of crime) in the built environment (London)

22 March 2013


Reka Solymosi

This project will aim to measure Fear of Crime in parts of London by using citizen science/ crowd sourcing mobile applications to record real time, spatially located data from the population relating to their perceptions of safety in the environment, and identify various correlates of fear of crime. Methodologically this way of recording data builds on developments in fear of crime research, which currently encourages addressing frequency and intensity of ‘fear’ (worry?) in the population. It also adds the ability to record spatially and temporally relevant data without worrying about issues with participant recall. Sensor data (e.g. GSR, light levels, noise levels, etc.) can also be used to supplement the qualitative perception data and gather further information about fear of crime and it’s prevalence and correlates   The topic of ‘fear of crime’ is relevant as a security problem, as it has a great influence on policy decisions and interventions, and is also an accessibility issue, leading to spatial avoidance and the social isolation of “bad areas”. Mapping perceptions of safety can spatially locate areas associated with high levels of fear of crime, and identify these hotspots in order to target interventions, identify elements of the built environment (e.g.: graffiti, broken windows, narrow streets) associated with high fear of crime levels (to assess their role and recommend change). Finally it can also identify other conditions associated with fear of crime (current pedestrian density of street, purpose of journey, time of day, weather, etc.) and make for an interesting comparison study with the existing crime maps of local areas. Other outcomes of this project include the study of how and why people participate in this (crowd sourcing, swarming, free rider problem), and the feasibility of using apps for social science research.