UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Perceived safety from crime in the outdoor environment Loewen, Laura June


Past research reports a number of environmental characteristics which can influence perceived safety in the outdoor public environment. Appleton's Prospect and Refuge Theory attempts to explain how the environment can affect people's feelings of perceived safety by its offering (or not) of the ability to see without being seen. According to Appleton, it is this ability which is the basis of all other activities and thus a place which offers a view and possible hiding places will be perceived to be attractive because it fulfils survival needs. The purpose of this research was to discover, first, which environmental characteristics people will name as being important when they are not prompted to consider any particular ones, and second, how those characteristics will affect feelings of perceived safety when presented visually and how they might interact with each other. Findings showed that subjects most often mentioned "light", "access to help", and "open space" as contributing to perceived safety in the outdoor environment. These three features can be seen to fit Prospect and Refuge Theory in that light and open space offer a good view and access to help offers unambiguous refuge. When tested in an experimental setting, the three features interact to create a number of possible environments some of which are considered to be safer than others: The situations which contained all three of the features (thus offered a balance of the values of each) were rated as being safer than situations which offered one or two of the features and compromised the other(s) and situations in which none of the three features was represented. Design implications and future research are discussed.

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