Environmental criminology takes into account the boundaries within which people act, such as work spaces, meeting-points and recreational areas. It explores the spatial concepts inherent in the wider scenario of criminal activity, such as the widening reaches of offenders due to access to new technologies and inventions (better vehicles, instant mobile communication devices), as well as ‘zoning’ policies instituted by planning authorities and transport. Interesting to note is the opportunity for emerging crime scenarios where offenders engage in computer crime that does not recognise any border or state, with the offender using remote technology to commit an offence from fraud to pornography.
Zoning practice and urban design has been found to alter crime patterns due to the presence of high volume land, accessibility, design, private and public spaces, and a host of other causes (Beavon et al, 1994; Pain, 1994).
One point of discussion from the Formosa study (2007) relates to the ‘burglaries from dwellings’ (43%) registered in non-residential areas. Though Malta’s zoning patterns are distinct in most areas, there is a high level of mixed use, thus one can still find some residential units areas such as those designated as commercial. The main bulk of the ‘burglaries from dwellings’ however occurs in the areas designated as Limits to Development which are earmarked for urban development and are slowly being built, though the concentrations of development type has yet to be ascertained. Dwellings can be found in the zone but the densities are still small enough for the areas to be calculated within the low-density residential areas category.
Malta is a highly dense country both in terms of population and development uptake leading to 21% soil-sealed by 1995 (Planning Authority, 2002). Development of dwellings is very high and rapid leading to large areas being developed for apartments, terraced housing, maisonettes and a variety of high-end units such as villas and bungalows. Each category tends to group in close proximity to their type both through choice and schemed zone requirements. Each category attract different rates of residential offences, though apartments by far exceed the rest. In fact, basing a GIS study of police-reported offences (GEOPOL) by area taken up by each dwelling type, apartments overtake the sum of all the other categories’ densities by three times (Formosa, 2007)
Figure: Offence categories by dwelling type zones
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Source: Formosa S., (2007), Spatial Analysis of Temporal Criminality Evolution: An Environmental Criminology Study of Crime in the Maltese Islands, unpublished PhD thesis, University of Huddersfield, United Kingdom