Unit 5: What is Wrong with Cities?
Safety and crime
Crime and violence in urban areas have increased significantly as cities have gotten larger. Most of the crime involves property rather than people in other words, there is much more theft and burglary than there is assault and murder. However, violent crime is increasing and now makes up over one quarter of urban offences in many countries.
One alarming aspect of the rise in violent crime has been the increase in murders. The rates vary from region to region and country to country, though everywhere they are much higher in cities than in the rural areas. For example, while in all of the United States fewer than 10 people out of every 100,000 are murdered, in the capital, Washington, D.C., 70 people out of 100,000 are victims of murder.
Comparing country data, therefore, can be misleading when considering urban crime rates. Specific cities must be considered. By the early 1990s, there were over 60 murders per 100,000 residents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; in Cali, Columbia, the rate was 87 per 100,000. Some of the world's largest cities, including Rio de Janeiro, Los Angeles, Bogota and Sao Paulo, an average of 2,000 people a year are killed.
Even smaller cities are susceptible. Guatemala City, Guatemala, has earned a reputation as the most violent urban center in the region.
High levels of crime have a serious impact on cities. Uses of the urban space are changing as some streets, parks and neighborhoods become unfrequented. Higher-income groups are living, working, shopping and taking their leisure in what are essentially fortified enclaves. This creates a vicious cycle. As neighborhoods are abandoned, house values drop, the city spends less on maintaining the area, poverty increases and crime goes up more. These areas become run-down pockets of urban poverty that are often juxtaposed with the affluent urban neighborhoods.
SEE ALSO HOUSING, HEALTH, AND POLUTION
OR RETURN TO TEXT