Theses Master's

Associations of 'Eyes on the Street' with the Perception of Safety in New York City

Ghossoub, Christine

New York City has seen major improvements in safety in the past few decades through enhanced policing strategies and camera coverage. However, public spaces and streets remain vulnerable. Recognizing the insufficiency of these strategies in reducing crime rate, this research sought to identify relationships between elements in the built environment with the ‘perception of safety’. Prior studies have proved that environments that ‘feel’ safer to pedestrians would increase their well-being and street usage which would consequently weaken the likelihood of crime. The elements in the built environment chosen for this study were inspired by Jane Jacobs’ “eyes on the street” theory stating that surveillance-generating elements on streets would reduce crime.

To answer the question of how ‘eyes on the street’ conditions may affect the perception of safety on streets in New York City, a street survey was conducted in two selected sites. The results revealed that more people on streets, more street activity and more mixed-use zoning increased the feeling of safety while elements of disorder (i.e. trash on sidewalks) reduced the feeling of street safety. These findings inspired a set of recommendations on ways to improve street design and planning for creating environments that appear to be safer for pedestrians. A key synthesis is that achieving ‘eyes on the street’ by altering specific urban elements could significantly impact the perception of safety that may lead to actual safety.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Vanky, Anthony
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 11, 2020