The concept

All “Defensible Space” programs have a common purpose: they restructure the physical layout of communities to allow residents to control the areas around their homes. This includes the streets and grounds outside their buildings and the lobbies and corridors within them. The programs help people preserve those areas in which they can realize their commonly held values and life styles.

“Defensible Space” relies on self-help rather than on government intervention, and so is not vulnerable to government’s withdrawal of support. It depends on residents’ involvement to reduce crime and remove the presence of criminals. It has the ability to bring people together of different incomes and race in mutually beneficial union. For low-income people, it can provide an introduction to the benefits of mainstream life and an opportunity to see how their own actions can better the world around them and lead to upward mobility.

Over the past 25 years our institute has been using “Defensible Space” technology to enable residents to take control of their neighborhoods, to reduce crime, and to stimulate private reinvestment. And we have been able to do this while maintaining racial and economic integration. The process has also produced inexpensive ways to create housing for the poor, often without government assistance. In this chapter I will briefly explain the origins and principles of “Defensible Space” and introduce the reader to the results of various of our research projects.