In today's Guardian Anna Minton writes about a study she carried out on a Peabody Trust housing estate in central London:
What we found independently was that, although increased security, and in particular CCTV, was often very popular with residents, it did not necessarily lead to feelings of increased safety, with residents reporting that the presence of CCTV could instead increase anxiety.
Security measures including gates and internal doors elicited a similar response, with residents illustrating that "defensible space" can increase fear of strangers. "Because of the doors, if you see someone you don't know, there is an element of 'Who is this?'" one resident commented.
A practitioner added: "The more you secure a block or an estate, the more it gives a message that something is wrong with that estate."
Incidents of actual crime were barely mentioned. By far the biggest problem was young people hanging around late into the night in the courtyard of the estate, which is surrounded by housing. On a number of occasions the play area had been vandalised. Because the young people in question were either residents or friends of residents, barring access to the estate through the use of gates did not seem sensible.
The study suggested that high security was offered as a technical response to a complex social problem, which required a different kind of solution. It was clear that residents felt that "knowing people", whether it be caretakers, youth workers or each other, was the key to creating trust.