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TACKLING POOR HOUSING MAY REDUCE CRIME, RESEARCH REVEALS

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Improving poor housing could make efforts to tackle crime much more effective, according to research published by t...
Improving poor housing could make efforts to tackle crime much more effective, according to research published by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH).

Representing more than 12,000 professionals, the CIH has called for partnership between sectors in initiatives to improve security, management and design on the UK's housing estates and substantially reduce crime in the process.

Research for the CIH report, 'A Point to Prove', highlights Dundee City Council's bold schemes, exemplified by Whitfield Estate plan, to tackle crime and anti-social behaviour. House-breaking and total reported crime have been cut, while security patrols have helped in a 60% reduction of vandalism costs. 63% of Whitfield tenants now claim their neighbourhood is safer than it was in 1991.

The CIH in Scotland has previously found in 'Housing and Crime' (June 1995) that a further element in restricting crime is partnership with police, local agencies and community groups.

But that pattern of action is not typical nationwide, where council housing is increasingly becoming the preserve of the poor. In 1974 just under half of social housing tenants were in the bottom 40% of earners: by 1990 the figure had risen to three quarters.

Christine Laird, CIH chief executive, said: 'Lack of resources for design, security and management initiatives has produced a lack of resistance to crime on our poorest estates. We are in the process of creating not only crime- ridden estates of last resort but also a tenure of last resort - namely local authority housing.

'Rumoured housing investment cuts in the approaching public expenditure round will only worsen this situation and at the same time damage the government's targets for law and order,' she added.

Research for the CIH report 'A Point to Prove' yielded several examples of local authorities and housing associations formulating strategic responses to links between housing and crime:

In the West Midlands, Solihull MBC has conducted a two-year consultation process on crime and security as part of the authority's overall housing strategy. Solihull's programme includes:

- A crime reduction strategy, a joint initiative between local authority, private and voluntary sectors focusing on a range of programmes to help reduce the incidence and fear of crime

- Tenant consultation survey in 1994/95 to obtain 2,000 residents' views on crime and security

- New architects' briefs containing specific reference to security measures and estate layout

Meanwhile, Kensington and Chelsea LBC has investigated causes of juvenile crime on estates, with a group of housing, social services, education, police and voluntary agencies developing a strategic response to the problem.

The group seeks to address housing and other needs of young people in the area, conducting a pilot project on the local Lancaster West and World's End estates.

- The CIH report 'A Point to Prove' is available from Diane Wagstaff at the CIH, Octavia House, Westwood Way, Coventry. CV4 8JP.

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