Revitalization: A Key to Reducing Crime and Making Cities Less Dangerous

Douglas Block Rocky Mount NC2 What does landscaping have to do with crime reduction? Quite a lot actually, especially if you’re examining urban development and downtown revitalization.

Rocky Mount, NC is one of several cities across the country that has made great strides with downtown development, and studies show that revitalization isn’t just good for the economy. It also helps make cities safer and less dangerous. Revitalization has several benefits, including:


  • Protecting historic community landmarks
  • Bringing consumers into the downtown area
  • Drawing businesses to the area
  • Increasing public / private partnerships and collaboration among city groups
  • Adding property value
  • Creating a sense of pride and ownership among residents
  • Increasing the tax base
  • Creating jobs

Many elements of downtown design implement CPTED principles. CPTED stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, and it has been instrumental in helping areas such as Sarasota, Florida revitalize their downtown areas while, at the same time, making the cities less dangerous.

While city planning design as it relates to crime prevention is a relatively new concept, it has been the backbone of re-envisioning downtowns nationwide. In short, CPTED states that certain elements of design will discourage crime while at the same time, making an area safer.
These elements include:

  • Good lighting. Effective lighting must avoid creating areas that are too bright, because these may cast shadows. However, at the same time, good lighting must be bright enough to be able to provide extensive visibility.
  • Walkway placement. Walkways that are well-designed should easily guide the public to and from entrances and exits.
  • Property signage. Signage that clearly marks and outlines property boundaries and signifies ownership
  • Strategic landscaping. Parking lots and buildings should be designed to maximize visibility. This means eliminating shrubbery or landscaping that may hinder the view.
  • Security. Fences and walls should be placed to discourage or prevent the public from entering unsecured or restricted areas.

    According to an article on crime fighting and urban renewal by Eli Lehrer of the Heritage Foundation, “when crime drops drastically … Commercial strips blossom with new businesses, housing improves, streets become safe at night, mediating institutions become stronger, and disorder vanishes from public spaces.” 

    Crime rates are currently at a 35-year low in Rocky Mount.

    Rocky Mount, NC has demonstrated its dedication to revitalizing downtown through several renovation projects including:
  • The Imperial Centre
  • The historic Douglas Block (pictured)
  • The Booker T. Washington Theater
  • The Downtown Streetscape.

“In 10 years I see a viable downtown with interesting businesses, restaurants, the arts, more people living downtown, more activity on the streets – people taking advantage of a place that was once hustling and bustling and will be again,” said Rocky Mount City Manager Charles Penny, quoted in an article on downtown revitalization on the Livability website.
“People have to have a desire to see it happen, and I think we do. We have demonstrated that we can work together and make things happen.

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