An Exploratory Study of Uses of “Urban Security” and “Urban Safety”
Universidade de Lisboa, Instituto de Ciências Sociais
An Exploratory Study of Uses of “Urban Security” and “Urban Safety” in International Urban Studies Literature
Dedalus 19 (2015), pp. 55-85. Download PDF
This article sets out a systematic, albeit preliminary, exploration of the way the concepts of security and safety are employed in scholarly urban studies literature about crime (and the prevention of it). We employ network analysis on author keywords, complemented with text analysis of abstracts, over sets of bibliographic information retrieved from Web of Science. Using a critical interpretative analysis of findings, and looking at the geography of main scholarly communities in this field, the article highlights differences (especially at the operational level) and commonalities (especially at the conceptual level) in the way scholars understand urban security and urban safety. According to our findings, security is more commonly associated with a regulatory and repressive understanding of crime prevention, whereas safety is more commonly associated with perceptions of, and situational prevention of, crime. However, the use of the two words is not very differentiated as far as the deep understanding of crime is concerned – authors tend to look at security/safety as a goal to be pursued through action on the (rationally motivated) offender. The article thus advocates for a renewed critical engagement of scholarship in this field, through studies that would shift their attention from technical ‘solutions’ to the ‘problems’ that lead societies to demand security/safety.