Throughout the 1960’s, modernist urban planners implemented many policies, such as urban renewal, in attempt to reduce city blight and crime. During this time city planners rationalized the need to zone separate areas throughout the city for residential, commercial and industrial uses. Urban sociologist, Jane Jacobs, believed these initiatives not only increased criminal activity, but also ruined the social framework and vitality necessary for a prosperous community. Jacobs contended these policies created isolated communities with deserted streets that are, “ideally suited for rape, muggings, beatings, hold-ups and the like” (Jacobs 23).
In her 1961 book titled, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities,” Jacobs develops her “Eyes on the Street” theory. Her theory advocates the use of high-density mixed-use communities, which are areas with residential and commercial uses, to stimulate street traffic. Jacobs argues that increased street traffic, day and night, not only help communities flourish socially and economically, but also acts as self policing which deters criminal and anti-social behavior. Jacob’s theory holds that populated areas are less likely to have criminal activity if the criminal believes there is a greater likelihood of him being seen or caught by others.
By understanding how criminal activity is attracted to secluded spaces and that crime is more likely to occur when criminals believe they will not be caught, urban planners can better plan residential and commercial spaces that encourage street activity. Jacobs also maintains the increased street traffic will promote economic stability. It's win-win.