Architecture as Crime Control

199 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2001


Building on work in architectural theory, this Article demonstrates how additional attention to cities, neighborhoods, and individual buildings can reduce criminal activity. The field of cyberlaw has been transformed by the insight that architecture can regulate behavior in cyberspace; this insight will now be applied to the regulation of behavior in real space. The instinct of many lawyers, however, is to focus on legal rules, without thinking about the constraint of physical space. Ironically, even an architectural problem in crime control - "broken windows" - has prompted legal, not architectural solutions. Four architectural concepts are considered: increasing an area's natural surveillance (its visibility and susceptibility to monitoring by private citizens); introducing territoriality (by demarcating private and semiprivate spaces); reducing social isolation; and protecting potential targets. Some of these mechanisms are subtle, often times invisible, methods that prevent criminal activity.

The Article then illustrates specific legal mechanisms that harness the power of architecture to prevent crime. Distinguishing between situations where the government acts as a builder, civil regulator, and criminal enforcer, solutions are suggested in a variety of legal fields, drawing on property, torts, taxation, contracts, and criminal law. Procurement and taxation strategies can promote effective public architecture; crime impact statements, zoning, tort suits, and contractual regulation may engender private architectural solutions as well. Criminal law, particularly through forfeiture, may also play a role. Several problems with architectural regulation are considered, such as the extension of social control and potential losses in privacy. Nevertheless, the Article concludes by suggesting that local jurisdictions should emphasize architecture more, and standard law-enforcement methods less.

JEL Classification: H0

Suggested Citation

Katyal, Neal K., Architecture as Crime Control. Available at SSRN: or

Neal K. Katyal (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States
202-662-9807 (Phone)
202-662-9410 (Fax)

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