Mapping the community: “security capital”, social capital, community capital and crime
- Last Updated on Monday, 19 March 2012 11:41
Mapping a community for societal elements such as resources, amenities, community capital or social capital allows us to understand the positive elements of that area or region. In addition, mapping a community for negatives such as crime or vandalism underpins the security of that neighbourhood. In the following article, I will outline the elements of capital or crime that can be gauged from community mapping activities.
The first section of this article outlines the research I have undertaken with utilising mapping as a tool for teaching in marginalised urban areas in both jurisdictions in Ireland. The second section of the article will look at mapping and crime. This will provide an understanding of how mapping provides what I have termed as ‘security capital’ which is the basis for all policing and residential security operations in contemporary urban society. The article will conclude with a discussion of the significance of mapping as a facet of measuring capital in society.
The background to this study can be found in the research I undertook working on the mobilisation processes of the Galway community during the duration of my PhD studies at the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), between 2001 and 2004. Shortly after this time I worked part-time as a lecturer with the NUIG Access programme. Part of my teaching with the access programme was with the early school leavers, young people from marginalised communities who had left school early but wanted to return to Higher Education. Many of these students were from a neighbourhood near NUIG known as ‘the Westside’, a large area of social housing and a local authority flats complex, which has since been demolished.
To grab the group’s attention, I gave them a project on the article by Prof. Kevin Leyden of the University of West Virginia, which focused on ‘the Westside’ area. This 2003 article from the American Journal of Public Health, was titled ‘Social Capital and the Built Environment: The Importance of Walkable Neighborhoods’ (1). The students ‘mapped’ their neighbourhood using Leyden’s criteria of community resources which included the following quote:
Survey questions used to create the “neighborhood walkability” measure from Leyden (2003).
Galway’s neighborhoods were subjectively categorized into 3 ideal types by the researcher before conducting the survey. The neighborhoods selected and surveyed include the following 3 types:
City Center/Near City Center Neighborhoods. The category of “city center/near city center” includes mixed-use, pedestrian-oriented neighborhoods where all daily needs and forms of entertainment are a short walk away. Residents living in these neighborhoods could walk to restaurants, pubs, parks, libraries, department stores, government buildings, post offices, butchers, banks, pharmacies, local schools, theatres, and places of worship without seriously competing with cars. Older, Mixed-Use Suburbs. Galway has several older suburbs that incorporate some of the more positive aspects of both the traditional city center neighborhood and the quiet suburb. and the range of places one could access by foot is clearly more limited. Modern, Automobile-Dependent Suburbs. Galway’s recent economic boom has created a demand for new housing that has been met by creating new suburbs. These modern suburbs are car oriented; even local stores have a strip-mall feel about them. With parking lotspositioned in front, they seem to suggest that driving is expected.
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