Socio-economic and environmental perceptions and impacts of violence and crime in residential areas in Durban, South Africa.
Violence and crime are amongst the most difficult of the many challenges facing South Africa. There is widespread concern in all segments of society about persistent and widespread violence and crime. The central aim of the study is to critically examine the socio-economic and environmental perceptions and impacts of violence and crime in residential areas in Durban, South Africa, by utilizing specific case studies. This study contributes to understanding the socio-economic and environmental perceptions of crime and violence at the local level. The actual and perceived spatial distribution and understanding of violence and crime ronn a critical focus of this study. This study adopts a multi-conceptual framework (drawing from the psychological/behavioural perspective, political economy approach and rational perspective of physical environment and crime) that coalesces several themes relating to crime and violence including historical contexts, policy frameworks, stakeholder analyses, environmental aspects, economic facets, distributional concerns as well as social and cultural dimensions. The focus of the study in terms of primary data collection was Durban. Within this area the specific residential localities (from infoffilal settlements to upper income areas) were chosen from the lnnerwest sub-region. The four specific communities/localities chosen reflect the residential settlement type and socio-economic differentiation prevalent in the area as well as to some extent the historical residential classification on the basis of race. These localities are Westville (a historically White, upper income area), Reservoir Hills (a historically Lndian, middle income area), Cleffilont (a historically African, working class township) and the Palmiet and New Germany Road in informal settlements. The case studies reflect a cross-section of experiences contrasting institutional dynamics as well as socio-economic and spatial contexts and experiences. Both quantitative (questionnaire surveys) and qualitative (focus group discussions, key informant interviews and ranking exercises) methods were employed to collect primary data from the following stakeholders: residents, businesses, police, private security companies and community-based organizations/community forums. The main findings of the research were that perceptions of safety and security varied greatly depending on personal, socio-economic, and environmental/spatial factors. Gender, class and race emerged as key socio-economic aspects. Furthermore, violence and the threat of violence severely constrain and influence the movements and options of people. Respondents considered several areas within the communities, especially public spaces, to be unsafe. Respondents, especially those who could afford to do so, used a range of security measures. This study shows that acts of violence and crime need to be understood in their environmental contexts inclusive of the locational/spatial, social, economic and political dimensions. An examination and greater understanding of the socio-economic and spatial manifestations of crime and violence is paramount to develop safe and secure environments.