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Visibility and Vigilance: Metro's Situational Approach to Preventing Subway Crime, Research in Brief

NCJ Number
Date Published
11 pages
Publication Series
The Metro subway system in Washington, D.C., has experienced lower than expected crime rates since its inception in 1976, and the system's relative safety is attributed to a combination of design characteristics, management practices, and maintenance policies that incorporate principles of situational crime prevention and crime prevention through environmental design.
A review of Metro's environment, design characteristics, and management and maintenance policies indicates high arched ceilings create a feeling of openness that reduces passenger fears and provides them with an open view of the station. In addition, long and winding corridors and corners reduce shadows and nooks that criminals and panhandlers can occupy. The system allows passengers to buy multiple use farecards in any dollar amount, cutting down the time money is exposed to pickpockets and robbers. Farecards must also be used on entry and exit from the system, reducing the likelihood of fare evasion. Trains are equipped with materials resistant to graffiti and vandalism to discourage potential offenders. When graffiti artists or vandals do cause damage, maintenance workers quickly clean and repair damaged property. Metro has no public restrooms, lockers, or excess seats where potential offenders can loiter. Fast food establishments are prohibited because customers generate litter and provide victims for pickpockets and robbers. Smoking and eating on trains are also prohibited to ensure a safe and clean environment. Entrance kiosks are continuously staffed while the Metro is open, and station attendants are aided by closed circuit televisions. Because Metro's crime rates have been stable and are a fraction of those experienced by subway systems in Atlanta, Boston, and Chicago, applying Metro's design, maintenance, and crime prevention strategies may help new or existing subway systems reduce crime. 10 references, 22 notes, and 5 exhibits

Date Published: January 1, 1997