Understanding the impact of urban heat islands on crime: insights from temperature, population density, and green canopy cover

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Emergent literature suggests that micro- and macro-climates influence criminal behaviour; a complex phenomenon that is still incipient in theory development. This mixed-method research starts with a systematic review of the literature on the theoretical premises that urban heat islands amplify aggressive behaviour and crime. Further, it discusses the potential implications of the relationship between the environment and social outcomes on the design and planning of urban environments.

A meta-synthesis was conducted to explain the correlations between patterns of criminal behaviour and thermal (dis)comfort. This correlation is to relate fundamental urban design principles to socially sustainable communities that dissuade violence and crime, and otherwise show poorly designed spaces do propagate criminal behaviour. Cross-validation was undertaken using a case study of Midland, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

The findings imply a positive correlation between long-term temperature, crime, population density, and green canopy cover. Variables of climate (e.g., short-to-long-term climate-related stressors) and crime types also show non-linear association. Nonetheless, forecasting the future of violence and trends of crime through attributes or potential impacts of heat and urban canopy cover on the built environment will inform sustainable social development policy, environmental planning, development strategy, designers, and planners.

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