Shopper Security and the City Centre Shopping Environment: The Cases of Swansea and Cardiff

Bromley, Rosemary D.F.; Thomas, Colin J.; Millie, Andrew and Nelson, Amanda (1994). Shopper Security and the City Centre Shopping Environment: The Cases of Swansea and Cardiff. University of Wales, Swansea, Wales.


The Context In recent years many British city centres have experienced competition from out-of-town facilities. This has resulted in the contraction or decline of their retail status. The effects of competition have been exacerbated by accessibility problems and a decline of the residential population of the inner city. However, work in retail geography, the geography of crime and environmental criminology suggest that the deficiencies in security in city centres is a significant, and sometimes major contributor to the emerging malaise, and a potentially important component of a further spiral decline in status. Concern has focused on actual and perceived physical threats to shoppers, and on car theft or vandalism. Likewise, ram raids against stores, and intermittent terrorist activities and security alerts have necessitated security measures which frequently detract from the convivial atmosphere of city centres, and in extreme cases can create a "fortress" effect.

Issues for Research Due to a fear of attacks against the person and a concern about car theft, it is possible that a growing proportion of the regional population is now avoiding city centres. Those who still visit the centre may try to avoid certain parts of the central business district at differing times of the day or week. This temporal/spatial inequality of use needs to be redressed. A vibrant city centre needs to be viewed as both attractive and safe at any hour of the day or night, if the area is to remain a thriving focus of activity and an asset to the whole regional population.

Many people naturally avoid areas that they consider dangerous, and in so doing make such areas even more hazardous due to fewer people using the area. In the retail environment this is recognised as having a detrimental effect on trade and so needs to be researched as part of the process of revitalising city centres. Even if parts of the city centre become "no go" areas only after dark, this reputation might be extended in the minds of shoppers to the day and, consequently undermine the status of the centre.

There is also the issue of equality of access for different social sub-groups, primarily women and the elderly. Some are particularly inclined to avoid certain parts of the city centre, especially after dark. This issue will also be examined.

Aims of the Research Project:
1. To investigate both the nature and frequency of visits to the city centre retail district by the shopping public. (Swansea and Cardiff)
2. To identify those people who are discouraged from visiting the city centre through concerns over personal safety and car theft, together with a recognition that some have easy access to alternative retail centres. (Swansea)
3. To establish whether or not perceptions of personal safety and a concern over car theft influence shoppers' spatial and temporal behaviour within the city centre, and whether this has any effect on the retail trade of different parts of the central retail district. (Swansea and Cardiff)
4. To determine the actual pattern of crime incidents across the city centres of Swansea and Cardiff through the detailed analysis of police data for a full year.
5. To examine the relationship between shopper perceptions of security problems and actual crime incidents.
6. To integrate the findings from the questionnaire surveys, environmental audits and police data analyses, in order to contribute to the development of optimal design and management policies for a "viable and vibrant" city centre in the future.

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