As you have likely heard, a black teenager in Sanford, Florida, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by a white Neighbourhood Watch captain in the gated community of The Retreat at Twin Lakes. Much has been and, no doubt, will be written about Florida's gun laws, the police response and the fact that the shooter, George Zimmerman, remains free as this is written.
Robert Steuteville, however, views this tragic incident through a planning lens in his blog post "Gates, sprawl and 'walking while black' ". In his opinion, The Retreat is a poorly planned community where most people drive and anyone walking is likely to be viewed with suspicion. There are economic and demographic issues to take into account, plus, he says "the story is also about what happens to a gated development when residents find themselves on the same side of the gate as people they fear." Read the full blog post.
This is an interesting read and brings to mind the importance of planning and landscape design in creating new communities. It reminds me of my student days, visiting Milton Keynes, a planned new town in the UK, which, to me, had been landscaped to within an inch of its life. My reaction, and that of my fellow students, was very much along the lines of "when all these plants grow, they'll have a huge problem with crime!"
Now, no-one can blame all the problems of Milton Keynes just on planning and plants but, viewing the crime statistics collated by the Crime & Disorder Reduction Partnerships, Milton Keynes's levels of crime are higher than the national average on every measurable index. (Data is supplied by the Home Office based on data collected by police forces in England and Wales between 2010 and 2011.) From burglary, fraud and forgery to violence against the person, Milton Keynes, unfortunately, rises high.
In recent years and even today, new housing is being contemplated and built by the score in Bermuda and one can't help but wonder whether any of the developers realise they are creating communities not just providing a roof and four walls.
A New York Times Op-Ed piece, The Gated Community Mentality by Rich Benjamin, published 29 March 2012 makes many of the same points Robert Steuteville made in his blog, which is the subject of this blog post. Gated communities tend to perpetuate a "bunker mentality" that is unhealthy and, in Florida, can lead to the precipitous use of handguns. A sorry situation indeed.