Apartment Residents Feel Unsafe in Their Neighborhoods, But Cozy Indoors

Those living in stand-alone homes feel just the opposite.

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Apartment complex in Sugar Hill, Harlem. (trevor.patt/Flickr)

If the new high-rise that just popped up in your neighborhood brings to mind the phrase "Fortress of Solitude," there may be something to that. New research by Canadian sociologist Heather Rollwagen reveals a "fortress effect" influences how safe apartment-dwellers perceive themselves to be when inside and outside of their flats.

Compared to those living in stand-alone houses, high-rise residents felt more susceptible to crime while walking through their neighborhoods in the evening. But once they were inside, high-risers felt up to three times safer than their counterparts who lived in houses. 

As with malls, Rollwagen writes, large apartment buildings are isolated from the communities they're situated in, which might lend their residents a sense of "fortification" when they're at home. But that also means those same residents are less likely to know their neighbors than people with houses, who can, say, chat across yards. Apartment-dwellers therefore experience a heightened sense of risk when they're out and about.

This isn't to say that apartments are a bad way to go for urbanites. Rollwagen argues that these effects could be mitigated if high-rise developers included more common spaces where residents could actually meet, such as onsite park areas.

Let's just make sure those new green areas are actually common ones, unlike this Beijing fellow's private mountain peak—a true apartment fortress.

(Top image courtesy of Flickr user trevor.patt.)

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