The fear of crime and perceptions of insecurity are among the most important issues with regard to a sustainability framework, relative to crime itself, in cities with low crime rates. Santiago in Chile is a city with a moderate to low rate of crime as compared to the average amount of crime in the cities around the world, but the fear of crime and perceptions of insecurity greatly concern the residents of this city. Therefore, in general, studying Santiago residents’ perceived insecurity seems to be more important than considering actual urban insecurity and its aspects in regard to achieving a more comprehensive sustainability framework for this city. Regardless of the influence of individual and social factors on perceived insecurity, the design of the built environment plays an important role in enhancing perceptions of security. In addition, women have been found to be more fearful of crime and their perceived insecurity is recognized as being a serious problem for their walking patterns in the residential neighborhoods of Santiago.
On this basis, and due to the importance of the design of the built environment for generating the fear of crime and perceived insecurity, this study focuses on design elements that are related to the perceived security/insecurity of women. By studying the typology of neighborhoods based on their inclusive houses and a selection of neighborhoods with apartment blocks, the three residential neighborhoods of Villa Frei, Villa Olimpica, and Villa Portales were selected for this study. To consider the influence of environmental factors on perceived security/insecurity, the routes traversed daily by the residents were identified using 3D maps. A survey questionnaire was used to measure women’s perceived sense of security/insecurity, and to learn how these attitudes influenced their daily walking patterns.
The qualitative data was analyzed through context analysis, and the quantitative data was analyzed using an ordered logistic regression. Although respondents mostly declared that their neighborhood is somewhat secure, they agreed that their feeling of insecurity influences the path they choose in their daily walking activities. This finding shows the importance of women’s perceived insecurity or low perceived security for their daily walking patterns. The results of the open-ended questions show that the “presence of others”, in terms of stationary and dynamic surveillance, “proximity to shops, schools and parks”, “open spaces”, and “presence of familiar people”, emerged as the most important factors for enhancing women’s sense of security. Moreover, findings from ordered regression analysis indicate that among the different dimensions of built environmental factors, evidence of vitality through the arrangement of furniture, surveillance, signs of disorder and vegetation were the strongest determinant of women’s perceived security. These findings indicate the need to address the perceived security/insecurity of women in residential neighborhoods as the most important policy for improving the sustainability framework, and leading to the creation of sustainable neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile.