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Street Network Structure And Crime Risk: An Agent‐Based Investigation Of The Encounter And Enclosure Hypotheses



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Street networks shape day‐to‐day activities in complex ways, dictating where, when, and in what contexts potential victims, offenders, and crime preventers interact with one another. Identifying generalizable principles of such influence offers considerable utility to theorists, policy makers, and practitioners. Unfortunately, key difficulties associated with the observation of these interactions, and control of the settings within which they take place, limit traditional empirical approaches that aim to uncover mechanisms linking street network structure with crime risk. By drawing on parallel advances in the formal analyses of street networks and the computational modeling of crime events interactions, we present a theoretically informed and empirically validated agent‐based model of residential burglary that permits investigation of the relationship between street network structure and crime commission and prevention through guardianship. Through the use of this model, we explore the validity of competing theoretical accounts of street network permeability and crime risk—the encounter (eyes on the street) and enclosure (defensible space) hypotheses. The results of our analyses provide support for both hypotheses, but in doing so, they reveal that the relationship between street network permeability and crime is likely nonlinear. We discuss the ramifications of these findings for both criminological theory and crime prevention practice.