Scholarly article on topic 'Hot Spot Urban Crime Area for Woman Travellers'

Hot Spot Urban Crime Area for Woman Travellers Academic research paper on "Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries"

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{"Public transport" / "woman travellers" / "crime hot spot" / "level of safety"}

Abstract of research paper on Agriculture, forestry, and fisheries, author of scientific article — Rohana Sham, Norhayati Omar, Dia Widyawati Amat

Abstract Crime occurrences in Malaysia do not directly reflect that they are transport-related but for women travellers, the higher the crime rate in an area, the higher would be the chances of becoming a crime victim. This creates insecurity among woman travellers in urban areas. Thus, this study intended to examine the hot spot crime occurrence for working women who depend on public bus. Results show that most women feel insecure while waiting at the bus stop, when they are not comfortable with services, when there is no indication of security and when they receive no information of the bus services.

Academic research paper on topic "Hot Spot Urban Crime Area for Woman Travellers"

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Procedía - Social and Behavioral Sciences 68 (2012) 417 - 426

AicE-Bs 2012 Cairo ASIA Pacific International Conference on Environment-Behaviour Studies Mercure Le Sphinx Cairo Hotel, Giza, Egypt, 31 October - 2 November 2012 "Future Communities: Socio-Cultural & Environmental Challenges "

Hot Spot Urban Crime Area for Woman Travellers

Rohana Sham*, Norhayati Omar, Dia Widyawati Amat

_Faculty of Business Management, Universiti Teknologi MARA Johor, 85000 Segamat, Malaysia_


Crime occurrences in Malaysia do not directly reflect that they are transport-related but for women travellers, the higher the crime rate in an area, the higher would be the chances of becoming a crime victim. This creates insecurity among woman travellers in urban areas. Thus, this study intended to examine the hot spot crime occurrence for working women who depend on public bus. Results show that most women feel insecure while waiting at the bus stop, when they are not comfortable with services, when there is no indication of security and when they receive no information of the bus services.

© 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies (cE-Bs), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia.

Keywords: Public transport; woman travellers; crime hot spot; level of safety

1. Introduction

A dramatic increase in the statistics of crime being recorded particularly in urban area in Malaysia has been observed. In relation to this, women have been targeted more by crime offenders since years ago compared to men, and this heightens women's unsafe feeling. A study by Siti and Aldrin in 2011 had further indicated that the correlation between Fear of Crime (FOC) and gender is significant. Even though the crime itself does not directly reflect that it is a transport-related crime, traditionally a high crime occurrence subscribes to the belief that the higher the crime rate in a particular area, the higher would be the chances of becoming a victim of crime in that particular area. This will in turn create a higher feeling of unsafe among travellers especially in urban areas where the trip attraction is very high. In spite of considerable media attention on the reporting of serious crime on women, personal security has rarely

* Corresponding author. Tel.: +60125570602; fax: +607-9352277. E-mail address:

1877-0428 © 2012 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer-review under responsibility of the Centre for Environment-Behaviour Studies (cE-Bs), Faculty of Architecture, Planning & Surveying, Universiti Teknologi MARA, Malaysia. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2012.12.238

been seen as a transport issue. The exact hot spot crime area in the city centre for woman travellers remains an open question. In the meantime, in most urban areas in Malaysia, particularly an island like Penang, the favourable mass public transport is more likely to be public bus system. The public bus can be considered as the lifeblood of the state economy as most urban dwellers especially women depend on it to commute, for various purposes. Problems arise when poor public transport supply like bus service and its infrastructure are not being well taken care of. Bad infrastructure especially walkways to and from the stop, poor design and maintenance of bus top and busses, poor security measures throughout the entire journey have further put women's life into the risk of crime victimization. In addition to that, for most women living in an urban area, the reality of fear of assault, attack, harassment and verbal abuse is one of the major influences on their travel decision, particularly at night (Howie 2000). These issues have grown in importance in light of recent high involvement of women in employment sector who might have to depend more on public bus which is not even safe for them. So far, there is no sufficient information regarding this type of problem faced by woman travellers in Penang Island. Therefore, this study aimed to examine critically the real factors that contributed towards women travelling safety issues. Among the objectives of the study is to identify the major hot spot areas for crime occurrence among woman travellers.

2. Review of Related Literature

Over the years, progress has been made to identify the factors affecting woman travelling safety because women are considered as a group of people who will face the highest risk of victimization. As a result, Hanlon (1995) contended that their access to safe and good public transport resources is critical especially to those living in an urban area. A recent study by Rohana, Syed, Mashita and Suhana (2012) had further indicated that poor public transport supply had further contributed to the problem of crime against women and thus increase their level of fear while travelling.

The first serious discussion and analysis of safety issues and the extent of crime concerning bus services emerged during toe 1970's. A study done by Thrasher and Schnell (1974) has concluded the risk of being involved in a criminal incident is at least two times greater when riding in most major transit system than in using other means of private transportation. Being considered as the earliest study measuring the number of crimes within public transit, it indicates that personal security is an important factor in the decision making for people choosing to utilize public transportation and that transit users will be deterred if the system seems to be unsafe.

In one of the few studies that focus on crime at bus stop location, Levine and Wachs (1986) examined three bus stop locations where the largest number of crime had occurred. Their findings on a survey in West Central Los Angeles indicate that the factors contributing to crime differed for each bus stop location, suggesting that a site specific analysis is required to determine the individualized security problem. The researchers suggested that each location should be examined separately to determine the root cause of the problem so that individualistic or unique countermeasures can be implemented to correct the situation. Not only that, they also revealed that the police statistics greatly undercounted the actual number of crime related to bus use. A majority of the crime occurred not on bus but while the victims were waiting at the bus stop or was walking to and from the stop. They also pointed out that a high percentage of crimes were not reported to police. Furthermore, they agree that a sizeable proportion of the crime occurred at a limited number of locations where environmental factors contributed to the problem.

Another study by Rohana, Mashita and Suhana in 2011 had further indicated that an urgent attention is needed especially on the development of a safe infrastructure design to aid the movement of woman in urban area as this group is considered as the most vulnerable group to crime occurrence.

Heal and Laycock (1986) supported the statement by highlighting the need to manage the environment surrounding bus stop location as they contended that it is not sufficient to ensure that people are transported from location A to B only, but it is also important (and part of service) that they are not assaulted along the way. They further added that the risk of being a crime victim normally started from the point of origin (or starting point of every journey).

Recent evidence has attempted to explain the cases of gropers within the bus services. According to Aloysius (2006) men groping women or rubbing against them while travelling in an overcrowded bus or a metro car are not rare these days in a city. She also reported that up to 70% of all female residents of megalopolises fall victims to the public transport perverts at least once in a lifetime. Unfortunately, in places like Russia, frotteur (gropers) can be brought to justice only in theory. As a rule, a lecher acts discreetly and therefore, he does not stand out in a crowd. Therefore, women in Russia who ride on the public transport like busses must cope with the problem herself. Meanwhile, in Tokyo city, the authorities had to allocate a few cars for women only to tackle the problem of frottage (gropers).

It has conclusively been shown that the safety issues surrounding the bus services are a critical matter that needs urgent attention especially when services in urban area are concerned. This is because Grieco, Pickup and Whipp (1989) contended that besides having to cope with a higher crime rate in an urban area, it is believed that for a public transport to remain competitive in the transport industry, the needs of the passengers especially the dominant users like women must first be addressed.

Nasar and Fisher (1993) had reported that designers such as architects and planners often focus on reducing crime by engaging the physical environmental approach. According to them, the approach is based on the understanding that the physical environment can be modified through planning and design in order to reduce the opportunities for crime. On the other hand, Lamya and Ali in 2006 discovered that elements such as physical layout, housing typology and the outlook of the surrounding environment directly influence crime. A study in 2007 by Anastasia and John concluded that poor physical environmental design contributes towards higher crime. A study done by Villarreal and Silva in 2006 had further concluded that a good relationship between residential community members is vital in ensuring crime rate reduction. Their study focused on relationship among the community members as crime reduction tools.

The following diagram indicates the grounded theory of crime pattern and crime prevention through environmental design used in the study to further highlight the issues of hot spot crime occurrence in urban areas for woman travellers.

Fig. 1. CPTED Theory and Crime Pattern Theory

This study focuses on the infrastructure design as well as the bus service to further examine on the travel safety issues and thus highlighting the real crime occurrence spot during the entire journey from point of origin to destination. Several environmental criminologist theories have been adopted in order to proceed with this study. Theories like Crime Pattern Theory by Brantingham and Brantingham (2005), and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design by Jefrey (1990) were considered in this study to further tap on the safety issues. The rationale for adopting such theories is to see whether the current scenario facing most Penangites further support the theory or vice versa.

2.1. Crime location

Early research in crime occurrences and transport infrastructure was carried out by Grieco et al. in 1989. They reported that among the infrastructure designs which were critical for safety reasons include the walking facilities to and from the stops, waiting at bus stops and walking to final destination.

In 2002, Levinson continued to reveal that women are more prone of being the crime victims especially snatch theft while walking or waiting at the bus stop. The situation would be worsened if they have to wait for a longer time at the bus stop or walk for a longer distance to the bus stop. In the same year, a recent research conducted by Crime Concern (2002) in Buckinghamshire, identified that fears for personal security at unlit bus stop was a major deterrent to use the public transport facilities and services.

Earlier than that, Levine and Wachs (1986) had agreed that determining the real level of crime was difficult due to factors that result in under- and overestimation of transit crimes. Crimes committed at waiting areas may not be reported as transit crimes. In their study they found that 46% of transit crime occurred on a bus, 32% occurred at the bus stop, and the rest were on the way to or from the bus stop.

In addition, one of the most significant discussions by Focas (1989) in transportation and safety is that if a woman is to travel safely, then the public transport system must first be geared towards their travel needs. Although much work has been done previously to look at the overall issues, more studies need to be conducted to examine critically the real factors that contribute towards the women travel safety issues in an urban area particularly on the commuters' satisfaction level.

Over the past century in Penang Island itself, there has been a dramatic increase in the statistics of crime being recorded. Although the reporting of crime in Penang Island does not reflect that it is a crime related to transport and women travelling by bus services, a report from the Criminal Department Unit (2005) confirmed that most of the crime happen to be at the boundary of public transport facilities provision such as along the main road, and while walking and waiting at the bus stop. Even though the reporting of crime in bus was never given any attention, the occurrence is believed to be quite high especially during peak hours of the bus usage.

Among the identified factors that were discussed through the literature review pertaining to the service characteristics and level of safety are factors like punctuality, comfortability, security, information and infrastructure design. Even though a considerable amount of literature has been published on each attribute of service characteristics and the level of safety for woman travellers, not all evidence was supported.

This study borrowed the definition of travel safety from White and Atkins. White (1986) defined travel safety as a state of user feeling safe to be on transport and terminal or stop without fear or injury or harassment. As for Atkins (1989), travel safety referred to the women's travelling with a defensive space with a minimal volume of crime occurrence of fear. Due to lack of statistics and study that focus on the hot spot crime area for woman travellers, this study proceeded to determine the real location of crime along the journey of women travellers especially in urban area.

The following section gives overall discussion on data collection method, analysis of the findings, conclusion and recommendations.

3. Methods of Data Collection

Data collection was conducted in three major urban areas in Penang Island itself namely Pulau Tikus, Jelutong and Ayer Itam. A personally administered questionnaire was used in this study because through this technique, doubt can be clarified at that particular point. Moreover, it is also considered as the cheapest and quickest source of data collection as the questionnaire could be collected immediately after they have been completed. Only women who travel by public bus to commute to work were being surveyed. The respondents were mainly asked to rate their current public bus services' characteristics in their area which consist of punctuality, comfortability, security, information and infrastructure design. Then, they were also asked to rate their feeling of safe travelling in current condition of transport service and infrastructure provision. While conducting the bus passenger survey, surveyors were located at the bus top at respective housing area (Pulau Tikus,Jelutong and Ayer Itam) in order to get the real respondents who travel by public bus. These activities lasted for 5 hours started from early morning at 6.00am to 11am for 5 days (Monday to Friday). Saturday and Sunday were excluded because Saturday and Sunday are considered as a weekend travelling. Moreover, it is rather difficult to catch those going to work on Saturday and Sunday. The main constraint or limitation of using this method is merely because of the time of answering the question. Some of the questions could not be finished by the respondents due to the bus arrivals. To overcome that, surveyors were asked to go on board with the respondents in case the questionnaire was not completed. This has resulted in a new methodology and approach use in this study that is to embark into an onboard survey where necessary.

4. Data Analysis

Table 1. shows general descriptive analysis for the woman bus riders being analysed in this study. The aspects being analysed include the age of respondents as well as respondents' monthly income.

Table 1. Demographic pattern of women bus travellers

Demography Pattern Percentage (%)

Age of respondents:

20's 24.4

30's 44.2

40's 15.6

50's 15.9


<RM500 3

RM500-RM1000 73.8

RM1000-RM1500 16.4

>RM1500 6.7

The distribution of the demographic pattern data among the age group consists of the majority of women in the age group of 30's (44.2%). This was followed by women in the age group of 20's (24.4%), women in age of 50's (15.9%) and women in the 40's (15.6%). Meanwhile, it was analysed that over 70% of the respondents were of those with earning income range RM500 - RM1000 per month. This shows that majority of the woman travellers who depended on public transportation were the ones with low

income. This situation indicates that it is important to improve the level of security in public transport services so that security issues will not be a barrier for women from lower income group to travel and improve their economic status. Some women have to be in prison in their own home due to high level of fear to travel at night or during off peak period. By having a safe public transport supply, citizens of lower income group will be able to travel with higher level of safety just like the other citizens from higher income group who travel with their private vehicles. This result has another implication beyond just the travel safety issue of women travellers in an urban area from the lower income group whereby the major shift from private transport to public transport were expected when public transport is perceived as safe by all group of commuter. Thus in the long run, the problem of grid lock in a city centre could be eliminates or at least reduce to a minimal level.

The study found that, punctuality and security are the two most important attributes indicated by most woman commuters in Penang urban areas as factors that affect their level of safety if the attributes failed to satisfy them. It was also found that woman travellers put comfortability as the attribute that would affect their safe feeling the least. Results of the mean score analysis are presented in Table 2.

Table 2. Mean score for factors that affect level of safety

Mean score(1-5)* Mode

Service attribute:

Punctuality 2.66 1

Comfortability 3.67 5

Security 2.38 1

Information 2.40 2

Infrastructure 3.51 4

*1-Most important 5-Least important

It can be seen that major implication from the result suggests that there is an urgent need to control the public transport operation system especially on the basic service operation like punctuality, security, information, comfortability and infrastructure provision. Besides that, by opting comfortability as the element that affect safety level the least while commuting by public transport, it is suggested that public bus companies should put more effort to upgrade their services by prioritising punctuality, security and information of the services than offering comfort to the commuters. This is because comfortability is woman travellers' least concern given that the main interest of this group is to travel safely with appropriate security level and punctual bus services. Table 3 presents the mean score analysis for safety level indication while travelling using the current bus services. The results show that woman commuters indicated higher level of unsafe when the bus fails to come on time (1.72) and when waiting too long at the bus stop (2.12). However, the response of feeling of safe differs for 'in the bus' (3.94) and 'travelling with ample information' (5.22) which indicates that they feel much safer in the bus and even 'safer' when they can access ample information about the services beforehand. When the respondents were asked to rate their level of safety travelling with current facilities or infrastructure design, most of them indicated higher feeling of unsafe (2.36).The implication of the results shows that woman commuters feel much safer if they can get access to information of the bus services beforehand. Not only that, to be able to reduce the waiting time spent at bus stop would also increase their level of safety. To further understand the phenomena of crime experience and crime location, the following descriptive analysis was conducted and results are presented in Table 4. Approximately, majority of the respondents surveyed indicated that

they had been both the victim and witness of crimes while travelling by bus service (80%). Only around 20% of toe total respondents for stage bus indicated 'no experience'.

In response to the location of crime, 74.2% of the respondents claimed that most crime happened 'while walking to and from stop'. Another 65.3% of the crimes reported in this survey happened 'while waiting at bus stop'. This is then followed by a large amount of crime reported to have happened while 'in the bus'(41.6%). The least reporting crime incident was when 'walking to final destination' (22%). One of the issues that emerge from these findings is that majority of women had a crime experience while travelling by bus with most of them indicated that it happened when 'walking to and from the bus stop' and 'while waiting at bus stop' and 'while being in the vehicle'. A correlation analysis was carried out among the transport service attribute and level of safety was tapped.

Table 3. Mean score for level of safety that a women experience travelling on current service characteristics

Service characteristics Mean Score (1-7)*

Service attribute: Waiting too long at the bus stop The bus fail to come on time While in the bus

Travelling with ample information

Travelling with current facilities

*1- Very unsafe 7- Very safe

Table 4. Crime experience

Crime experience attributes Stage Bus (%) Crime experience:

Been a victim 10%

Witness 17.9%

Both victim and witness 51.6%

No experience 20% Location of crime:

Walking to and from bus stop 74.2%

Waiting at bus stop 65.3%

In the bus 41.6%

Walking to final destination 22%

2.12 1.72 3.94 5.22 2.36

Table 5. Correlation analysis on service attribute

Correlation coefficient values (r )

Spearman p values

Service attribute:







"Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level

• Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level

Table 5 summarizes the correlation analysis of each of the service attributes and level of safety. The results show that all service attributes significantly affect women's level of safety with attribute like punctuality and security showing a highly significant. An implication of the results indicates that the control for standard operation of the bus especially on the management side or known as supply side is urgently needed as failure to perform this factor can cause a greater fear among the woman travellers especially those living in urban area who commute to work on daily basis.

4.1. Benefits to the society

• Improvement on the transport supply will not only benefit women, but it will also benefit the society as a whole because if women perceive that the transport is safe, so will the rest of the society. Considering that if women give up the entire night trip because of fear of crime, now they can move freely and participate in social activity.

• The perception of safe public transport especially busses in urban area will attract more people especially non-user to consider public transport when commuting into city centre is concerned. Indirectly, when people are attracted to a safe public transport, especially busses, they will shift from using private car to public transport. This in turn will reduce the congestion level that is currently faced in many urban areas.

• Moreover, being able to control the standard operation of bus services in an urban area could make a difference in actual and perceived feeling of safe.

• Enhancement to the level of security in using public transport will also protect the interest of lower income citizens, specifically woman travellers, which is to be less burdened by security issues in order to improve their economic status. Considering women's contribution to the economy and that woman travellers of lower income might refuse to go to work for fear of being assaulted in the journey, this enhancement would benefit to the local economic development at large.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

5.1. Conclusion

The main contribution of this research is the analysis of the relationship between public transport supply and women's personal travel pattern towards the travelling safely issues in an urban area. The results show that control for public transport supply are essential in understanding the fear of crime among woman travellers who possess a unique personal travel pattern. In this investigation, the aim was

to determine the factors that affect the level of safety experienced by women who travel by bus in an urban area.

The findings in this research project suggest that in general, there is a high number of women who will experience greater fear while travelling if public transport supply, including the infrastructure design, are not allocated accordingly to secure their journey. In addition to that, women's perception on public transport services shows that immediate security measures should be taken to provide safer environment for women. On top of that, comfortability was considered as the element that affects safety level while commuting by public transport the least. Hence, priority should be given to deal with woman travellers' other main concerns which include security, punctuality and ample information rather than comfortability.

Aside from that, a retrospective connection of the study with previous research has been observed in which the result of the study is in line with Levinson (2002) and Criminal Department Unit (2005) who also stated that crimes happen while walking to and waiting at the bus stop. As found in the current study, there is an urgent need to improve current transport infrastructure based on respondents' crime experiences. This is in line with Grieco et. al (1989) and Focas (1989) who stated that enhancement in current transport infrastructure is fundamental.

All in all, this study contributes to the growth of literature concerning the safety issues and current scenario of public transportation in urban areas in Malaysia. It also highlights the hot spot crime location indicated by woman travellers' who use public transport in urban areas. This in return will assist the authority for future crime prevention strategy. Future research should focus on social structure model and crime occurrences in urban area as today the trend of non citizen working in Malaysia shows an increasing trend. The research would be meaningful if all urban area were considered in order to give a holistic picture of travel safety issues among working women in Malaysia.

5.2. Recommendations

• Tighter regulation on the operation issues of bus services in urban areas should be enforced as to promote the use of public transportation.

• Setting up guideline for standard operating of bus services in urban areas so that the amount of fear while travelling could be reduced to minimum level.

• Proper planning of transport infrastructure that takes into account the travelling needs of women especially on the environmental surrounding the walking to and from the stop and waiting area should be implemented. Proper environmental design in return will not only benefit the woman travellers but also help to reduce the local crime rate.

• Future research can also be conducted to study the crime hot spot for commuters in rural areas who depend on public busses to go to target location.

• Further studies can also be done to investigate woman travellers' security concerns when using other means of public transports which include taxi, train, airplane, etc.


Heartfelt thanks to all family members and colleagues for the completion of this paper. Not to forget people from transport industry especially public bus transport operators who have contributed directly and indirectly. Utmost thanks also go to all woman travellers who have cooperated and given feedback during the field survey. Many thanks also go to Universiti Teknologi MARA Cawangan Johor for all the resources bestowed for this study.


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