Power of Maroon: Leadership Spotlight
Dr. Derek Paulsen, associate professor in Criminal Justice and Police Studies and director of the EKU Center for Crime and the Built Environment, is featured in this ongoing series designed to allow EKU leaders and others in prominent positions to discuss their roles as well as campus issues. Paulsen, who joined the EKU faculty in 2002, holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Florida State, a master’s degree in police studies from EKU and a Ph.D in criminal justice from Sam Houston State University. He regularly teaches undergraduate courses in crime mapping, crime and the “built environment,” cybercrime, and terrorism and technology, as well as graduate courses about the analysis of data analysis, urbanization, crime and urban planning, communities and crime, and urban growth and crime.
What is meant by "Built Environment”?
Built Environment is a phrase that is commonly used to refer to the man-made aspects of our environment that provide the setting for human interaction. The built environment ranges in scale from small rural homes to large urban developments and covers a range of items including roads, housing, retail developments and even parks and pedestrian trails. The importance of the built environment is its impact on basic human activity and interaction, including criminal activity and crime patterns. Traditionally, the built environment has been the sole domain of architects, urban designers, and urban planners, but recently its study and design is increasingly being influenced by geographers, public health specialists and criminologists.
What is the Center's mission and how does it plan to achieve it?
The Center focuses on promoting design and planning of buildings, neighborhoods and communities that reduce opportunities for crime, promote safety, and are socially sustainable. In addition, the Center seeks to increase and improve the use of spatial analysis by police agencies as a problem analysis tool. In meeting its goal, the center focuses on research, evaluation and assistance in the design and planning of buildings, neighborhoods, and communities that promote livability and social sustainability. In addition, the Center provides crime mapping assistance to police agencies and is the research and advisory partner for the Safe by Design program. Some of the major focal points of the Center include:
- Evaluations of new and innovative design and planning techniques as they relate to reducing opportunities for crime and promoting safety.
- Research on the planning, design and creation of socially sustainable affordable housing. In particular, to provide research on new and innovative methods to provide safe and socially sustainable affordable market rate and public housing.
- Research on current issues in planning and urban design as they relate to safety and social sustainability. Particular areas of interest include New Urbanism, Transit Oriented Design, Sprawl, and Gentrification.
- Continued research and promotion of the Safe by Design program.
- Promotion of innovative crime analysis and crime mapping techniques in local and state police agencies.
What academic disciplines might the Center encompass?
Because of the goals and mission of the Center, it is by nature interdisciplinary. Our hope is that as the Center grows and matures, we will involve faculty from across the campus in research and service projects. Disciplines that are natural for partnership are Geography, Construction Management, Environmental Health Sciences and Safety Security and Emergency Management. In addition, we are hoping to create partnerships with academic units outside the University. One such partnership that we are already working on is with the College of Design at the University of Kentucky, with whom we recently co-sponsored a conference on Sustainable Communities in Lexington.
What does it mean for a community to be socially sustainable?
Socially sustainable communities are communities that succeed now, economically, socially and environmentally, and respect the needs of future generations. They are well-designed places where people feel safe and secure; where crime and disorder, or the fear of crime, doesn’t undermine quality of life or community cohesion. Importantly, for a long time urban planning and urban design has ignored this human component when designing communities.
Why is it important that a community become socially sustainable?
Social sustainability is important because, if communities are not designed to be livable and address basic human needs they cannot be sustainable from an environmental standpoint. In particular, a community can be designed to be as “green” as possible from an architectural, planning and urban design standpoint, but if it is not livable and safe, the community will decline and ultimately fail. Importantly, while there has been a lot of focus recently on green building through LEED standards and Energy Star ratings, there has been little to no thought about ensuring the social sustainability of the built environment.
How can the design of neighborhoods promote and enhance health behaviors and safety?
As researchers from a wide variety of disciplines are increasingly discovering, the built environment can influence a wide variety of human actions and functions. Specifically, urban design has been linked to obesity and chronic health issues, traffic congestion, social isolation and concentrated poverty. Importantly, from a crime perspective, poor urban design can facilitate opportunities for criminal victimization and contribute to neighborhood decline and urban blight.
Going forward, what are your hopes and dreams for the Center?
As the Center moves forward we hope to accomplish several goals both in the short term and long term. In the short term, we hope to increase the amount of interdisciplinary research we are doing and create more partnerships with researchers and practitioners both at EKU and in Kentucky in general. In addition, we hope to get more involved in service projects, with a particular focus on involving undergraduate students in research and policy analysis as it relates to urban planning, urban design and crime. In the long term, we hope to build the reputation of the Center nationally and internationally as a source of sound research, evaluation and policy analysis for socially sustainable communities. Finally, we hope to build the Safe by Design program into a more national program as it is in England, where it has been in existence for over 20 years and has been quite successful.