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urbanization and crime: A study of Udi Local Government Area (LGA) in Enugu State

Project topic for Criminology department.



1.1       Background to the Study

According to Webster dictionary, urbanization refers to the social process whereby cities grow and societies become more urban. Urbanization relates to the shift from a rural to an urban society, and involves an increase in the number of people in urban areas during a particular year (Brennan, 1999). It is the process of altering land uses to create and further develop urban centres. It is the progressive concentration of population in towns and cities.

At the regional end, the process proceeds in two ways, namely, through an increase in the number of towns and as a result of the increase in the size of individual towns. Although urbanization is a universal phenomenon, the definition of an urban centre differs from one country to another, and even within the same country, and over time. The 1991 census in Nigeria, for example, defined an urban area as any settlement with 20,000 persons or more (NPC, 1998). The most obvious effect of urbanization - an effect which is implicit in its definition is an intensification, as well as diversification, of environmental resource exploitation. There are usually changes in the land cover and landscape pattern brought about by the shift from less intensive to more intensive uses of land. This relates, particularly, to energy, water and agricultural land, as well as basic construction materials, such as sand, clay, stone and wood, all of which are extracted from the environment (Carvalho & Prandini, 1998). Nearly always, however, such diversification of environmental resources exploitation is accompanied by an increase in environmental degradation. By environmental degradation, it is meant the long-term loss in ecosystem function and productivity. Its symptoms include soil erosion, nutrient depletion, salinity, water scarcity, pollution, disruption of biological cycles, and loss of biodiversity. Urban land degradation obviously is more marked in developing countries, which are characterized by high and largely uncontrolled urbanization rate. This is a global development and environmental issue recognised by the UN Convention to Combat Desertification, the Conventions on Biodiversity and Climatic Change, and the Millennium Goals (UNCED, 1992). Within the global context, Africa is generally assessed as a rural and the least urbanized continent, with the antecedent high rate of slum development, crime, underdevelopment as well as overpopulation (UNCHS, 2007). However, in most recent time, current trends suggested that Africa’s rate of urbanization is two times faster than Latin America and Asia (Tannerfeldt, 1995; UNCHS, 2007). Globally, rapid urbanization is a major public and environmental health challenge for the twenty-first century. In Africa, urbanization appears not to have translated to both proportionate economic growth and better welfare for the citizens or healthy environment (Kjellstrom and Mercado, 2008). For instance, out of the twenty countries identified by the United Nations as possessing the lowest Human Development Index (HDI) in 2005, about 19, representing 95 percent, are in Africa. Conservative estimates indicated that within the next two decades, 87 percent of the population growth in Africa will take place in urban areas, out of which about 55 percent would be living in urban areas (Daramola and Ibem, 2010).

In view of the implications of the increasing urban population for sustainable development in developing countries, the 2002 Johannesburg’s World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) called on all governments to address the overwhelming challenge of not only provision of urban basic services, but to take concrete measure at redressing  environmental degradation that has already occurred while conserving remaining resources.While continents like Europe and the Americas have stabilised their population growth and economy to a large extent, and to strive to containing environmental degradation, most countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America have, in the last few decades, not been able to do so (UNHABITAT, 2003).

Urbanization is a process whereby towns grow naturally or through migration and their societies become urban. Urbanization happens as the result of people migrating into urban areas seeking economic opportunities and improving their living conditions, especially in the developing countries. This is because urban areas have most of the facilities and employment corridors provided to make life more comfortable. This phenomenon developed rapidly, particularly in Africa and Asian sub-regions where people from neglected rural areas migrate to the urban areas expecting employment and better living conditions. Knight and Gunatilaka (2007) stated that a migrant takes into account the probability of obtaining a desired urban employment at any time. In another study, Soh (2012) supported the idea that it is in urban areas where all the facilities are well built to make human life more comfortable, and the main attraction of urban is easy access to wealth. Harris and Todaro (1970) described it as “proceeds in response to urban-rural differences in expected earning”. Although, in certain cases, many urban immigrants assumed they will secure employment, when usually it is not the case. Instead, they meet a cost of living that is much higher or rather difficult than that of their experience back in rural areas.

Impulsive crime also takes place in areas where there are high population densities, swift changes in social environments and poor living conditions. For instance, many immigrants in urban areas experience new urban life where relationship is based on momentary, superficial and impersonal interactions. This then produce anonymity among urban dwellers, diabolical socio–economic, high cost of living and socially disorganized, thereby turning some to steal, rob, become drunkards, drug pushers and prostitutes to make ends meet. This idea is supported by Soh (2012), who states that “secondary relations eventually lead to family breakup, alcoholism, crime, and other negative aspects of urban life”. Although he further clarified that, ‘urban life does not automatically lead to social disorganization, but it does increase the opportunities to be exposed to deviance and negative effects on one's behaviour as there are many promoters of such acts, or else when the condition warrants it. Therefore some other factors cause urban crimes in all its ramifications other than urbanization.

Urban areas are regarded as centres of opportunities that have become engines for economic growth, centres of diversity and changes. In urban areas the residents live, work and interact within their confined physical environment, matching up with criminal prospects rendered themselves within these same confined environments which instilled fear into the minds of many. Criminal activities have no respect and barrier to people's socio-economic status and at all stages of civilization. In recent decades crime has become a universal phenomenon in its varying forms in all cultures. Prevalent of crime in urban areas make it seen as a space of geographical fear for many and the fear is not restricted to one's age, class, gender or race. Urban stability and sustainability has been connected to safety of securing and policing of urban areas. Issues of personal safety and security became linked with urban ‘liveability’ and ‘quality of life’ and addressing crime has become a significant benchmark for a city's quality of life (England & Simon, 2010; Tretter, 2013; Ahmed & Salihu, 2013).

1.2       Statement of the Problem

Most urban cities of the world have experienced a remarkable rapid urban growth resulting from industrialization and technological advancement. In Nigeria industrialization and unplanned urbanization characterizes the economic and social growth processes. The resultant effect is that the quality of the urban environment is above crisis situation. The spatial expression of these realities and the consequence of spontaneous urbanization with the uncontrolled growth pattern in most of the urban cities are manifested in diverse urban problems such as urban decay where visible forms of drug use, anti – social behaviour and criminal damage to public and private properties are the order of the day (Gibbons, 2004). This however, leads to fear and insecurity of lives. Hence, Glaser and Sacerdote (1999); Bannister and Fyfe, (2001) noted that the fear of crime is closely related to densely populated and built environment. Crime and the fear of crime affect many aspect of everyday life in our cities. This promotes insecurity and anxiety in most cases. In Nigeria especially in the urban areas people live in fear. Burglary, armed robbery, “yahoo yahoo” kidnapping and other forms of crime are the other of the day. Gibbons (2004) opined that no matter the nature of crime, it will have dynamic effect driven by household location decision which in turn affects the price of properties. Hence the demand for low – crime neighborhoods is revealed in a property (Social Exclusion Unit, 2001). For instance studies of Los Angeles inner city corridors found that crime was the prominent concern of residence in the area. Consequently, a potential renter or buyer of house would always be concerned with the crime rate in a neighborhood before making their choice. Hence in high crime area rental or sales value tend to decline. Social Exclusion Unit (2001) noted that areas with high crime and unemployment rates acquire poor reputations as properties in the areas are in bad condition and hence attracts low values. Much work has been done to determine the effect of crime on property values in the developed country (Haurin and Brasington, 1996; Patras and Greebaumt, 2006; Patras, 2007). In Nigeria, little or no effort has been made in this direction. It is against this background that this study was undertaken.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

  • To find out the types of criminal activities committed in urban areas.
  • To examine how people perceive crime in urban areas.
  • To find out the factors influencing crimes in the urban areas.
  •  To suggest strategies that can be adopted to reduce crime in urban areas.

1.4       Research Questions

The study sought to answer the following questions;

 1.   What types of criminal activities are committed in urban areas?

2.     How do people perceive crime in urban areas?

3.   What are the factors influencing crimes in the urban areas?

4.   What strategies can be adopted to reduce crime in urban areas?

1.5       Significance of the Study

Despite efforts by the government, civil society and the international community to address runaway crime, available (police-sourced) statistical evidence point to a growing spike in crime commission across the country. The offenders are relatively younger individuals who participate in armed criminal activities exacerbated by the proliferation of small arms and weapons. The youth are the most important resource for the nation in order to achieve the Vison 2030, therefore involvement in crime diminishes the number of productive youth in the economy thereby endangering the achievement of the nations’ development plan.

The nation depends greatly on oil as a significant contributor to the gross domestic product. The increase in crime in the metropolitan areas where majority of the large hotels are puts the tourism and hospitality sector at risk as more and more tourists avoid the urban centers due to increased cases of armed robbery. This has a negative impact on tourism rates thereby affecting employment opportunities for those employed in the sector both directly and indirectly. There is need therefore to explore the factors contributing youth involvement in violent crime in the low urban setting environment in order to mitigate the increasing cases of violent crime in Kenya’s urban areas.

1.6       Scope of the Study

The scope of the study seeks to deliberately delineate the boundaries of the study (Onodugo, 2010). In this research work, treating the problems as a whole will be too much for the requirement of this work. Therefore, Udi Local Government Area in Enugu is used for the analysis of the work to determine urbanization and crime in Nigeria.

1.8       Definition of Terms

Counterfeiting: This is the act of applying or deliberately making something to be exactly like the original in order to deceive.

Crime: This is an unlawful act punishable by a state or other authority

Forgery: This is the act of making or writing fraudulent initiations falsifying or altering any writing for the purpose of doing injury to another person whether natural or corporate.

Fraud:  For the purpose of this study, it can simply be defined as a conscious premeditated action of a person or group of persons with the intention of altering the truth or facts for selfish personal monetary gains.

Urbanization: The process of making an area more urban.

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