Comfortably cosmopolitan? How patterns of 'social cohesion' vary with crime and fear


  • Anine Kriegler University of Cape Town
  • Mark Shaw University of Cape Town



social cohesion, fear of crime, diversity, victimisation


Achieving ‘social cohesion’ across race and class divides in South African settlements is a major challenge given the divided urban geography of apartheid. Cosmo City, a new mixed-use settlement North-West of Johannesburg, was conceived and designed for social inclusion and cohesion, albeit primarily between people of different income levels rather than race groups. Crime prevention was not a central design principle, but a number of the development’s spatial features were also thought likely to affect crime and fear of crime, either directly or as mediated by stronger social cohesion. To test the success of this initiative, a survey was administered to 400 Cosmo City households, to determine community cohesion, fear of crime, and rates of crime victimisation. Results found a strong sense of localised community pride and belonging within immediate neighbourhoods, and relatively high feelings of safety. In contrast, however, self-reported crime victimisation rates were extremely high. This may be a surprising but not unprecedented outcome of strong social cohesion, which may allow knowledge of crime incidents to spread through community networks as a shared sense of victimisation and thus raise the likelihood of survey reporting. And, while this data also suggests that greater social cohesion does not in itself reduce levels of crime, it does appear to reduce fear of crime and improve citizen’s perceptions of their own safety and well-being in a wider community.


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