Neighborhood Vulnerability to Security Threats in Benin City: The Role of Informal Housing and the Built Environment


  • Justin Eduviere Agheyisi
  • Iro Aghedo


There is a climate of insecurity in Nigeria owing to pervasive violent crime across the country. Although the wide socio-economic gap between the rich and the poor, high rate of unemployment, and governance deficit are blamed for rising insecurity, analysts often neglect the role of the built environment. Informal housing and unplanned neighborhoods are often stigmatized as spaces of crime in the global South. Drawing from the conceptual framework of permeability and crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), we investigate the vulnerability of residential neighborhoods to security threats in Benin City. Vulnerability was interrogated at two levels. At the neighborhood level, our findings showed that environmental risk factors associated with informal housing and incremental development render the neighborhoods permeable and limit crime policing. At the residential level, our findings revealed that inappropriate target hardening limits natural surveillance and communal use of outhouse facilities renders homes indefensible. Situational crimes such as burglary and robbery are high in the absence of regular police patrols and neighborhood watch. Conclusions point to the need to incorporate informal housing and environmental risk factors into CPTED literature in the context of the cities in the global South, establishment of neighborhood or community policing to partner with the Nigerian police in crime fighting, and settlement upgrading to enhance natural surveillance, police patrol and rapid response to distress calls in the event of criminal attacks.