Architecture can influence where criminals set up shop

If drug dealers shopped for real estate, Jeff Rodrigues of the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department could make a killing showing them around town.

For the past five years, Rodrigues, an urban planning specialist with the Sheriff's Department, has been looking at buildings with a crook's eye.

Architecture alone can't keep crime out of a neighborhood, Rodrigues said, but it can influence where criminals set up shop.

A Bee analysis of crime reports by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department shows that from September 2007 to September 2008, six of the top 30 addresses where crimes were committed in the unincorporated county were apartment complexes. Together, they accounted for about 350 separate crimes including drug possession, assault and burglary, according to the sheriff's records.

On a recent tour of several south Sacramento apartment complexes the department considers to be magnets for criminal activity, Rodrigues found design flaws that he says contribute to crime.

At one complex, he pointed to a looping driveway that rings the back of the buildings. Two gates provide entrance points to the rear parking lot where residents keep their vehicles. In theory, the gates keep intruders out, Rodrigues explained, but it wasn't the case here.

"Notice the gate is left open," he said. "The gate gets broken here so much it's cheaper just to leave it like that."

Drug dealers, Rodrigues explained, like this configuration because it limits police access into a complex. By posting a lookout at both entrances, they can serve customers inside and have enough time to escape in case police come, he said.

"With a two-way entrance, you get drive-through dope sales," Rodrigues said.

Read the complete story at