Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

What is 'Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design'?

‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’ (CPTED) is a crime prevention theory focusing on tactical design and the effective use of the built environment, which when applied, reduces both crime and the fear of crime. A main objective of CPTED is to reduce/remove the opportunity for crime to occur in an environment, and promote positive interaction with the space by legitimate users. CPTED is a preventative, pro-active model, and not a reactive one.

CPTED is a crucial element of the service that Design for Security provide, and the benefits are optimal when the strategy is applied in the earliest possible stage of the design process, before integral design decisions are set in stone. CPTED however, should not operate alone as the sole crime prevention method; and instead should work in conjunction with other social, environmental and community-based strategies.

CPTED comprises five principles: i) physical security ii) surveillance; iii) movement control; iv) management and maintenance and v) defensible space

Physical security: the measures which are used on individual dwellings to ensure that they withstand attack.

Surveillance: design ensuring that residents are able to observe the areas surrounding their home. Surveillance can be facilitated by ensuring that front doors face onto the street; that areas are well illuminated and blank walls are avoided.

Movement control: the restriction of access, egress and through movement. High levels of through movement allow offenders to access and egress an area; permits identification of targets and increases anonymity.

Management and maintenance: the processes are in place to ensure that a development is free from signs of disorder. This signals that the area is cared for.

Defensible space: the ownership of space in a neighbourhood should be clearly defined. For example: public (e.g. pavement); semi-public (e.g. front garden); semi-private (e.g. rear garden) and private (e.g. inside the home).

Furthermore, there are 3 ways in which the physical environment may be managed in order to reduce the opportunity for crime:

  • Natural – inclusion of basic security and behavioural provisions, influencing how spaces/buildings are used (e.g. definition of borders, windows for surveillance).
  • Organised – formal, human security (e.g. police, patrols).
  • Mechanical – incorporation of security hardware (e.g. CCTV, locks, lighting).

In summary, CPTED focuses on the natural crime prevention strategies which good design can account for. Mechanical and labour-intensive ‘bolt-on’ strategies are only added as a last resort when other options are exhausted.

If police expertise is engaged in the design and planning process and the principles of CPTED applied, opportunities for crime and disorder, and consequent calls for service, are reduced and safer communities are created.