Crime prevention through environmental design
The idea of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), or “designing out crime,” has been in existence since the 1960s. During this time, researchers discovered that the concepts of environmental design could be applied to security, crime prevention and safety. The physical format of a community or neighborhood, including lighting, building maintenance and layout, can affect the level of crime in that area. The ideas of natural surveillance, access control and defensible space are very important to CPTED, and students pursuing a bachelor’s in criminal justice may study the theory in school.
How does CPTED work?
Environmental design requires physical changes to a location in order to make non-physical improvements. For example, by adding lighting or removing tall, vision-blocking hedges, an area can seem more open and more secure, which may, in turn, prevent crimes from occurring there.
The theory of CPTED – CPTED, when broken down to its basic ideas, is the theory that crime is due, at least in part, to opportunities presented by the environment. By improving the location, either by making it more visible or adding security through cameras or a fence, a property owner or business can decrease the chance of crime occurring there.
Exploring the relationship between environmental design and crime - A 2010 report outlines the history of the use of spacial design in crime prevention and explains how it can be applied to landscapes and building architecture.
Building community – an environmental approach to crime prevention – A study on landscape architecture outlines the crime problems in inner-city housing developments, and makes suggestions on improving the situation through CPTED. By increasing the amount of open spaces and accessibility, row houses and similar building types can be made much more secure.
Physical environment and crime – Two sociologists created a report for the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) in 1996 addressing the theory of CPTED and made four different suggestions cities could take to alleviate crime in high-risk areas.
Various cities and communities have adopted the idea of CPTED and implemented it in order to reduce assaults and other criminal activities in the area. Criminal justice degree seekers can use these areas as examples of ways they can use CPTED in their future careers.
Learn how to “design out” crime – In Hawaii, the Department of the Attorney General offered a security seminar to teach local businesses, community members and government agencies the concepts of CPTED.
CPTED in Seattle – The Seattle Police Department practices environmental design and encourages communities to understand and utilize its uses for crime prevention.
Safety by design in zoning – In Virginia, zoning ordinances have been adapted to include CPTED in order to enhance security throughout the state. While learning about zoning ordinances is not normally part of criminology programs, students may wish to learn more about them to assist in future law enforcement careers.
Security and crime prevention - The Rocky Mountain Land Use Institute developed a strategy for reducing crime in Colorado through adapting land use codes as well as public works, such as improving cleanup time of graffiti or broken windows and other projects to improve the community’s perception of safety.
New urbanism, crime and the suburbs – A report by Paul Cozens of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at a university in Australia states that over the past 30 years, permeability has increased the opportunity for crime, and that grid-type community layouts encourage high crime-rates.
How to design for security
To follow the theory of CPTED, neighborhoods and law enforcement agencies have to understand how environmental design works. Students in criminal justice degree programs can use this information to assist them in future community justice careers.
Secured by Design – A program for housing developers, Secured by Design offers information on how to promote safety and discourage criminal activity in any neighborhood setting.
Using CPTED in problem solving – Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) developed this project to help businesses and organizations examine the potential of high-risk areas for crime, and solve problems that arise using CPTED.
Premises liability and CPTED – Businesses and property owners can limit their own liability from crime victims, as well as encourage safe environments, by practicing CPTED. The NIJ’s publication on the matter lays out laws and suggestions for environmental design.
Designing out gang homicides and street assaults – CPTED can also help neighborhoods fight gang violence and show law enforcement officials how to discourage such activities with simple design procedures as simple as placing traffic barriers in strategic locations where gangs meet.