CPTED has been with us for over 60 years and was initially a crime prevention approach based on the theory that the built environment influences the behaviour of people. Fundamentally, the proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the incidence and fear of crime, thereby improving the quality of life. The initial idea arose through the writing of journalist Jane Jacobs (1961) who wrote that we could use physical environments to reduce crime. The CPTED name itself was initially coined 10 years later in 1971 by Professor C. Ray Jeffery, and later expanded by Architect Oscar Newman in his book on Defensible Space (1972).
CPTED has rightly advanced in the past 60 years but really only more recently with 2nd Generation and 3rd Generation enhancements. CPTED in its first iteration dealt with physical/architectural environments. In its second iteration it incorporated neighbourhood-based social environments, and, in its third iteration, cultural and psychological environments. These are all positive developments building on the original foundation. The complexity of CPTED and the importance of professional distillation, and professional partnership collaboration, is reinforced by this growth. The problem as I see it is that too many older
school advocates practicing CPTED, are still entrenched in its 1st Generation iteration and selling CPTED short. Unless this changes CPTED is in danger of becoming discredited or continuing to pick up the crumbs at the budget table.
In hindsight, those reflecting will observe that the original CPTED was narrow and crime prevention-focused, at the expense of criminality prevention focus. 2nd and 3rd generation CPTED iterations rightly put ‘crime’ and ‘criminality’ under the same lens. Only by viewing through the broader crime reduction lens can the required and sustainable safer community outcome be achieved.
I have been a CPTED practitioner for over 30 years. In that time, I have continually developed my knowledge, skills, and abilities. I qualified as a Police Architectural Liaison Officer in 1999. In 2006 I received a City and Guilds Institute of London Licentiate Award in Environmental Design and Crime Prevention. Between 2006 and 2009 I became a core member of the UK Association of Chief Police Officers Crime Prevention Design Group, and a contributing member of Secured by Design. In 2017 I became a SAFE Design Accredited Professional (SAFE-AP™) and in 2022 was elected a Fellow of the SAFE Design Council. I have been an ASIS International, board-Certified Protection Professional (CPP®), since 2019.
I wanted to share some snap thoughts from my experiences as a CPTED Practitioner and also to provide some insights on key observations.
I have often seen CPTED misinterpreted as applicable to existing facilities only. Although It does have a function as an after-market solution (primarily out of doors), it is fundamentally and primarily intended to influence new build development projects before the digger hits the dirt. There are both pre- build and post-build, applications.
I have seen CPTED applied to existing facilities, with positive impacts, despite the opportunity to impact before the digger hits the dirt, being missed. Re-design, re-develop, re-orient, and change functionality, all using design-based approaches.
I have collaborated with architects and developers on land use and master plans leading the safety and security strategy for major industrial and commercial developments. Collaboration with and frank exchanges with architects over plans and designs is not only gratifying but also ‘essentially necessary’, rather than left to ‘maybe if we have time to look’. Sadly, until there is a statutory requirement for CPTED in the planning and permitting process, it will be down to, choice, then only if there is available budget and time, then for most design professionals, it must not be to the detriment of aesthetics, and even then, it may be ignored.
I have seen how design that does not factor in community safety or remove criminogenic features, at the design phase, fosters offending behaviour, increases crime and nuisance, and places a preventable response, and cost burden on law enforcement, and other public services. Further, it compromises the safety of first responders and citizens.
I have seen how poor design encourages a lack of maintenance and care which is infectious, changes our activation of public space motivation, and how the exercising of ownership and territoriality dissipates as a consequence. Neighbourhood’s give off positive and negative signals, and we respond accordingly.
I have seen offenders take ownership of inactive spaces and watched an elevation in victimization result. Fearful law-abiding citizens vacate natural outdoor spaces and take their surveillance capability behind closed doors.
I have seen CPTED Principles applied by security professionals and law enforcement that are too narrowly focused and fail to take in the bigger community and social picture. I do subscribe to security professionals leading existing build CPTED supported by design professionals and design professionals leading new build projects supported by security professionals.
I have seen CPTED applied without consideration of risks, threats, and adversaries. Applied without any consideration of the likely offender, and reliant purely on texts and case studies, to underpin the viability of recommendations. I know that effective CPTED cannot be based on theoretical study alone. In fact, it is reckless to do so. Risk is a vital component for proportionality. Consultation with law enforcement and access to data and criminal offender behaviour knowledge is essential.
I have seen CPTED applied in professional design circles, without security profession or law enforcement consultation, and opportunities to enhance community safety and reduce or deter crime attractors lost. This happens far too often with mission creep into this area by other professions. Distillation is the best route forward.
I have seen CPTED applied with no consideration given to social or environmental impacts and planning decisions made without neighbourhood impact or crime attraction evaluation. I have seen property developments parachuted into grey sites in urban centres, with no consideration as to crime context, negative connectivity, existing community crime and nuisance movement dynamics.
I have seen how the absence of security and safety inputs at the design phase negatively impacts private sector organizations economically. In numerous cases actually sending business to the wall and forcing them to close.
I have used physical design techniques to help the recovery and improvement in the quality of retail parks, industrial parks, residential areas, and many other locations. In so doing I have seen an increased margin in private business, increased direct employment, and new business opportunities.
What I do know is that applied with a full spectrum CPTED approach that addresses crime and criminality, it has positive community safety outcomes, especially going into 2023. Give me, Mike Franklin, a call at Lions Gate, and I can walk and clearly talk you through your new build or existing build project. 604-383-0020.