“Don’t built it on, built it in.”
Crime is as ancient as human beings; and for ages, social scientists have incorporated and integrated laws along with religious beliefs to curb criminal tendencies in societies. Therefore, to comprehensively understand the problem and evolve its solution, crime prevention experts have developed multiple concepts and theories; like Routine Activity, Rational Choice, Broken Window, Differential Association, Pygmalion Effect, Cognitive Development, Psycho-analytics, etc.
In that course, one of the lately developed theories is Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED – pronounced sep-ted). One of the initial important works on CPTED was undertaken by an architect, Oscar Newman, who in his book “Defensible Space (1972)”, proposed a relatively new concept that the physical premises or an environment can be designed in a manner that can reduce the opportunity, frequency, and fear of crime, especially that of an opportunistic nature. He further argues that an environment is more secure when people feel and demonstrate a sense of ownership over their surroundings.
CPTED – The Four Principles
According to Newman, following four principles can help to make premises or an environment formidable against any potential crime. There are strong overlaps and synergies among these principles, and if applied appropriately, they complement and supplement each other.
Natural Surveillance – There is no doubt that criminals do not wish to be observed. Surveillance or placing of ‘legitimate eyes’ on the major part of the premises increases risks for an offender. Bushes, unnecessary visual obstructions and walls, which hinder the observation, should be kept to a minimum. A good stand-off distance between the main and the outermost point of the building also provides desired observation. Furthermore, the flow of activities should be channeled to put more people (observers) near the potentially exposed area. Windows and lighting can be placed to improve the line of sight from inside the building.
The primary aim of natural surveillance is not to keep criminals away, but rather, to keep them conspicuous, under observation and stressed, if they do not have any legitimate reason for being at a particular place.
Natural Access Control – It mostly relies on accurately planned/designed – doors, entrances, landscaping, fences, shrubs, lighting and other physical elements to keep unauthorized persons out of a particular area; for example, windows can be made difficult access points by the use of low thorny bushes or one can also design different features to reduce undesired access to roof-tops.
There are also many other techniques of channelling access; for example, ‘nonphysical’ or ‘psychological’ barriers can be used to achieve the objective. These barriers can be placed in the shape of signs, paving textures, natural extended green strips, or anything that announces an area’s integrity and individuality of an area.
This CPTED element aims to direct the flow of access towards the more observed area, resultantly decreasing the opportunity for a crime.
Natural Territorial Reinforcement – People generally mark and protect a territory that they think of as their own, and they also have respect for the defined territory of others. Strongly demarcated boundaries with elements like fences, signs, good maintenance, and landscaping are the signs to show ownership. Identifying intruders/strangers is also much easier in such a well-defined space.
For instance, the boundary walls all around the premises not only provide robust security, but also extend the sense of ownership of the property. Even outside the boundary wall, at times, a lot of security-related signage is placed to show the extended ownership of the premises, which is also one of the features of “natural territorial reinforcement”.
Maintenance and Management – This core principle of CPTED is associated with the neighborhood’s sense of pride and territorial reinforcement for their area. The more neglected an area is, it is more likely to attract criminal activities. The maintenance and the ‘image’ of an area can have a major impact on whether it will become a target or not. It is important to understand that maintenance and management are also to be considered at the design stage; for example, plant material should be selected for its size at maturity, to avoid blocking a line of sight.
Wilson and Kelling’s (CPTED experts) ‘Broken Window Theory’ is the best example of explaining this principle, i.e., leaving broken windows or any other deteriorated mark like graffiti, garbage, or abandoned equipment, containers, etc., can lead to an impression that no capable guardian is looking after the premises.
Basic Design and Management Strategies
CPTED is quite different when compared with other crime prevention or security measures, as it more specifically focuses on aspects of the premises’ design; while the other measures tend to be directed at target hardening, i.e., denying access to a target using locks and bars, or using sensors and cameras to detect and identify an offender, supported by security guards.
The four CPTED principles can be translated into various planning and design strategies that would enhance security. Some of these strategies can be characterised as follows:
– Line of sight is defined as the desired line of vision in terms of both breadth and depth of the premises. The non-availability to have a clear line of sight can be a source of feeling being unsafe, and can also help to hide an intruder. During the design phase, one should take advantage of providing opportunities ‘to see and be seen’, and this also includes opportunities to be seen from adjacent properties. Suitably lighting arrangement is also necessary for people ‘to see and to be seen’. From a security point of view, lighting that is strategically located can have a substantial impact on reducing crime as well as fear of crime.
– People feel insecure in isolated areas, but especially if they think that in those isolated places, their signs of any distress will not be seen or heard. As much as possible, isolated areas should be kept under the visual monitoring domains; but if not, then may need formal surveillance in the form of security patrol or through a CCTV system. Many organizations place their cafeteria and smoking zone towards a deserted side of the building. Thus, placing a ’safe activity’ (cafeteria and smoking zone) towards an ’unsafe location’ i.e. deserted place.
– Many buildings have toilets (for men and women), which are prone to gender crime. While using the CPTED strategy, toilets can be placed closer to reception, where normally lot of people remain available, thus placing of ’unsafe activity in the safe locations’ is achieved. Another example is while designing the placement of ATMs, safety and the security of users and machines should be considered, and that is achievable if placed close to a frequently visited area, 24/7.
– Well-designed, strategically located signs and maps contribute to a feeling of being safe. Signs should be standardized to give clear, consistent, concise, and readable messages. Having addresses lit up at night will make them even more visible and useful.
In developed countries, CPTED is a well-researched and frequently adopted concept, and the importance of CPTED compliant design is quite straightforward, as it is bound to reduce or prevent crime. This status can be achieved by the decisions we make in planning, designing, and later maintaining the premises.
In recent years, Pakistan has seen a mushroom growth of housing schemes. In many real-estate projects, especially where foreign urban planners are involved, one can see the CPTED principles fully adopted into their design plans. The concept helps to ensure that the community feels safe, and people play their part in discouraging unwanted and anti-social activities or behaviours in their area.
Considering the above narration, it’s important for the design planners to fully involve security managers in the design phase of a project so that CPTED concepts are fully integrated into the traditional security system. It is to be considered that CPTED is quite economical if incorporated at the start of the project; hence, the inability to collaborate CPTED into traditional security would lead to the use of unjustifiable resources.