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March 2016 Featured Article

Featured Article

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design:  Making Neighborhoods
Healthier and Safer
Triad Associates

A neighborhood’s design, including layout, lighting, building, and maintenance, can influence the prevalence of crime and fear. This implication greatly effects behavior, often impacting residents’ physical activity levels, mobility options, as well as school safety and performance. The necessary resources to ensure every public space and facility have adequate security systems and security staff are not available. Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) was developed to address this constraint. Through the design of the immediate environment, municipalities and government agencies can truly do more with less.

Crime prevention through environmental design considers the built environment as a tool for promoting safety and security within the context of the surrounding environment. Specifically, CPTED concepts and strategies use the three interrelated principles of natural surveillance, natural access and territoriality, plus activity support and maintenance.   This means that buildings are designed to maximize “eyes on the street”, ensure that access ways are visible and foster a sense of neighborhood and familiarity. All of these design attributes help to connect people and places and contribute to a sense of security.

The costs in CPTED implementation are primarily soft. Risk assessments are conducted, residents and stakeholders are surveyed and designs are created. Five key strategies emerge from this process: natural surveillance, natural access control, territoriality (notifying users and non-users of the boundaries of a space/area or facility), activity support (encouraging authorized activities in public spaces), establishing care and maintenance standards and continuing the service. Hard costs in many instances consider incremental upgrades like new fencing, paint, lighting and landscaping/furnishings. In other cases, improved maintenance plans are all that are required.

Training for CPTED implementation is available from government agencies like the Transportation Safety Institute (TSI) a training program within the United States Department of Transportation. CPTED courses may also be offered by other agencies like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention as well as educational institutions. Additional resources for training would include the National Transit Institute local police academies and Homeland Security.

Because this approach broadly addresses human behavior as impacted by the physical environment, various local, state and federal sources are able to share grant sources to fund and assist a CPTED program. Public safety, after all, is on the radar for all governmental bodies including institutions like schools. The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) awards Teens, Crime and the Community (TCC) grants for this work, in addition to foundations like Case, GE Healthcare, Disney and the Tiger Woods Foundation.

Through the New Jersey Partnership for Healthy Kids (NJPHK), the City of Camden recently applied CPTED concepts to urban uses. They conducted park tours to assess crime and vandalism in the parks and are working with community members to gather input from the community about strategies to improve these public facilities. NJPHK is a statewide program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation with technical assistance and direction provided by the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance. 

Environmental design through infrastructure, building orientation/access and landscape architecture can provide or restrict movement and visibility within public areas. For the purpose of defining a space, CPTED empowers citizens to further health and safety policies more effectively than any top-down approach from government agencies. Ideally, this technique offers the most cost savings when introduced ahead of new construction.

Published March 2016.

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