Architecture is not designed with the intention to allow for crime to occur in or around it, yet it is the backdrop where all crime occurs. Whether it happens on a street, in a home, or in public building these spaces were all designed by someone concerned with function and flow. We often consider what types of activities we are allowing in a given space, but could we go further and consider how to make certain criminal activities inconvenient?
The concept of “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design” (CPTED) is most credited to C. Ray Jeffery, a criminologist who explored different aspects of design that would make a space feel safer.
A design should allow occupants to easily view all areas within their space. Crime is more likely to happen if the opinion is that no one is watching to stop it or enforce repercussions.
DIVERSITY OF USE: Buildings that provide more than one function make vacancy less predictable. For example, a school has one of the highest crime rates among building types because it is so obviously vacated at night.
BUILDING DESIGN: Add windows facing public spaces like alleys or corridors and keep level topography.
OBSTRUCTION REDUCTION: Limit the number of walls or corners wherever possible to create lines of sight into any given area.
LIGHTING: Increases perception and enhances people’s desire to occupy a space. Poor lighting can cover a crime or a criminal’s identity.
MOVEMENT GENERATORS: Create reasons for bystander circulation.
Imply a sense of ownership over the space to its occupants. It makes a person feel proud of the space, thus more inclined to protect it. Barriers, either suggestive or finite can instill a feeling of ownership. An archway or even a few steps can be enough to suggest the space within belongs to someone.
SELECTIVE ACCESS: Restricting the access makes those who are allowed more aware of those who are not. They can be more inclined to ask questions about why they are there and how they got there. Design can also have an effect on a bystander’s willingness to intervene–helping a neighbor is more common than helping a stranger.
CREATE A MAZE: Creating unclear or difficult paths of exit will deter outsiders, especially those trying to commit a crime. Having a clearly defined exit route or being able to backtrack is essential to them.
A method for making a space feel safe is making it feel familiar. Use materials or layouts of spaces that are easily recognizable. A public space that is organized like a home with a fireplace and throw rugs can create comfort and a desire to remain.
SUGGESTIVE BOUNDARIES: Steep slopes, stairs, or dense vegetation along boundaries can subconsciously deter intruders because of the time-consuming hassle to cross the threshold.
INCONSPICUOUS PROTECTION: Being excessively gated or guarded may have the reverse effect by causing intrigue on the value of the contents inside. It is better to hide the efforts made as to also not imply vandalism and crime happen there often.
BUFFER ZONES: A transitional space between public and private can increase the time taken to enter. Also, like a front porch, it can encourage a safe place for someone to feel like they belong while still able to socialize with others.
A space perceived to be neglected can invite crime because it displays a lack of authoritative observation. In design, it is difficult to enforce maintenance after it is already built, but what we can do, for example, is choose materials with less maintenance requirements. Also, we can avoid designing areas likely to collect trash or invite vandalism such as a long, windowless blank wall.
Whatever your design goals may be, utilizing the concepts of CPTED can benefit your project through its ability to make spaces feel safer and more secure for its residents.