Crime and the Built Environment

Posted on Jun 23, 2015 in Featured

Have you ever considered the way that the architecture and design of an environment can either deter or attract criminal activity? Police presence and community engagement are very important but, when addressing issues of crime prevention, cities need to consider the built environment, as well. Keep Cincinnati Beautiful has been active in this arena for years, applying the principles of CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) into all of our litter prevention and beautification projects.

Have you heard of CPTED?

cpted Image courtesy of CitySpot

CPTED approaches crime prevention from a purely environmental design framework. In basic terms, it applies the elements of Natural Surveillance, Natural Access Control, Territorial Reinforcement, and Maintenance to both private and public areas in order to deter crime. Let me offer some examples.

Natural Surveillance provides clear sightlines for extra “eyes on the street” and social interaction. Examples include permeable fencing rather than “privacy fences,” clear and open treelines, streetside windows, and properly-lighted pedestrian walkways.

Natural Access Control directs pedestrian traffic and limits access. Examples include clear access points and gateways, limited vertical access to upper floors (“natural ladders”), and wayfinding systems to direct pedestrian traffic.

Territorial Reinforcement sets boundaries between public/private space and for appropriate activities. Examples include clear signage and security system markers, ownership designations, purposeful attractions and activities in public spaces, as well as owner and resident presence.

Maintenance reinforces a sense of ownership and concern for a place. Examples include beautification and aesthetic improvements, timely repairs, and general upkeep.

Crime prevention might not seem directly connected to the mission of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, but we know that crime and blight are directly linked. If we want a clean and safe city, we need to address the physical symptoms of urban decay (blight, litter, graffiti, illegal dumping, etc.) with a more comprehensive vision for the way our public and private spaces are used and designed. This requires a strategy like the one CPTED provides.

Can you think of any areas in your community that could benefit from the CPTED principles?
Can you think of an area that already successfully applies CPTED principles?

The next time you’re walking down your street or sidewalk, take a closer look!