Crime Prevention through Environmental Design: Making Neighborhoods Healthier and Safer

Neighborhoods Healthier And Safer
Neighborhoods Healthier And Safer

Source: Unsplash/Pixabay

 A neighborhood’s design, including layout, lighting, building and maintenance, can influence the prevalence of crime and fear. When these are present, residents’ behavior is greatly impacted – including their physical activity levels, as well as school safety and performance. Unfortunately communities don’t have the resources they need to ensure every public space and facility has adequate security systems and staff. 

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) was developed to address this constraint. CPTED considers the built environment as a tool to influence behavior and promote safety and security within a community. Specifically, CPTED concepts and strategies focus on 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 accessways are visible and foster a sense of neighborhood and familiarity. All of these design attributes help connect people and places and contribute to an overall sense of security.

 The costs associated with CPTED are primarily related to planning. This includes: natural surveillance; natural access control; territoriality—notifying residents of the boundaries of a space or facility; activity support—encouraging authorized activities in public spaces; and establishing care and maintenance standards while continuing the service. Hard costs may include incremental upgrades like new fencing, paint, lighting and landscaping/furnishings. In other cases, improved maintenance plans are the only costs 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 (CDC). Additional resources for training include the National Transit Institute local police academies and Homeland Security. 

Given recent events that have taken place across the country, public safety is on the radar for all governmental bodies (including institutions like schools). Because this approach broadly addresses human behavior as impacted by the physical environment, various local, state and federal sources are able to provide grants to fund a CPTED program. In fact, 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 and are working with community members to gather input regarding strategies to improve these public facilities. NJPHK is a statewide program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) 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 greatest cost savings when introduced ahead of new construction. 

Have questions about CPTED and how it can benefit your community? Contact us for more details. 

This post was originally published in the New Jersey State League of Municipalities website in February 2016.


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