CPTED: Crime prevention through environmental design for safer cities

All we long for is to feel safe all the time, to live in our homes peacefully, to step out of our homes without any fear. We need to prevent crimes in order to feel safe and not find the solutions to punish the criminals.
But, are we really safe in our cities? The pick-pocketing in crowded areas has increased, no one feels safe leaving a woman alone at night in their own homes forget about stepping out at night. These are only a few examples.

CPTED makes it possible to focus on this issue and find pleasing solutions without affecting the normal use of any space. 

Do we need to wait for crimes to happen and take action? Why not prevent it in the first place?
Architecture, design, and urban cities are generally overlooked but play a very important role to prevent crime. A well thought proper design can bring out safer cities and increases the quality of life by reducing fear.

In this article today we are going to look at key planning issues that lead to crime and what are the measures to tackle them.

What are the reasons or planning issues that provoke crime?

If we see most of the crimes happen in abandoned buildings, blindspots, and neglected spaces which are generally isolated from the cities. But this doesn’t mean the crowded areas are safe. 

Why are cities not safe?

  • Abandoned buildings- Abandoned buildings are the magnet for crimes. Even on the busiest roads, the abandoned sites increase the risk of crimes. Spaces with no purpose to serve become the blind spots, there are many examples of crimes in such places. 
  • Mono functional zones- Single use areas like industrial parks, commercial zones, that are not always occupied makes it unsafe during the off time. 
  • Lack of clear sight- Even the public spaces are not safe because of the lack of visual  connection between the buildings and roads. 

Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)-

The purpose of CPTED is to make the spaces safe and reduce the fear of crime with the help of design. This helps in improving the quality of life. 

CPTED principles- 

There are four CPTED principles that can be applied in our cities and built environments during the time of planning and designing. 

1. Natural Surveillance-

Why is natural surveillance important in architecture and urban cities? 

The idea behind this is that criminals do not wish to be seen. Imagine if someone is watching you, will you do anything wrong? When there are eyes on you it stops you from doing wrong things and that is why natural surveillance is so important for safer cities. 

“Natural surveillance” or “eyes on the street” increases the risk of getting caught.

There are many ways which can help us achieve natural surveillance-

  • Eliminate hiding spots- The removal of obstructions and providing a clear vision in buildings and cities that does not create blind spots so that criminals don’t see crime opportunities. 
  • Proper lit areas- The appropriate amount of light in buildings, entrances, streets which gives a clear vision from everywhere. At the same time avoid too bright lights that can create blinding glare and deep shadows. 
  • Windows- A window in a building not only has a purpose of proper light and ventilation but also to keep an eye on what is happening in spaces around you. Bigger trees in front of windows can become an obstacle; low wedges work best around windows.
  • Obstacles in private space- The difficulty of access in the private spaces so that not anyone can enter the space easily. 

2. Natural Access Control-

Natural access control limits the access of unauthorized persons to enter into a particular area. By differentiating the spaces, defining the circulation, creating the barriers; the access of users can be controlled.

A design defines or decides how that space is going to be used, how one is going to circulate in that space. 

There are few things that can be incorporated in our designs for natural access control-

  • Define the spaces- Defining the entry and exit points, pathways, landscape, forces the users to move accordingly. It restricts the users to enter into unauthorized spaces. 
  • Building restrictions- The buildings should be designed in such a way that it diverts people to a public space like receptions, lobby etc. to avoid the direct access to private spaces. 

3. Territorial reinforcement- 

Protecting a territory creates social control by an increased definition of spaces. Differentiating the private and public spaces create a sense of ownership in private spaces which makes it easy to identify the intruders in that particular space. 

What are the ways to achieve territorial reinforcement-

  • Setting boundaries- Providing physical elements likes fences, landscape, pavements between private and public spaces. 
  • Psychological barriers- Signages, boards, art, etc. makes users aware of the restrictions.

4. Maintenance and management-

A well-maintained space sends a signal that this place is being watched. Let’s understand this with a ‘broken window theory’, the idea behind this is that if a window is broken it invites criminals to break another one. This is one of the reasons that abandoned buildings see more no. of crimes. 

Some other ways that can help make the cities safe and prevent crime-

  • Mixed-use zoning-
    The separation of areas as per their function has destroyed the culture of street life. In the past, cities were divided into zones as per their function to make cities less crowded but this became one of the reasons for an increase in crime. 
    Mixed-use zoning brings out more people in that area, it becomes like a small village with all the facilities. More activities in a particular area bring in more people and this is one way to increase natural surveillance. 
  • Connect the spaces-
    As important it is to connect the two spaces by physical means like pathways, it is equally important to add on the visual connection. 

Obstructions are the first thing that blocks our view, stops us from seeing things that already exist. Using architecture and design can be one of the best ways to reduce crime. Crime happens because there are possibilities for that, what if we reduce the possibilities?

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