• Center for Problem oriented policing

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Responding to Crime and Other Problems Using CPTED

The problem-solving process used in crime prevention through environmental design is a series of steps designed to answer four questions:

  1. What is the problem?
  2. Why here?
  3. What can be done to solve the problem?
  4. How well are we doing?

Each question represents a phase in the SARA process: scanning, analysis, response, and assessment.§ SARA serves as a framework for action; and while SARA is a good place to start, the process may need to be modified and adapted to the specific location and circumstances. The actual process depends on a variety of factors. For example, in the case of a very specific crime problem in a single location, the process need not include time to define or refine the problem. Analysis focuses on a single type of crime and, because crime data are already available for the problem site, the analysis can begin immediately.

§ For more information, see the description of the SARA process.

Additional time is required as issues become more complex, and impact larger geographic areas and greater numbers of stakeholders. In such instances it takes time to organize a problem-solving team and to collect data. It is also more difficult to find a solution that both addresses the problem and satisfies all stakeholders.

One of the key constraints may be the cost of implementation. Although many CPTED strategies are relatively cost-free and easy to accomplish in a short time frame (for example, changes to policies), other projects may require significant investments of capital and phased implementation over several years.

A general description of the four SARA phases and the steps that might be included as part of a CPTED problem-solving process are outlined in Table 1. Each phase addresses one or more aspects of the environment that are critical for employing CPTED strategies to solve the problem. Additional detail on the process is included in later sections of this guide.

The Sara ProcessTable 1: Problem-Solving with Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

1. Identify, define and investigate an existing or emerging problem.

2. Identify the stakeholders who should be engaged in problem-solving.

3. Decide on the combination of meetings and activities that will be necessary for problem-solving and create a schedule for working through the process.


4. Meet with stakeholders to clarify the problem and to define the goals and objectives for the process.

5. Collect and analyze data and information about the problem.

6. Evaluate any connections or relationships between the problem(s), and environmental conditions.


7. Establish the goals to be achieved through the implementation of crime prevention through environmental design or other strategies.

8. Identify alternative strategies for achieving the implementation goals.

9. Evaluate the social, political, legal, financial, or technological feasibility of implementing each strategy.

10. Select the most promising strategies, and create and adopt a plan for improvement that identifies specific strategies, defines financial and other resource requirements, assigns responsibility for implementation and oversight, outlines a schedule for plan implementation, and establishes indicators of success.§

11.Put the most promising and feasible measure(s) into place. A combination of immediate responses, short-term improvements, and long-term investment may be required.


12. Monitor progress relative to the indicators of success specified in step #10.

13. Decide if the process needs to be repeated due to lack of progress or the emergence of new problems.

§ In A Manual for Crime Prevention Through Planning and Design, Kruger, Landman and Liebermann (2001) suggest a plan based on (1) urgency or need; (2) the likelihood for success; (3) the potential for positive impacts in other areas; (4) cost; and (5) resource availability.

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