• Center for Problem oriented policing

POP Center Tools Using CPTED in Problem Solving Page 8

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CPTED and the Problem-Solving Process: Re-Examining the Three Introductory Cases

The introduction of this guide used three cases to illustrate the potential applications of crime prevention through environmental design as a problem-solving tool. The guide then offered an overview of CPTED principles and a guide for problem-solving, including data collection, stakeholder participation, and the evaluation of crime-environment relationships. This section returns to those three original cases as a way to examine the process in greater detail. As a reminder the three problems are:

Case #1: Smoking, drinking and vandalism in a high school lavatory.

Case #2: Graffiti on the back wall of an office center.

Case #3: Robbery of nighttime ATM patrons.

Table 3 examines each of these cases in greater detail. The table is divided into four rows, one for each step of the SARA process, and each row is divided into the steps of a CPTED analysis. For example, scanning includes understanding the problem, identifying stakeholders, and deciding on a process to engage stakeholders in problem-solving. While items like stakeholder interviews are consistent across the three cases, each case has its own unique set of stakeholders. The high school case could also make use of a CPTED task force for problem-solving.

The analysis row offers some detail on the kinds of data that could and should be collected. In the first two cases (both of which are about vandalism), maintenance reports rather than crime reports are critical. Population data are not necessary for the school case because this problem involves only the high school students, faculty, staff and administrators. The two other cases consider user populations rather than the more general community. Community involvement would only be appropriate if these problems were spread over a larger geographic area.

Policies and procedures are an important consideration in all three cases. More types of policies appear relative to the high school lavatory case, as this problem involves lunchtime cafeteria and building use, faculty monitoring assignments, and school rules regarding student behaviors like smoking and drinking.

The response row is divided into three additional segments that distinguish between the three CPTED strategies of natural access control, natural surveillance, and territorial reinforcement. Note that some of the strategies listed on the table were not actually employed as responses to the problem (based on the descriptions in the introduction), possibly because they were too expensive, would take too long to implement, or were otherwise unacceptable.

The assessment row lists a variety of outcomes that might be experienced as a result of strategy implementation. The goal is to remove or reduce crime and other problem behaviors, but it is also possible for problems to move to a new location or change in character as a result of an intervention. In the worst case scenario, the problem continues, even after the strategies have been put into place.

The table is provided as a way to organize thinking about problems and problem-solving using CPTED. It demonstrates why each problem deserves its own detailed examination, one that focuses on the unique circumstances in which that problem is situated. When intervention strategies are specific to the problem they are more likely to be successful.  

Table 3. CPTED and the Problem-solving Process. Three Case Examples.



Case #1

Case #2

Case #3


smoking, drinking and vandalism in a high school lavatory reported by custodial workers

tagging and graffiti at the back of an office center noted by property managers

nighttime ATM patron robberies reported to police

  • students
  • faculty
  • staff (includes custodial workers)
  • administration
  • police/SRO
  • parents
  • property owner
  • property management
  • tenant businesses
  • police
  • adjacent property owners and managers (depending on outcome of analysis)
  • tenants and patrons of adjacent businesses (depending on outcome of analysis)
  • traffic engineering or transit
  • robbery victims
  • other bank and ATM patrons
  • bank management
  • bank employees
  • corporate security
  • police
  • property owner or management (if different from the bank)
  • adjacent property owners and management (depending on outcome of analysis)
  • small group meetings (faculty group, student group, custodial group), OR
  • CPTED task force
  • stakeholder interviews
  • small group meetings (property management, tenants, adjacent property owners, and managers)
  • stakeholder interviews
  • stakeholder interviews
  • number of incidents (from maintenance records related to vandalism)
  • temporal distribution of problem
  • typical scenario or MO,
  • similar problems and their locations elsewhere in school
  • number of incidents (from maintenance records)
  • temporal distribution of problem
  • offender characteristics based on analysis of graffiti and tagging
  • number of incidents reported to police
  • other reports or indications of unusual behavior
  • temporal distribution of incidents
  • offender characteristics from victim reports and CCTV tapes of robberies
Population Characteristics
  • N/A
  • residents, employees, patrons, and visitors to the area
  • area residents, employees, patrons and visitors
Land Use and Development Patterns
  • N/A
  • adjacent land uses
  • activity patterns and use schedules
  • adjacent land uses
  • activity patterns and use schedules
Traffic, Transportation and Transit Systems
  • N/A
  • traffic volumes and travel patterns
  • pedestrian routes (sidewalks, greenways, trails, and informal paths)
  • parking lots/garages and loading facilities
  • transit routes, stops, or transit centers
  • traffic volumes and travel patterns
  • pedestrian routes (sidewalks, greenways, trails and informal paths)
  • parking lots/garages and loading facilities
  • transit routes, stops, or transit centers
Resident or User Surveys, Stakeholder Interviews
  • custodial workers, students, faculty, and administrators
  • known and perceived problems
  • offender identification
  • strategy recommendations
  • property management interviews
  • surveys of tenant businesses
  • victim interviews
  • corporate security interviews
On-Site Behavioral Observations
  • lunchtime movement (use of cafeteria and other locations on campus); multiple days in the case of changing schedules
  • activity and use of lavatory during remainder of school day
  • activity and use of lavatory during sporting events
  • after-hours use and nighttime movement, both weekday and weekend, and both on-site and to/from adjacent properties
  • N/A
Safety Audits and Security Surveys
  • building floor plan
  • room/space assignments
  • class, cafeteria and sporting event schedules
  • locking systems and CCTV
  • maintenance and repair policies and procedures
  • cafeteria policies and procedures
  • hallway monitoring policies and procedures
  • student code of conduct (application, enforcement, consequences, etc.)
  • building design
  • site layout and landscaping (e.g., fencing), and relationship to adjacent properties and nearby land uses
  • lighting and CCTV
  • maintenance policies and procedures
  • hours of operation for tenant businesses
  • building design and any related corporate policies
  • ATM location and design
  • site layout, including relationship to adjacent properties and nearby land uses
  • CCTV and lighting
  • security policies and procedures
  • hours of operation and staffing
RESPONSE:Opportunities to Control Access
  • close cafeteria and campus (no one leaves), which requires changes to lunch schedules
  • install lock on lavatory door
  • install barricade, removing access to gym/sport area(s)
  • perimeter fencing, removing access to the site
  • graffiti-resistant paint/surface treatment on problem areas
  • remove ATM completely, or move it to another location (including automobile access rather than walk-up)
  • change hours of operation and availability of ATM
  • install fence between ATM and drive-through bank lanes
Options for Providing Opportunities to See and Be Seen
  • change faculty monitoring assignments
  • install CCTV
  • change lavatory design to improve visibility
  • increase light levels
  • install CCTV
  • trim or remove vegetation
  • increase police patrol (through site as well as around site)
  • hire private security to patrol
  • increase police patrol or hire private security
  • increase lighting around the building, especially in the drive-through area
Opportunities to Define Ownership and Use, and Encourage the Maintenance of Territory
  • limit the area available for lunch outside the cafeteria
  • change lavatory available during lunch periods to one in an area that is more easily supervised
  • immediately repair and replacement of damaged fixtures, etc.
  • consistently enforce school policies and consequences for policy violations
  • negotiate alternative use strategies with neighboring property owners (e.g., no readmittance policy to keep skaters inside the building)
  • immediately repaint when graffiti is installed
  • N/A
ASSESSMENT:Possible Scenarios to Look For Over the Long-Term
  • there is no evidence of smoking, drinking or vandalism in the lavatory, OR
  • the problem occurs infrequently and only during sporting events when the lavatory is unlocked, OR
  • changes to lunchtime monitoring have resulted in fewer behavioral problems in other areas near the cafeteria, not just in the problem lavatory, OR
  • the problem appears in another lavatory or another location at the school, OR
  • the problem has changed, e.g., the problem is now bullying, not vandalism, OR
  • there is no evidence of tagging or graffiti on the site, OR
  • the amount and/or frequency of graffiti is reduced, OR
  • hanging out and other problems at the skating rink have been reduced or eliminated, OR
  • graffiti problems shift to another location on this site or elsewhere in the neighborhood, OR
  • graffiti continues to be a problem, OR
  • the problem has changed, e.g., the problem now includes vandalism to lighting, OR
  • the robbery problem is eliminated, OR
  • the adjacent commercial strip is seeing new investment and increases in patronage, OR
  • ATM patrons are now robbed at their cars, OR
  • ATM robberies move to another bank, OR
  • other types of robbery are emerging in the neighborhood

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