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Using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Problem Solving

Tool Guide No. 8 (2007)

by Diane Zahm

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Translation(s): O uso da Prevenção Criminal Pela Conceção Ambiental na Resolução de Problemas (Portuguese) PDF


Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) is an approach to problem-solving that asks, what is it about this location that places people at risk, or that results in opportunities for crime? In other words, why here? Three case examples will illustrate this point:

Case #1: Custodial workers routinely find evidence of smoking, drinking and vandalism in a high school lavatory.

Why here? The lavatory is in an isolated area of the building, adjacent to a ticket booth and concession stand that are active only during athletic events. The school's open lunch policy allows students to eat anywhere on campus, while monitors are assigned only to the cafeteria.

CPTED response: A lock is installed on the lavatory door, and it remains locked unless there is an athletic event. The open lunch policy has been revised: students are still allowed to leave the cafeteria but must eat in designated areas, and a faculty member is charged with patrolling these areas during lunch periods.

Case #2: The back wall of a building in an office center is repeatedly tagged with graffiti.

Why here? The taggers have selected an area that is out of the view of passers-by: a rear corner location where two buildings come together at the end of a poorly lit service lane. Visibility is further reduced by hedges at the site's perimeter. Businesses in the office center are open from 9 AM to 5 PM during the week; however the tagged building is next to a roller skating rink where activity peaks at night and on weekends.

CPTED response: Hedges are trimmed and wall-mounted light fixtures installed along the service lane, with motion detection lighting in the problem area. The skating rink agrees to change to a "no re-admission" policy to keep skaters inside the building and away from the office property.

Case #3: ATM patrons at a bank are being robbed after dark.

Why here? The bank is situated along a commercial strip in a neighborhood with vacant properties and abandoned businesses. The ATM is in the front corner of the bank building, and the drive-through teller windows are at the side of the building, around the corner from the ATM. Robbers hide in the darkened drive-through teller area and attack unsuspecting ATM users after they complete a transaction.

CPTED response: The bank installs a fence at the corner of the building, creating a barrier between the ATM and the drive-through teller area.

In each of these case examples, asking why here? reveals that opportunities for crime and other problems arise out of a variety of environmental conditions related to the building, the site, and the location and how the place is used. Solving a problem thus requires a detailed understanding of both crime and place, and the response should consider one of the three objectives of crime prevention through environmental design: control access, provide opportunities to see and be seen, or define ownership and encourage the maintenance of territory.

This guide is a resource for understanding and using crime prevention through environmental design as a problem-solving tool. The guide explains the basic principles of CPTED and outlines a process for identifying problems, evaluating the physical environment, and identifying strategies that will remove or reduce opportunities for crime.

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