Playgrounds the answer to terrorism threat?

Playgrounds the answer to terrorism threat?

  • 01 December, 2016
  • Amsterdam Security

With the daily increase of crime and terrorism threat, there is a call for more security measures. Is the ultimate solution more uniforms on the street, a camera on every street corner or just more playgrounds? The 70’s approach Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is making a comeback; TU Delft is making it totally up to date!

Wanted: more cameras and police!
In the case of increasing crime in towns
, municipalities or neighborhoods, city councilors, officials, citizens, social workers and city planners (to name a few) tend to cry out for either more cameras or more police in the streets. Sometimes for both at the same time. The question is whether these are the right solutions, compared with (more) human supervision. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) offers a third solution, where residents and passers-by, in combination with urban and architectural design techniques, help to reduce criminal behavior in public and private spaces.

Not true
The cost of human supervision tends to get more and more expensive. It is therefore easier (and much cheaper) to install cameras in public spaces. The general idea is that the visibility of (a lot of) cameras reduces crime. Much like the idea that a show of (police) force in the streets gives
residents and passers-by a feeling of a safe and secure environment. Both ideas are false.

It takes real people (and money!)
Extensive BBC television footage shows that after a short while, cameras are taken for granted.
Behavior in (for instance) entertainment areas eventually will deteriorate when there is no human supervision. Besides that, it takes real people to monitor live camera feeds, and this costs money too. And in order for camera monitoring to be effective, a human response team should be readily available in order to restore order if things get really out of hand. Which is also costly.

Take the “water bed effect “ in consideration
This is the reason why security professionals are wary of increasing the amount of surveillance cameras in city districts and entertainment areas. In many cases there has been no real cost evaluation. Frequently the "water bed effect" was not taken into consideration. This theory implies that when there is too much attention for criminal behavior in one area, perpetrators will just move to an adjacent area with less supervision. And there is something about too much police in an area too. Contrary to what many officials believe, too many police officers at a location will give people like the author of this article the impression that things are NOT safe in that particular area.

CPTED, an introduction 
Instead of calling for (more) cameras and increase of police presence, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) offers less conspicuous solutions by (re-) designing the built environment such as squares, streets, public parks, shopping and residential areas, commercial areas, offices and public buildings. CPTED is a multi-disciplinary approach to reduce and discourage criminal behavior through environmental design. Aim of CPTED is to discourage deviant and even criminal behavior by improving the living, working and shopping environment of residents and passers-by through city planning methods and architectural techniques and the use of (mass) psychological tactics.

Eyes on the street
According to Oscar Newman, the ultimate goal of CPTED was to enhance social control and
supervision of public areas by - for instance – adjusting the layout of squares, streets and sidewalks and the physical form of public buildings and private housing (Newman, 1972). Social control by so-called "eyes on the street" would ultimately deter people from acting anti-socially or even criminally. When people feel safe in their neighborhood they are more likely to interact with one another and intervene when crime occurs. This would enhance the numbers of "desired users" as opposed to the undesired users of public and private spaces.

Playgrounds for safety
Newman based his observations on the work of, among others, Wood and Jacobs. Elizabeth Wood developed guidelines for addressing security issues while working with the Chicago Housing Authority (Wood, 1961). Wood emphasized design features in urban areas that strengthen natural supervision by residents and passers-by, such as creating rest areas and play grounds at strategic locations in neighborhoods. This would bring out local residents to the street, where they then would more readily observe deviant behavior and maybe prevent it. This is also called "natural surveillance".

Jane Wood 1961 - Playground for the 5 to 12's 
Jane Wood 1961 - Playground for the 5 to 12's

Organic city design 
In her famous book "The Death and Life of Great American Cities" (Jacobs, 1961), Jane Jacobs criticized 1950s urban planning policies, which she held responsible for the decline of many city neighborhoods in the United States. Much like Le Corbusier followers in Europe, urban planners in the US thought that neighborhoods should be isolated from each other, that an empty street is safer than a crowded one and that the car represents progress over the pedestrian. According to Jacobs, a more organic city design would help develop the social framework needed for effective self-policing. More people using the street, a more meaningful interaction between neighbors and a clear distinction between private and public space would enhance "natural guardianship" in the built environment, and thus reduce crime.

Broken windows theory
Ray Jeffery extended these early CPTED ideas with a more psychological approach to the
perpetrator as a thinking person in its own "right". By removing incentives for crime in the physical environment and enhancing the risk for apprehension (Jeffery & Zahm, 1993), crime would not occur (Robinson, 1996). CPTED slowly enveloped more ideas, like the "broken windows" theory (Kelling & Wilson, 1982). The broken windows theory posits that visible deterioration and neglect in neighborhoods have a negative spiraling effect on behavior. When graffiti is not removed immediately, more graffiti is soon to follow. Then windows get broken, people will no longer notice and take action, and the neighborhood will go from bad to worse.

Comeback of CPTED
Criminologist Tim Crowe was one of the first CPTED practitioners to define a coherent set of CPTED rules in a handbook (Crowe, 1994). He proposed a range of measures, varying from landscaping and building designs, the use of "window surveillance" by creating sightlines from residences and offices for supervising parks and parking lots, and above all the strategic placement of lights and lampposts that would offer visibility and sightlines in the evening and during the night. Cameras would only be needed at places where there is no window surveillance available.

Others have built on these principles by formulating rules for natural access control, such as the use of a single, clearly identifiable, point of entry, the use of color and lighting to direct pedestrian flows, and an open design of public buildings, stadiums, theaters and reception halls in order to manage crowds. The application of CPTED rules has gradually changed the appearance of modern underground garages into brightly lit, colorful environments where people can easily see (and been seen) from one end to the other.

Modern CPTED approaches
The threat of terrorism in urban areas, and the wish not to overreact with too many cameras and
the obvious presence of police and military in public space, has renewed the interest in CPTED techniques. Even more than in its early days, CPTED is now a multi-disciplinary approach to reduce and discourage criminal behavior - and even terrorist treat - through environmental design. Modern CPTED approaches incorporate disciplines such as urban planning, architecture, urban transport, traffic control and urban logistics. Focal point is the design of safe and secure housing, work places and public buildings. Furthermore, the safe and secure (re-) design of neighborhoods and city centers is not complete without focus on such diverse topics as waste management, road maintenance, public safety and policing.

Aanslag 1 juli 1993 Ministerie van Sociale Zaken en Werkgelegenheid
Attack July 1st 1993 Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment

Delft Safety & Security Institute 
Delft Safety & Security Institute (DSyS) integrates these modern CPTED approaches in what it calls its S&SITED approach (Safety & Security Integration and Improvement Through Environmental Design). The institute can rely on a wide variety of professionals from different disciplines ranging from urban planning, architecture, civil engineering, and "soft" disciplines such as psychology, law and ethics. Last but not least the institute is a certified CPTED body through its certified crime prevention professionals (NCPI/UV of Louisville). DSyS offers comprehensive classes in CPTED and urban planning, CPTED and architecture, CPTED and safe & secure building designs.

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