• Ian Colquhoun

    Credit: Environmental Assistance

    Ian Colquhoun
Crime, fear of crime, cand antisocial behavior can have a significant effect on quality of life. All three are key driving forces that determine where people wish to live, work, and send their children to school. They can have a major impact on the social, economic, and physical viability of a neighborhood. Architects and developers often fear that an overemphasis of these issues can lead to a fortress-like environment, but this does not need to be the case.

  • With parking relegated to the basement of each unit, residents of De Paerel have adopted and personalized the territory in front of their houses. The project in Hoorn, The Netherlands, was designed by Inbo Architecten B.N.A and developed by Scholtens Proj

    Credit: Ian Colquhoun

    With parking relegated to the basement of each unit, residents of De Paerel have adopted and personalized the territory in front of their houses. The project in Hoorn, The Netherlands, was designed by Inbo Architecten B.N.A and developed by Scholtens Proj
international efforts

During the last 50 years, the development of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) in the United States has had international significance. It began with Jane Jacobs and Oscar Newman laying down the principles of defensible space, which have since been universally accepted, and continued with the work of C. Ray Jeffrey in the 1970s. Christopher Alexander's book A Pattern Language (1977) formed the basis of the Dutch Policemarque Secured Housing design guidance. Since its introduction in 1997, the guidance has proved successful in reducing burglaries and other domestic crime. It saved Dutch society some 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in its first three years. Alexander's book does not itself focus on crime, but it contains design elements that could have crime preventive and fear-reducing effects. Of the 253 “Patterns,” 55 were molded into the Dutch scheme, which applies to urban planning, public spaces, and housing layout.

The Dutch scheme has a British equivalent, Secured by Design, which is a much more limited program. It contains only a small number of environmental design recommendations, many of which also demonstrate close parallels to Alexander's patterns. For example, it suggests designing a variety of housing types into a community, much like A Pattern Language's Pattern #35, Household Mix.

The Dutch program also requires the provision of facilities for teenagers and children. It recognizes that young people rank high in the public's perception of the causes of crime. The American expert Al Zelinka writes: “The bottom line on public safety must be focused on youth. ... if we do not give youth an alternative to destructive, or counter productive, behavior, who has failed whom?” The key is to get young people involved and allow them ownership of what they come up with. After-school clubs, local cafes, meeting places, youth shelters, playgrounds suited to the various age groups, etc., are frequently at the top of their list.

  • At Poundbury in Dorchester, England, most houses front onto the street for maximum natural surveillance; a smaller number of houses within the court overlook the parking, for additional security.

    Credit: Provincial Pictures

    At Poundbury in Dorchester, England, most houses front onto the street for maximum natural surveillance; a smaller number of houses within the court overlook the parking, for additional security.
In addition to CPTED, the influence of New Urbanism and smart growth in Britain is becoming increasingly significant. Prince Charles's new village at Poundbury in Dorchester was inspired by his visit to Seaside in Florida. Poundbury's concept is that of a walkable neighborhood with mainly row housing producing a higher density than traditional layouts of single and duplex housing. The larger number of houses facing the street affords more natural surveillance, but the use of row housing means car parking is placed in courts at the rear. These can be vulnerable to burglary, but at Poundbury the danger is lessened by locating a small number of houses within the court to ensure they overlook the parking.

new solutions

Design alone will not solve problems of crime. What is needed is the creation of “balanced communities” in age profile, income, and tenure, with an appropriate range of local facilities such as schools, shops, and meeting places.

Greg Saville from the University of New Haven in Connecticut and Gerry Cleveland from the Civitas Corp. in Perth, Australia, sum this up in their concept of “2nd Generation CPTED,” a new form of “ecological sustainable development” based on traditional CPTED design principles but with resident participation and shared responsibility for management and maintenance. They advocate small, site-specific, human scale neighborhoods located close to work, with their own schools, meeting places, and facilities for young people.

Two London schemes illustrate this in relationship to city living. Cromer Street at King's Cross has combined the physical regeneration of 1960s high-rise public housing and 19th-century railway tenement housing with the social development of a multi-ethnic community. This included the establishment of a community trust to ensure the sustainability of social and economic initiatives developed alongside the physical improvements. The regeneration, completed in 2002, used many physical means to increase safety. The open space around the blocks of flats was divided into semi-private areas that were enclosed with railings and gates. Residents park their cars in these areas and all have signed a management agreement that ensures they keep the gates locked at night. The three urban squares in the neighborhood were converted into parks with play and leisure facilities. These are also locked at night. Crime has been reduced considerably, and a strong sense of community has been created.

The second scheme, Beddington Zero Energy Housing, completed in 2003, comprises 82 mixed-tenure/income dwellings. There were no special CPTED considerations in its layout design, which was based on low-energy principles, i.e., rows of south-facing housing. Nevertheless, there are few problems of security because, through sharing a common interest, a community has been formed that is capable of tackling such issues as they arise.

Creating safe and sustainable communities in these ways is now embodied in the proposals for the new residential areas planned in the South East of England to meet the needs of economic expansion. New housing will be supported by government funding for land acquisition and infrastructure, but development will predominately be private housing for sale with a small proportion of social housing (affordable housing, in American terms) for rent. This is the first real opportunity Britain has had for many years to demonstrate new planning and design concepts, but only time will tell how successful the approach will be.

Professor Ian Colquhoun is an architect and town planner in Britain. He has written five books on residential design and urban regeneration. His latest is Design Out Crime: Creating Safe and Sustainable Communities (Elsevier/ Architectural Press, 2004.)