May 14, 2024

Landscape Architecture

May 14, 2024

Landscape Architecture

Fighting Crime Through Environmental Design

Fighting Crime Through Environmental Design

May 14, 2024

Landscape Architecture

May 14, 2024

Landscape Architecture

Fighting Crime Through Environmental Design

Fighting Crime Through Environmental Design


 

While safety through design has long been practiced through requirements of building codes and local ordinances, the impact of its use to prevent crime in public spaces is a relatively new concept. In urban environments, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) combines urban design strategies and architectural elements to optimize safety in outdoor spaces. This approach is guided by four key principles:

Natural Surveillance

Designing spaces that maximize visibility allows behavior to be under constant observation. A well-documented example of natural surveillance in practice is the impact of tree canopies in cities. While it might seem counter-intuitive, areas with more trees are proven to encourage people to spend time outdoors, creating easier areas of observation than settings that result in congregating inside buildings. A study conducted by environmental researchers at the University of Illinois revealed that areas surrounded by significant foliage experienced 48% fewer property crimes and 56% fewer violent crimes.

Territorial Reinforcement

Territorial reinforcement in landscape architecture utilizes hardscape elements or natural barriers to define public and private areas. In simpler terms, design elements are strategically used to draw a line between “my space” and “your space”. Elements, such as shrub barrier plantings separating a local park from a family residence, discourages users from trespassing or participating in illegal activities on private property. Other common examples of these design elements include fences, bollards, water features, and retaining walls.

Natural Access Control

Natural design elements are used as a tool to subtly guide users without physically restricting their access to a space. One example of this is signage commonly found along hiking trails. In addition to providing a sense of direction within the environment, the indication of approved public routes encourages intended pedestrian flow. This limits criminal opportunity by creating a sense of risk for offenders if they were to wander off.

Maintenance

Regular maintenance of outdoor spaces shows that a space is cared for and allows for its continued intended use, discouraging criminal activity. An unkempt space could prevent design elements from achieving their desired CPTED effect and signal a lack of concern for the environment. Overgrown shrubs, for example, obscure the view of users and hinders natural surveillance. Inconsistent maintenance of an area may even signal to potential criminals that there is a higher tolerance for chaos, making the space a favorable target of unwanted behavior.

Through thoughtfully blending creativity and functionality, landscape architects have the ability to create urban sanctuaries where crime withers and communities flourish.

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