Environmental approaches to tackling vandalism / criminal damage

ABOUT THESE GUIDES This is one in a series of guides designed to share ideas for tackling vandalism and other forms of criminal damage. They are based, as far as possible, on examples we have found from around the UK and further afield. Although in most cases these have not been rigorously evaluated, they are reported to have been successful in tackling this sort of crime. This guide looks at how good design and planning, and actions such as cleaning up areas, may help tackle criminal damage. Other guides already produced in this series cover: • tackling vandalism and other criminal damage; • the available powers and how they can be used; • tackling youth offenders; and • high visibility “policing”. Further guides are in preparation including on arson, criminal damage to vehicles and analysing criminal damage data. These guides are intended to be living documents that can be up-dated as necessary so if you have any comments on these guides or if there are any other subjects you would like covered, please send your suggestions to us via your regional Government Office or the Welsh Assembly Government. This particular guide does not go into detail on graffiti, as this is covered in a separate “Step-by-step” guide produced as part of the TOGETHER campaign to tackle anti-social behaviour. WHAT IS VANDALISM / CRIMINAL DAMAGE? Criminal damage refers to crimes where any person without lawful excuse intentionally or recklessly destroys or damages any property belonging to anotheri. Activities resulting in nonpermanent damage (i.e. that can be rectified, cleaned off or removed at no cost) such as letting down of car tyres should not be classed as criminal damage, nor should accidental damage. Any damage around a point of entry to a house or vehicle should be treated as attempted burglary / vehicle crime rather than criminal damage if, on the balance of probabilities, one of those crimes is the more likely offence than criminal damageii. Vandalism is the term used in the British Crime Survey. Whilst the definition has been kept as close as possible to that of criminal damage, it only covers crimes against households and household property, including cars. SAFER PLACES Problems of vandalism can often be exacerbated by the very nature of our surroundings. Public spaces should be presented in a way that encourages people to use them for legitimate purposes. Vandalism, like many crimes, thrives in areas that lack people and visibility. Through the redevelopment of problem areas or better design of new areas it is often possible to reduce or eradicate many of these challenges without having to take enforcement or other management or maintenance action. If public spaces are designed to allow maximum visibility and promote utilisation by law-abiding members of the public, then crime and anti-social behaviour is less likely to occur than in areas that are secluded and rarely used. Designing out crime does not have to be expensive, especially if considered at the planning stage – either when building new estates or redeveloping existing areas. And the costs associated with dealing with problem areas - in terms, for example, of policing and maintenance - far outweigh the costs of planning and building in security. “Safer Places: The Planning System and Crime Prevention”iii - published jointly by the Home Office and the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in 2004 – provides detailed advice on how crime and disorder can be tackled via good planning. This is not only relevant to new developments, it provides a range of ideas that can be used to modify existing ones and some routes for promoting the implementation of good practice.

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This guide follows the attributes of safe, sustainable places set out in “Safer Places” but in less detail and more focussed on vandalism. Access & movement - providing places with well-defined routes, spaces and entrances that provide for convenient movement without compromising security. In terms of tackling vandalism and criminal damage, this may often be about denying offenders access to likely targets. And this can prove effective: • Gating of alleyways etc. has proved a very popular and, in some cases, useful way of tackling crime problemsiv. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 facilitated closure of rights of way where there was evidence that these were being used to commit crime. This was extended by the Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 which, amongst other things, allows closure of alleyways to tackle anti-social behaviour not just crime. Gating off orders under the 2005 Act will be available in early 2006 • Good quality, well-designed and located fencing; landscaping; planting schemes etc. can also play a valuable role In Gateshead, repeated incidents of burglary and criminal damage at a local school were investigated and poor fence design and positioning; overgrown vegetation providing hiding places for offenders; and the availability of potential missiles identified as contributory factors. Police and other enforcement activity only had a temporary effect. The local authority agreed to replace the fencing and cut back the overgrowth, whilst the school caretaker regularly inspected the area and removed potential missiles. There may be other considerations though – for example, are fences being damaged by people taking short-cuts and could that be tackled (without causing other crime problems) by opening up alternative routes? In Halifax, rather than close off rear alley-ways, the walls were lowered and replaced by railings increasing natural surveillance and reducing opportunities for graffiti. Such an approach could, however, compromise building security which may need to be addressed via improved locks etc.

Structure - places are laid out so that crime is
discouraged and different uses do not cause conflict. Issues as whether: • buildings and private and communal spaces are laid out to make it more difficult for criminals to move around and operate undetected • potential offenders and likely targets can be kept apart • potential guardians are in place can be considered at any time, not just when planning new estates or major redevelopments. Areas with a high proportion of people under 17 are at increased risk of crime and disorder. Management of applications by housing authorities can help to balance the numbers of children within an estate or block. Other things to consider are the positioning and design of street furniture including low walls that might provide seating and hence encourage young people to congregate; telephone boxes and bus stops; telephone junction boxes; etc. Parking for cars is also an important consideration. The British Crime Survey shows that cars parked in garages or on private driveways are at least risk. And where street or other communal parking is inadequate, disputes between neighbours could end in criminal damage or more serious crime. Surveillance - places where all publicly accessible spaces are overlooked Natural surveillance can be improved by, for example, cutting hedges back or down; pruning trees; replacing solid fencing with something easier to see through (and which is less attractive in terms of graffiti); etc. There is debate about the value of lighting in reducing crime, but it does appear to have been effective in some circumstances. Careful thought is needed about the design and location, however, both to avoid light pollution and it becoming a target for vandals. Whilst some areas have employed CCTV with apparent success, there is very little solid evidence that this works against criminal damage. As many incidents are not preplanned and are carried out under the influence of alcohol, it is possible that the threat posed by CCTV does not affect the offender’s decision on whether to commit the crime, or that offenders simply disguise their identity. Ownership - places that promote a sense of ownership, respect, territorial responsibility and community Engaging local communities (including young people) in looking after their estates – through, for example, getting

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them involved in clean up schemes - can help to tackle criminal damage by promoting ownership of the area, responsibility for its upkeep and a greater community spirit. Getting them involved early in deciding what the priorities are and how these can be tackled will maximise their commitment. Engaging local community or faith groups is likely to be beneficial, but you may need to consider how to involve or at least address the needs of those not covered by these groups. Organisations like the Tenants Participatory Advisory Service are also well worth talking with. Crime Reduction and Environment Weeks (CREWs) have been introduced throughout Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. This is a police-led multi-agency initiative aimed at tackling crime in specific areas usually where there has been a problem with disorder or anti-social behaviour. Typically they last a week and resources are put in place to improve the environment as well as targeting offenders and utilising other crime reduction initiatives. Southampton, for example, have now held ten CREWS and analysis has shown that crime and ASB can be dramatically reduced - the events also receive excellent feedback from local residents and councillors. In Australia, local people have been encouraged to “adopt” bus shelters – keeping a general eye on them and either cleaning up minor vandalism or reporting damage etc. to the relevant organisation to rectify it. Similar approaches have been used for other types of street furniture like telephone boxes. In various parts of the UK, local residents have been asked to keep an eye on schools during holiday periods, reporting any problems to the police. Physical protection - places that include necessary, welldesigned security features Providing physical protection against criminal damage is more difficult than for crimes like burglary. But there are some things that can be effective. Replacing or covering frequently damaged items with replaceable “sacrificial” alternatives (such as plastic films or sheets over windows that can be quickly and more cheaply replaced if damaged or disfigured) or more durable alternatives (such as laminated glass, grills or shutters – though the latter may be more susceptible to graffiti). Although more expensive, replacing frequently damaged items with more durable alternatives (or encouraging others to do so) may be less expensive in the longer term. Preventing access to communal areas in blocks of flats etc. can also help prevent vandalism in these spaces, but it’s important to gain the commitment of the residents as it will not be effective if they don’t make proper use of it.

Anti-graffiti paint has also been used successfully in many areas. Activity - places where the level of human activity is appropriate to the location and creates a reduced risk of crime and a sense of safety at all times Can legitimate activity by law-abiding people be encouraged in areas susceptible to criminal damage? Can facilities be provided to give potential offenders something less destructive to do? Beware though of creating mixed but incompatible uses that could lead to disputes or the displacement and disenchantment of potential offenders who had previously not caused a problem. Management and maintenance - places that are designed with management and maintenance in mind, to discourage crime in the present and the future No matter how well designed estates etc. are, some maintenance and management is necessary to keep crime down. Areas or individual homes that show signs of criminal damage or other disrepair may also attract further crime. Whilst there is no strong evidence for this, just as rapid repair of damage caused in burglaries reduces the risk of further victimisation, it is plausible that rapid repair of criminal or other damage will reduce the risk of further incidents. For housing authorities, it also sends out a clear message that they care about the welfare of their tenants The Clean Neighbourhoods and Environment Act 2005 contains a variety of provisions for dealing with issues like litter, graffiti, fly-posting, fly-tipping and abandoned vehicles. The Beatsweep initiative in Waltham Forest involves a multi-agency approach to cleaning-up one electoral ward each month including: removal of graffiti, abandoned vehicles and rubbish; adult offenders undertaking neighbourhood enhancements as part of community service orders; a crime prevention trailer to provide information, advice and some free gifts (personal attack alarms, target hardening materials); high visibility presence from police, PCSOs and wardens; and truancy patrols. Void properties (whether residential, business or other) can present particular challenges: they suffer from reduced natural surveillance and ownership and can offer attractive features to vandals (such as windows to break or blank walls to graffiti). CCTV and radio alarms, or alternative form of surveillance like 24 hour community patrol have been used in various places. Whilst they may be effective, these approaches are resource intensive and

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therefore only likely to offer short term solutions. Better management of voids and tenancies to minimise the time property is left vacant has been successfully tried in other areas. There is some anecdotal evidence that filling void properties located over shops as a priority reduces vandalismv. PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER In practice, combinations of the above approaches are likely to be best. In South Ribble, a range of measures was employed in identified hotspots including clearing overgrown vegetation; new landscaping, fencing and gates to restrict access to vulnerable properties; improving the quality and design of street furniture; and removal of litter and fly-tipped material. They also advise victims and others at risk to remove or fix possible missiles like stones in the garden; quickly repair any damage including to fences and walls; enhance fencing; improve lighting where necessary; and make properties look occupied when out. However the problem is tackled, it will almost certainly involve a partnership approach between a number of agencies and the local community itself. Early engagement of all partners – from the very start of the planning process – is crucial. The local police Architectural Liaison Officer will be a key source of advice.

NEED MORE HELP? Further information and assistance on tackling criminal damage is also available via your regional Government Office / Welsh Assembly Government or from: i) ii) Crime Reduction website (www.crimereduction.gov.uk) Together Academies which bring together practitioners to provide advice and training on specific issues to transform the way that they tackle anti-social behaviour.

iii) ASB Action Days when an expert practitioner will meet with ASB teams and their partners to help find solutions to intractable problems, refocus action to get results, encourage use of the full range of new anti-social behaviour powers or remove blockages that are preventing progress. iv) ASB Action Line (0870 220 2000) and website (www.together.gov.uk) which provide information, solutions and best practice to help practitioners tackle anti-social behaviour. v) Overseas websites such as the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (http://www.crimeprevention-intl.org/index.php); the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing (www.popcenter.org); and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (www.ncjrs.gov).

Criminal Damage Act 1971 Section 1 Home Office Counting Rules for Recorded Crime iii ISBN 0-7277-3261-7 Available electronically via the Crime Reduction website iv Johnson, S. and Loxley, C. (July 2001) Installing Alley-Gates: Practical Lessons From Burglary Prevention Projects v Petherick, A & Fraser, R. (1992) Handbook for Practitioners. Living Over The Shop UK
i ii

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