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An Antidote to the Social Y2K Virus of Urban Design

Greg Saville, MES, MCIP
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice,
Florida State University

Gerry Cleveland MA, B.Ed. Dip. Police Science
Administrator, Toronto District School Board
CPTED trainer.

In this paper we look at applying new ways of thinking about what we do as crime
prevention practitioners to improve the communities, schools and workplaces we
occupy. We begin with CPTED. There is an emerging belief that some of the basic
assumptions of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) have
been only partly correct. Practitioners, such as urban planners, police officers,
building managers, and theoreticians, such as academics and researchers, have relied
on incomplete practices that have yet to be expanded into a more holistic theory of
human behavior. Currently, such a holistic theory is yet to emerge, but there is an
evolving practice we call “second generation CPTED” that suggests it is not far
away. A 2nd generation CPTED offers the promise of greatly enhanced, and more
realistic, preventive strategies. Equally important, it offers the possibility of a new
approach for community-building that strikes to the heart of what CPTED is really
all about - what visionary Jane Jacobs was talking about over three decades ago.

In her dialogue on morality, commerce and politics in, Systems of Survival (Vintage:
1992) Jacobs begins with a quote from Emerson who reminds us that “all things
have two handles” and that we must “beware of the wrong one.” Perhaps with our
focus on the physical design aspects of CPTED we have, to use Emersonian terms,
grabbed the wrong handle. Have we forgotten that what’s significant about Jacob’s
“eyes on the street” are not the sightlines or even the streets, but the eyes? Jacob’s
synecdoche – using eyes to represent entire neighborhoods of watchers – reminds us
that what really counts is a sense of community. When we fail to “design” our
affective conditions that help generate that sense of community, with the same
careful scrutiny as the physical, we are doing less than half the job. Recently at a
conference when we recommended parenting courses within troubled
neighborhoods and community outreach programs as viable 2nd Generation CPTED
strategies, a respected CPTED practitioner rolled his eyes in frustration and stated,
“That’s not CPTED.” In terms of what we have been practicing for many years, he
was right. In terms of a more holistic “environmental design,” he couldn’t have been
more wrong. Second Generation CPTED recognizes the most valuable aspects of
safe community lie not in structures of the brick and mortar type, but rather in
structures of family, of thought and, most importantly of behavior. We may benefit

this kind of offender learns which cues work and which do not. a target is selected and the probability and risk of an offence increases. Brantingham and Brantingham. Conversely. we should have a quick look at what made us grab that other handle. and play. only satisfactory. This is where environmental cues come into play. Saville. and debatable. and chose targets. By designing shopping mall parking lots with plenty of natural surveillance crime opportunities have been reduced. and this is where CPTED plays a role. These models describe how many offenders have some level of rational behavior. 1985. 1978. the commission an offence. Furthermore. home. If the area fits the offender’s template. it has been understood that some architectural and planning designs have unintentionally created areas that facilitate the opportunity for crime. Zehring. or what the Brantingham’s call an offender cognitive template.namely that behavior is influenced by the physical place. (Becker. but we must end up looking at the social aspects of home and neighborhood – the affective environment. Before moving on to our consideration of the affective environment. adopts these assumptions. The Rationality explanation suggests that. The theoretical basis of this work emerges from what are now called Rationality models (Cornish and Clarke. Therefore the offender’s learned experiences play a role in target selection. These are all examples where the rationality model of CPTED has made sense. security locks. access control. shop. Offenders evaluate alternative courses of action. on one hand. 1994). the decision to commit may not have to be optimal. and fences to control access into residences and apartment buildings. Indeed this has been the reason for its success. places have been made safer. assumptions about human behavior . Bennet and Wright. Early CPTED. . By avoiding construction of movement predictors that locate potential victims in high-risk areas on their way to work. “cues”. and natural surveillance.from starting with an examination of the physical aspects of place. weigh rewards. 1984). and it is where the environmental land uses and neighborhood image encourage. The Rationality theory makes some interesting. Targets have been made harder for offenders by the use of enhanced lighting. offenders may follow a logical decision tree where at each step they choose whether to carry on. And there is a great deal of research that supports this model. including assigning territory. or discourage. This decision making process is influenced by environmental factors. 1975. The Theory of the Rational Offender Since at least the 1970s. 1991. especially with offences in public places. From this perspective the offender will rarely have full information on targets to make optimal decisions.

For example. 1977). inward facing residential homes in cul de sacs to encourage residents will see common areas. Beavon. security alarms and closed circuit television cameras (cctv). there are factors that influence crime opportunities not suggested simply by design alone. dead bolts. These typically include the use of window locks. Bevis and Nutter. But the research has also emphasized that social dynamics between residents in the cul de sac are also key mediators of environment. proponents such as Alice Coleman and Barry Poyner felt that design of housing can influence crime by denying.Applying Rational theory: CPTED in the early years Oscar Newman (1972) broke the concept down to four key elements: • surveillance • territoriality • image • milieu (environmental land use) It is interesting to note that. By designing access routes that specifically define where the general public is welcome and restricting or monitoring access to private property decreases the opportunities for criminal activities. Today this works in the important British program called Secure By Design. (White. opportunities for offending. . with each element. They also believed that the design of buildings might encourage various uncivilized behaviors and crime. and some of their limitations are: Surveillance In the UK. Access control of building entranceways and target hardening using security hardware are tactics used to control entry or egress to restricted areas or private property. in this program certificates are awarded to housing projects when certain surveillance criteria are met: for example. These are the limitations of Rationality theory and they suggest why it needs elaboration into a 2nd stage. 1994. 1988. or offering. Territoriality The design of an area can influence the sense of community or ownership for those who are legitimate users of the space. The result is that this will reduce the opportunity for such crimes as burglary. The Rationality model by itself is not enough in the case of surveillance. When users develop a sense of territoriality they are more likely to challenge or question those who do not belong. One design that enhances territoriality is access control. not just design. The four elements.

and how central that place is to people’s social lives (Brown and Altman. Although not specifically identified as such in Newman’s early work.Another tactic to enhance territoriality is the design of areas to create land uses that emphasize local ownership. Tactics include distinguishing between private. Mixed housing encourages mixed lifestyles and overall . Communal units and bonds will be formed in neighborhoods like this. For example. However. semi- private. Housing mix is also important. Yet. churches and individual homes that are valued and respected by the community often escape the crime that swirls around them. Image The image of a place is an important factor in reducing opportunities for crime. 1989) have expanded this notion in their “broken windows” theory. Newman said housing districts should be homogeneous to encourage “communities of interest”. This reduces the potential for creating conflicting spaces between different user groups. or by changing the grade. semi-public and public spaces. changing the ground cover. Schools. In other words. so that people will associate with each other. environmental land use has been seen as a factor influencing defensible space. and yet few crimes occur. Research has also shown that territoriality is also influenced by how long people live in an area. further research indicates that a diverse housing mix is preferable to create a “truer” community. Natural surveillance and access control matter little with these sites that are crime free: social attitudes matter a great deal. there are areas where many windows are broken and where dilapidated conditions exist. using symbolic barriers. and also to have more people present at all times of day Single use zones such as “bedroom communities” are generally vacant during different time periods. how those residents form a social attachment to a particular place. many communities have important memorial sites such as military or political structures situated out of natural sightlines. Many places have social attachments that do not conform to basic CPTED principles. and how a site can be protected by specific design styles. Again. and for the most part it refers to environmental land uses. It refers to two features: adjoining land uses and the influence of surrounding activities on a place. 1981). But territoriality is not simply a matter of design. These often escape any form of vandalism or damage. the physical environment often has little to do with their exemption from criminal or anti-social behaviors. Why? Milieu: Environmental land use Milieu was a more controversial aspect of early CPTED. This “hierarchy of space” can be achieved by creative landscaping. Maintaining a certain level of repair sends an environmental cue of whether or not a location is valued. In recent years Wilson and Kelling (1982.

It is probable that there is an environmental influence on social interaction. where crime is rampant. Clearly there are many things that will motivate an offender. natural surveillance. 2. and differentiation of dwellings – human scale development. They also represent some of the most advanced CPTED strategies to date. culture and social feelings of personal respect and responsibility play a large role. Tokyo.000 students. There are diverse neighborhoods with plenty of social mix where crime is rampant.occupancy levels. which is why planners call for “human scale” development. We believe that at least five of these categories represent the beginning of a new theory of second-generation CPTED. these two concepts have been combined in the Grunfeld Principle (Ministry of Justice. The theory of second-generation CPTED What are the linkages between physical and social development? The Dutch CPTED guidelines are instructive. when your apartment building has over 300 units. 1. Examples exist in cities of heterogeneous districts under 3000 dwellings. where people do not exert a territorial influence. A lack of an urban meeting place can make urban spaces empty and dangerous. which states that housing image and territoriality can be reinforced by placing a homogenous neighborhoods (100-500 dwellings) in heterogeneous districts (no larger than 3000 dwellings). The provision of urban meeting places is an absolute necessity in neighborhoods. density. In the Netherlands. Urban meeting places. Yet. This is why many regional shopping malls fail to become places of community gathering. Clearly. or if they do. and when the high school has over 3. 1995). as they incorporate the pattern language of Christopher Alexander and apply them to safe urban design. and at some level many of these factors are social. yet it also has the lowest reported crime rates. homogenous neighborhoods of under 500 dwellings. Size can affect the alienation of a place. not physical. although we have some reservations on how they currently apply to CPTED design. Schools that do not permit students places to meet informally also fail to build an appropriate sense of shared belonging in the . But there are also areas where zoning has little influence on the amount of crime. Size of the district. All of these have direct links to the social aspects on how neighborhoods work. and environmental land use. that gathering occurs with unsupervised youth in the food courts. The Rational offender does not always fit into a rational place if the “ingredients” are not just right. image. This has been suggested by Dutch “Gruenfeld principle”: it is difficult to get to know someone when your neighborhood consists of 100 homes. They are all linked to some basic CPTED strategy: territoriality and access control. containing smaller. size alone is not an explanation for the lack of territorial feelings in a place. Japan has the largest urban population and among the highest urban density in the urban world.

3. although early CPTED claimed this to be a strategy. They have become places were local youth can find something to do. There must be specific strategies associated with its implementation. We believe that neighborhood schools are best positioned to take the lead. Residents’ participation. potential victims can protect themselves by exerting some defensible space . • they may be elderly people who are fearful of unsupervised youths in the neighborhood. Social factors again are directly linked to the environmental influence of CPTED designs. This concept applies directly to the idea of “activity support”. An urban area requires some kind of activity support to help the physical design work to create defensible space. • they may have their own independent network of friends. But urban meeting places can be used for many different reasons. such as by drug and stolen property dealers. which they prefer to the local neighborhood and consequently partake in only a few community events. Someone must organize social events. This is a social factor. The creation of youth clubs has been a crime prevention and community-building strategy ever since the Chicago Area Project from 1930s (Shaw and McKay. It suggests that residents' responsibilities have a direct influence on their expression of territoriality and defensible space. not planners or architects. Youth clubs. Second-generation CPTED takes that responsibility and places it where it belongs: in the care of community members. Many high-crime housing complexes have common buildings and club areas that are underused. and places where they can learn life skills. Someone must take the lead. 4. and the skilled personnel who know what to do. 5. the resources to run activities. working long hours. and are simply too tired to do things at night when they’re home from work. or that the residents’ themselves will participate in a neighborhoods social life. The environmental influence of the urban meeting place is not enough. This is the most curious of the Dutch CPTED guidelines. Again. merely stating that activities needed to be supporting did very little actually help it to happen. While offenders may seek out easy targets. Of course. or sporting activities.building. Few strategies were offered by early CPTED practitioners to create that activity support. for example based on a religious or ethnic group or a political ideology. it does not occur simply because it is stated. or abused by gang members. In the late 1970’s this CPTED concept was called “activity support”. 1942). because there are many reasons why residents will not participate in community life: • they may be a two-income household. Residents’ responsibility. Other social events must happen before a neighborhood will experience the neighborliness that can occur in an urban meeting place. especially since they offer a familiar place to children and adults in the community. Of course these places require the interest and support of the local community.

“One of the tenets of defensible space theory is that the physical environment can create perceived zones of territorial influences (Newman. Weapon wands. Student participation in crime reduction programs. In the public realm. nothing about why some residents engage in destructive social events and why some do not. a Y2K virus for future development. It suggests why a possible target might be rational for an offender. barricades. 1972). but without true community-building strategies both inside and outside those walls. approach to crime prevention. but as noted above with resident participation. but it says little about the victims’ rationality. There is nothing inherently safe about an internally gated community. in the parlance of our time. 1997). thereby reducing the opportunity for. ecological. We are suggesting that if environmental influences are only one simple step in the community-building process. Second generation CPTED aims to expand this perspective. It says little about why potential victims do not necessarily defend their own places. entry scanners. When there is social breakdown in a place. Newman suggested that certain environmental features tend to encourage residents to exercise territorial control. but they are disheartening blockades to school officials who wish to create a perception of belonging and safety. centered. will this environmental modification serve anyone but the construction company? Walls such as these are. armed security guards and drug dogs might be effective turn- around strategies. For a sustainable. building a ten-foot wall around a school yard to keep out guns and dealers may help. this is by no means a sure thing. crime. then barriers may only reinforce feelings of fear of the surrounding neighborhood outside the barriers. road closures. These can reinforce proprietorship and sense of belonging. and guard gates have a function. Schools are expected to be welcoming and inviting. except that it may be occasionally more difficult for the simple rational offender to victimize the simplest target. Bright lights and heavy locks may make the staff feel safe. . but nothing will have changed in the immediate vicinity when we release our students at the end of the day.” (Atlas and LeBlanc. The Rationality theory has been offender. But residents must take some responsibility over their neighborhood for this to happen. In school environments it makes little sense to use this “fortress mentality” approach. better conflict resolution skills and student and parent problem solving courses are much more effective in establishing “spaces” that can foster both positive learning and a true sense of well-being. and fear of. we must address the social Y2K virus. Herein lies another reason why the Rationality theory is limited. We assume that physical design will help this happen. not victim.over a place thereby making a place unattractive to a rational offender. Implications for contemporary CPTED Atlas has claimed that there is a need for a community to create barriers in some circumstances. if limited.

As a narrow preventive tool. that has a capacity to resolve it’s own problems on its own terms. Some of them include: 1. a market. It means local opportunities for play and work. not-for-profit ventures. Wekerle and Weitzman. This means having opportunities to meet with neighbors who play a meaningful role in our lives. These skills must include values based on ecological principles. non-governmental agencies. youth activities. Ultimately. and too unresponsive. massive schools with 2. There are many practical strategies that exist. It means respecting personal choice and privacy. We need to live near where we work where we go to school and where we socialize. Just as we plan physical places. A prescription for the future We must cultivate skills in neighborhood building at a local. These are no longer viable in our turbulent social environment. They are too slow. Search conferences . that can help practitioners incorporate second-generation CPTED (Saville. zones of our community. We must develop ways to encourage more local contacts for social. small-scale. neighborhoods. and political interaction. of course. We have been learning about the advantages of small. social. 1995. elaborated at length elsewhere. or a residential neighborhood. sustainable systems: small business and locally-based. so too must we begin to plan the affective. Sarkissian et al. in the next millenium. This ecological and sustainable development must. What does this mean? It means we need to live in smaller. This will not happen in a day. Such a place is able to heal itself if it gets sick. but we should never see it as a model for future development. But the problem with limiting CPTED to the rational offender model is that it is too narrow and offender-centered. sustainable economies.000 students. we can make proper use of it. sustainable development. while still creating common places and events of social interaction that allow us to celebrate our diversity. It also means that these factors are structured in such a way to create an affective community environment. We should have more opportunities for friendships and family in neighborhood contexts without sacrificing our important needs for personal space and privacy. a school. 1996. whether it be a workplace. 1995. use traditional CPTED design principles. locally based. 1998). we need to expand our efforts into the realm of residents’ responsibility. For starters. large organizations. Saville and Cleveland. economic. holistic. Safety audits 2. We have relied on the large systems for survival: large economies of scale. empirically-based scientific and tertiary academic institutions. and on the values of a healthy community. big government and large-scale places of employment. and human scale neighborhoods.Solving the social Y2K virus: an ecological approach to community-building We are suggesting that 2nd generation CPTED is a new form of ecological. urban meeting places. residents’ participation. and open-minded programs. it is not sustainable as a model. local organizations and flexible companies based on personal networks. too inflexible. but it can be a future antidote to the social Y2K virus that currently plagues our communities.

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