The Purpose Of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime rates are increasing in a number of cities and homes, and there is great need to incorporate crime prevention feature in the design of new buildings. For this reason, security professionals must familiarize themselves with crime prevention strategies that integrate urban planning and architectural design. The idea of using the physical environment as a protection against attack is known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Zahm (2007) defines Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design as a crime protection strategy that involves the use of built environment as a way of enhancing quality of life and reducing both fear and incidence of crime. The main purpose of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is to modify the environment by taking advantage of pre-existing environmental assets and additional design features in order to reduce incidences and fear of crime. Since security is of great concern in the modern society, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is now used in both private and public security (Geason and Wilson, 1989).

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Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design normally involve a balanced application of three principles namely natural surveillance, territoriality, and access control. According to Zahm (2007) natural surveillance strategy involves designing environmental assets in order to allow engaging in their normal activities in a given environment to easily observe their immediate environment. This strategy also concerns eliminating all areas that might be used as hiding zones by criminals. Natural surveillance is implemented by using appropriate lighting, see-through fencing, and placement of windows and balconies at the right positions all round a building to give people within premise an opportunity to observe their surrounding areas.

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Natural surveillance is considered informal because it is directly associated with modification of architectural designs. According to Zahm (2007) architectural designs that minimize visual obstacles offer very good protection against crime. Unlike natural surveillance, formal surveillance involves the use of other protection methods such as closed-circuit television, fixed guard posts, and electronic monitoring devices. Formal surveillance is normally used when natural surveillance alone is not enough to provide both private and public security. For instance, formal surveillance can be used in interior corridors, elevators, and parking lots which are potentially vulnerable for criminal activities (Geason and Wilson, 1989).

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Territoriality is a term that refers to the provision of clear designation between private, public, and semi-private areas in order to make it easier for people to use those areas for their intended use (Geason and Wilson, 1989). The main purpose of implementing territoriality is to make those within a given premise to eliminate the perception that criminal activities can be committed without notice. The use of see-through screening and visually different landscaping elements are good examples of territoriality. According to Zahm (2007), a strong sense of territoriality is important in the sense that it allows individuals to take maximum control of their environment and be prepared to defend it against attack. For example, territoriality assists office workers to feel a sense of ownership when they are in their work environment.

The other principle of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is access control. According to Geason and Wilson (1989), access control focuses on reducing criminal accessibility, particularly in those areas where potential criminals would not easily be located by others. For example, a premise may have a highly visible gate or entry point where all users entering the property are easily monitored. In addition, an organization might use security personnel to keep individuals away from restricted areas. For Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design to be effective, the three principles: surveillance, territoriality, and access control must be used together. These principles can be expressed in either passive or active manner depending on the security needs of a particular building.

In addition to the above mentioned principles, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design may also entail additional concepts namely; management and maintenance, and activity support. The use of both active and passive efforts to monitor the movement of pedestrians in a given area is known as activity support. Activity support helps to increase the community value of a given area, while at the same time discouraging criminal activities that could be carried out by potential criminals. An example of activity support is designing an area to attract different users such as sports events, concerts, and children’s play groups (Zahm, 2007).

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According to Zahm (2007), Crime Prevention Through Environmental design elements will be able to serve their intended purpose only if they are properly managed and maintained. For instance, proper maintenance of lighting and windows will help scare away potential criminals. Failure to maintain and manage a property will undermine the effects of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design elements. For instance, broken windows, damaged fencing, and spoilt bulbs will attract criminals and prevent users from accessing the property. When properly implemented, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design can be very beneficial for both private and public security.

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Public security can be enhanced by implementing various principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. A number of strategies can be used to give public housing a secure image. For instance, some unique elements can be built into every sub-unit in an estate. In addition, housing estates can also be oriented outwards to allow resident to join in the life of the nearby streets. Estates should be designed in such a way that, pedestrian access and vehicle access points are separated. Access to entrance should also be restricted to allow as few people as possible to enter the estates at a time. In other public organizations, it is important to keep doors and windows locked and making sure that glasses are not covered with poster that may hinder easy observation of the external environment. An organization should also stress areas which are unsafe to help prevent its users from falling victims of criminal activities. Examples of public areas  where Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design can be implemented include parks, schools, churches, multifamily housing, and public parking areas.

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Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design has a number of benefits to public organizations. Successfully implemented and properly maintained Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design elements will enable users of a public premise to have an improved sense of security and quality of life because the design elements will create a reduced fear of crime. In addition, there will be an increased level of interaction among users of a public premise and stronger neighborhood bonds in a public premise that uses Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design to reduce incidences and fear of crime. Furthermore, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design will help to lessen crime in the public areas (National Crime Prevention Council, 2015).

Similarly, Crime Prevention Through Public Design can be used to enhance private security. For instance, a private organization can place its reception desk in an open place as a way of promoting access control. In addition, managers of a private entity cam maintain natural surveillance by keep windows clear and free from posters. Exterior doors of a private organization can also be fitted with deadbolts to prevent potential criminals from accessing the premises. When such locks are used, an organization should provide its users with relevant information on how to use the entrance keys in order to minimize crimes. The organization should also train its users on how to report any suspicious behavior that might act as threat to security. In a private setting, security of corridors and hidden places can be maintained through the use of closed-circuit television and electronic monitoring devices. Ideally, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design can make private organizations very safe places to work (National Crime Prevention Council, 2015).

In conclusion, security concern is given a high priority on the building processes in modern society. Since the federal government took an interest in preventing crime in both private and public organizations, several attempts have been made to develop workable strategies for reducing and controlling crime through architectural design and planning. With the help of architects who plan effective Crime Prevention Through Environmental design strategies, law enforcement agencies have gotten a good opportunity to play a meaningful role in crime prevention. Additionally, owners of both private and public organizations have been able to develop problem-solving partnerships with local government and community members as a way of reducing and controlling crime.

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