Using CPTED Design Principles to Create Safer Neighborhoods: Establishing a Baseline of Data

Karen Rogalski
Karen Rogalski

As our nation debates a range of public safety and policing issues, the planning community can do its part by creating built environments that intentionally deter crime. The National Institute of Crime Prevention has a professional designation of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) that provides multi-disciplinary training on the architectural and design elements that can result in safer communities. For example, some elements of CPTED design include encouragement of “eyes on the street” through pedestrian and bicycle traffic and intentional placement of windows and doors for good visibility.  Street and walkway patterns, fencing, and landscaping choices can also play a role in either preventing crime or attracting criminal activity.

As the first in a series of articles on how a planner might apply CPTED principles, imagine how you might get an initial lay of the land in a neighborhood where you seek to apply this framework to address crime.

You have just completed your orientation to the neighborhood by walking the area with the postman. Now it is important to understand the particulars of the area.  What is its history of the neighborhood? When and why it was founded?   What were the planning and zoning rules at the time it was founded? What are the differences in zoning rules between when it was founded and now?  Have zoning laws changed and why?  This information will allow you to put your observations into context.

Understanding and establishing baseline data will enable you to measure community transformation over time.  Some data is easy to get while the others are a little more challenging. Here are two common types of data that you will want to consider tracking as a first step:

Crime statistics- five (5) years of the number and kinds of 911 calls for the neighborhood. Three years is not enough. 911 calls tell you how engaged residents of the neighborhood are in protecting their area and what issues are most important to them. This same data should be tracked on an annual basis.

Incident reports- those reports that police investigated. What were these and where did they take place in the neighborhood? With the help of your law enforcement specialists you can create a hot spot map. This will help you to prioritize where to begin your work based on safety issues.

In this series of articles we will discuss other pieces of data that are important to gather to understand. What are negative activity generators and positive ones in the neighborhood? How can space be changed to reduce crime? With each article you will be able to apply the discussion to your particular neighborhood and affect change.