Designing out

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The designing out approach aims to reduce crime and terrorism risk by appropriately shaped built infrastructure. By designing out, the urban environment becomes less attractive as a working ground for criminals and terrorists. Desigining out is one of several methodes of environmental design to realise crime prevention by design.

The approach to designing out assumes that certain types and locations of urban space are significantly more attractive to perpetrators than others, mainly for social and cultural reasons (cf. Geason, Wilson 1989)[1]. Therefore, the choice of urban targets is seen as mainly driven by factors such as maximum visibility of casualties, vulnerable and actually harmed people, maximum media exposure and potential for vast spread of fear among the wider population.

Urban planning centred on designing out helps increase urban security efficiently. It aims for reducing criminal behaviour, terrorist actions and anti-social behaviour. A converse concept is designing in.

Security related aspects and benefits

  • Design can impact (criminal/terrorist) behaviour in a positive or negative way.
  • Designing out can mitigate, lessen or even prohibit criminal or terrorist acts.
  • Designing out reduces crime and terrorist risks and consequences.
  • Designing out decreases vulnerability and increases resilience.

Approaches how to address it

  • Consider designing out principles (e.g. HM Government[1])
  • Get familiar with designing out initiatives (e.g. International CPTED Association[2])
  • Get familiar with general design aspects and structural / material aspects
  • Integrate considerations on response and emergency measures in the planning process

Designing out principles for urban planning

Structural principles

Practical designing out principles limit the damage of terrorist attacks by specific environmental design of built infrastructure. These principles include structural/material aspects such as:

  • Access control;
  • Stand off distances, to keep people and bomber vehicles away from targets;
  • Laminated glass;
  • Framed structures;
  • Bombshelter areas, etc.

Social/psychological principles

General design aspects with mainly psychological designing out effects include the following [2]

  • Orientation;
  • Good overview;
  • Visibility;
  • Lighting (physical surveillance);
  • Video installations (formal/organised surveillance);
  • Accessibility (access control);
  • Vibrant urban environment and multiple social functions;
  • Responsibility;
  • Natural/informal surveillance ("Eyes on the Street"):
  • Avoiding conflicts;
  • Ensuring maintenance;
  • Etc.

For sustainable implementation of “designing out”, following factors need to be considered throughout the planning process[3]

  1. Integration of citizens through communication and participation methods;
  2. Willingness of the participants to be part of a security partnership;
  3. Decentralisation and localisation;
  4. Commitment.


Designing out concepts can help reducing fear of crime, but at the same time it can soon raise ethical questions, for example by separating out different ‘types of people’. For example, certain types architectures (often together with commercial policing by private companies) offer middle-class citizens new types of privacy and crime free zones in public commercial malls and places. This usually separates out other ethical groups.[4]

See also ethics aspects.

Links and further Information

Footnotes and references

  1. Geason S., Wilson P. R.: Designing out Crime. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1989. Retrieved from: [last access: 2011-11-05].
  2. Cf. "PluS Initial Report" by LKA NI 2010 LKA NI (eds.): PluS Initial Report Planning Urban Security. Hannover: Landeskriminalamt Niedersachsen, 2010. Retrieved from: [last access: 2012-05-23].
  3. Cf. "PluS Initial Report" by LKA NI 2010 LKA NI (eds.): PluS Initial Report Planning Urban Security. Hannover: Landeskriminalamt Niedersachsen, 2010. Retrieved from: [last access: 2012-05-23].
  4. Garland D.: The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001, 6-11.