Measure type: Maintenance

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Maintenance is the measure of discouraging crime by designing places with management and maintenance in mind.


Broken windows can act as an incentive to vandalism

Research has shown that a lack of maintenance can act as a disinhibitor for certain crimes. A lack of maintenance over the environment can be seen as "a signal that there is little or no surveillance over an area, that there is little or no social authority exerting control over an area, and that consequently deviant behaviour may be tolerated"[1]. Whereas the maintenance itself is usually not a concern of the urban planner, the design for easy maintenance (including repair) is.


  • Coated walls for easy removal of graffiti
  • Modular street furniture that can quickly be replaced or repaired if damaged
  • Street designed for mechanized cleaning, i.e. wide enough and without inaccessible nooks and crannies
  • Greenery chosen for easy maintenance
  • Design of the public space to support maintenance, such as providing easy access for maintenance (e.g. support for cleaning of windows on higher floors), preventing wind corners where debris might gather, designing traffic flows to prevent litter in inaccessible places.


Security issues where this measure can be effective and influenced by the urban planner, are:

Financial gain Boredom or compulsive behaviour Impulse Conflict in beliefs
Burglary Physical assault Destruction by riots Mass killing
Ram-raiding Sexual assault Destruction of property by fanatics
Pickpocketing Vandalism
Robbery Graffiti
Raid Antisocial Behaviour
Vehicle theft


General considerations

Designing for easy maintenance can be most effectively implemented in cooperation with the persons or organisations responsible for this maintenance.

Urban planning considerations

The maintainability of urban spaces should be an important element in the decision making process for developments which pass through the urban planning system. This system can be used to ensure that appropriate measures are in place which will guarantee sufficient upkeep is both possible and takes place, in order to prevent areas of dilapidation or neglect, and to present an image of a well cared for and therefore well surveilled location.

Safety/security considerations

One should be careful to provide easy access for maintenance indiscriminately, as this might result in criminals (burglars, vandals) misusing this to facilitate their crimes.

A lack of maintenance can lead to unsafe situations (such as sharp edges being exposed) and an increase in vulnerability (such as mouldered door posts which are easy to break).

Vandalised picnic table, showing sharp edges making it unsafe for use

By designing for easy maintenance, these risks can be minimized, as repairs can be executed quickly.

By assuring a well-maintained public space, the risk of bad maintenance working as an incentive to other crimes can be avoided.

Social considerations

The main social consideration behind the measure of maintenance is the "broken windows" paradigm [2] that comes from community policing. It is based on the experience that when a broken window in a building is left unrepaired, soon all the windows in that building are broken. The generalised lesson is that minor crime causes fear and creates a perception of disorder and insecurity. Reversely, close maintenance can prevent those perceptions from rising. However, maintenance alone does not change security culture nor the overall setting of urban environments. It should therefore be considered that over-maintenance could have negative impact on societal resilience. For example, visible strong protective built infrastructure makes people to underestimate risks and also makes them reluctant to adopt protective measures at individual and social levels, thus potentially undermining societal resilience. [3]

Practical addressing of social aspects and aspects of security culture as they relate to the measure of maintenance can best be accomplished by appropriately involving citizens, based on a set of introduced methods of citizen participation as compiled by VITRUV. Ideally, planning for the measure should include usability tests in relevant social contexts. This can be supported by citizen participation methods such as the safety audit or appreciative planning that, among other things. focus on collecting and integrating perspectives in multicultural environments.

Economic considerations

Urban objects generate annual expenditures such as building services, utilities, repairs and maintenance. On the benefit side, maintenance extends the economic life of assets, has a positive environmental impact, improves social aspects like employee well-being, and mitigates crime and vandalism (also referred to as positive externalities). In addition, asset maintenance creates secondary economic impact due to the re-spending of maintenance fees by maintenance workers, contractors, etc.

Whether extra focus on maintenance in order to increase security makes sense from an economic point of view, depends on many factors and is case dependent (see also the flow chart of an economic assessment). One should first of all compare the potential cost-benefits with other alternatives. Secondly, one has to take in account which parties are affected by the increase in maintenance, who is paying for it and last but not least, how the envisioned measures adjust the behaviour of criminals/terrorists (in economic terms).

Economic tools such as the social cost-benefit analysis (first question) and economic impact study (second question) can help decision makers to answer these questions and to prevent wasteful expenditures on security (of course in collaboration with insights from criminology, sociology, etc.).

Mobility considerations

Maintenance of mobility structures mainly concerns road maintenance. Like all structures, roads deteriorate over time. Deterioration is primarily due to accumulated damage from vehicles, however environmental effects such as frost heaves, thermal cracking and oxidation often contribute [4].

Pavements are designed for an expected service life or design life. In some parts of the United Kingdom the standard design life is 40 years for new bitumen and concrete pavement. Maintenance is considered in the whole life cost of the road with service at 10, 20 and 30 year milestones.[33] Roads can be and are designed for a variety of lives (8-, 15-, 30-, and 60-year designs).

Virtually all roads require some form of maintenance before they come to the end of their service life. Pro-active agencies use pavement management techniques to continually monitor road conditions and schedule preventive maintenance treatments as needed to prolong the lifespan of their roads. Technically advanced agencies monitor the road network surface condition with sophisticated equipment such as laser/inertial Profilometers. These measurements include road curvature, cross slope, asperity, roughness, rutting and texture. This data is fed into a pavement management system, which recommends the best maintenance or construction treatment to correct the damage that has occurred.

Maintenance treatments for asphalt concrete generally include thin asphalt overlays, crack sealing, surface rejuvenating, fog sealing, micro-milling and surface treatments. Thin surfacing preserves, protects and improves the functional condition of the road while reducing the need for routing maintenance, leading to extended service life without increasing structural capacity. [5]

Ethics considerations

Design for easy maintenance may incur ethics issues of distributive justice, such as risks of reifying uneven distribution of security in society. Creating built urban infrastructure that facilitates maintenance can contribute to selective delivery of security, making some groups of citizens more secure, and other groups of citizens more vulnerable. This may be, for example, the case in a situation, where increase in maintenance in some area displaces crime to another community.

In general, pinpointing specific ethics aspects in resilience-enhancing measures needs to consider, among other things, citizen security cultures and citizens' personal concerns. There are no ethics considerations that can be planned or implemented without prior identification and addressing of citizens' perceptions. To support this, VITRUV offers a commented list of methods to determine ethics aspects in relevant urban planning.

Legal considerations

Legal considerations when considering maintenance measures are:

Footnotes and references

  1. Wolfe Mary K., Mennis Jeremy, Does vegetation encourage or suppress urban crime? Evidence from Philadelphia, PA, Landscape and Urban Planning 108 (2012) 112– 122
  2. G Kelling, C Coles: Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities. New York: Free Press, 1996.
  3. Dennis S. Mileti/John H. Sorensen: Communication of Emergency Public Warnings. A Social Science Perspective and State-of-the-Art Assessment. Oak Ridge, TN: Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, 1990.
  5. ^ "Thin Surfacing - Effective Way of Improving Road Safety within Scarce Road Maintenance Budget" (PDF). Paper for presentation at the 2005 Annual Conference of the Transportation Association of Canada in Calgary, Alberta. Transportation Association of Canada. 2005. Archived from the original on 2008-04-07. Retrieved 2007-05-14.