Crime prevention by design

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Crime prevention by design is the idea that the level of crime is influenced by the built environment and, by careful design of this built environment, the level of crime can be reduced. This reduction can be accomplished by either addressing physical or social and individual sources of threat, or both.


The idea that crime could be influenced by the design of the built environment was based on the more limited idea of defensible space and further developed in work of Elizabeth Wood, Jane Jacobs and Schlomo Angel.

Two principles of crime prevention by design are designing in and designing out.

Crime prevention by design methods


CPTED (Crime prevention through environmental design) is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behaviour through environmental design. It has a long history, dating back to the 1970s.

It employs three design strategies to reduce crime:

In addition, it employs two strategies not related to design:

  • Maintenance
  • Activity support

Environmental design

Environmental design refers to the process of addressing environmental parameters in planning programs, policies or concepts. It is part of the "10 principles of crime prevention" following a U.K. initiative.

Secured by Design

Secured by design is a UK initiative to persuade the building, construction and design industry to adopt secure design methodology and to use products with a proven track record in defeating known criminal methods of entry.

Sustainable design

Sustainable design is “a design philosophy that values the natural environment as an integral factor in creating”[1] new physical objects, urban environment, and services “to comply with the principles of social, economic, and ecological sustainability”[2].

New urbanism

New urbanism is a school of thought that argues for conceptual integration of society and approaches from social sciences and humanities into urban planning.

Achievements and limitations

  • the UK document 'safer places' gives a wide variety of case studies of the application and results of a planning system delivering both sustainable environments and preventing crime.

Cultural criminology has criticised design-based approaches to crime prevention for only reducing fear of crime but not the root causes of crime, while raising ethics issues. An illustrative argument is that design-based measures may just displace crime to other places nearby, and it may contribute to separating out certain types of people from certain types of public space (such as separating out other people than "middle class" from commercial malls).[1]

Further reading

Footnotes and references

  1. David Garland: The Culture of Control: Crime and Social Order in Contemporary Society. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2001, p. 162.