Measure type: Facilitating compliance

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Facilitating compliance is the measure of reducing risk by decreasing crime by making it easier for the public to behave according to the local rules.


The idea behind facilitating compliance is to reduce circumstances that might be used as an excuse for committing crimes. For example, not having public waste bins might be used as an excuse for littering, long lines as excuse to get in without paying or a dilapidated appearance as an excuse for vandalism.


  • Providing ample waste bins
  • Providing 'graffiti boards' where messages can legally be painted
  • Providing public urinals
  • Using directing traffic flows to ease right and discourage wrong behaviour, like one-way turnstiles to discourage using an exit for entry or clear signs indicating the preferred route around a closed or one-way road.
  • Providing taxi stops in bar district to prevent driving under influence
  • Rehabilitation programs for addicts
  • Ensuring an adequate level of maintenance
  • Making clear rules are monitored and acted upon
    Sign in Wales indicating a prohibition to bicycle and at the same time that these rules are monitored and acted upon.


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{{#info:Burglary is the crime of illicitly entering a building with the intent to commit an offence, particularly (but not limited to) theft.}} Physical assault{{#info:Assault, is a crime which involves causing a victim to fear or to experience any type of violence, except for sexual violence}} Destruction by riots{{#info:Destruction by riots is the act of vandalism of property by organised groups for a shared rational or rationalised reason.}} Mass killing{{#info:Mass killing is the crime of purposely causing harm or death to a group of (unknown) people in order to make a statement or to influence the public opinion. This threat is exerted out of wilful action by fanatics: terrorists or criminal activists.}}
Ram-raiding{{#info:Ram raid is a particular technique for burglars to gain access to primarily commercial premises, by means of driving -usually stolen- vehicles into locked or closed entrances, exits or windows.}} Sexual assault{{#info:Sexual assault is assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent}} Destruction of property by fanatics{{#info:Destruction by fanatics is the crime of purposely causing damage in order to make a statement or to influence the public opinion.}}
Pickpocketing{{#info:Pickpocketing is a form of theft that involves the stealing of valuables from a victim without their noticing the theft at the time. }} Vandalism{{#info:Vandalism is the act of wilful or malicious destruction, injury, disfigurement, or defacement of property without the consent of the owner or person having custody or control.}}
Robbery{{#info:Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. It is used her exclusively for acts committed to individual persons.}} Graffiti{{#info:Grafitti is the defacement of property by means of writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed on a surface in a public place without the consent of the owner or person having custody or control. }}
Raid{{#info:Raid is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value from a commercial venue by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear.}} Antisocial Behaviour{{#info:Antisocial behaviour is an accumulation category of relatively small crimes that highly influence the security perception of citizens. }}
Vehicle theft{{#info:Vehicle theft is the crime of theft, or attempt of theft of or from a motor vehicle (automobile, truck, bus, motorcycle, etc.).}}


General considerations

When taken right, measures to facilitate compliance can be quite natural and subtle to the public and be seen as an extra service rather than as a restriction. One should realize the limitation of this measure though, as it primarily targets the 'opportunity crimes' and it will therefore be better suited to low-level crimes like antisocial behaviour, graffiti and vandalism and less suited to the higher-level crimes.

Urban planning considerations

Instances of poor quality urban spaces and dilapidated environments discourage the voluntary adherence of rules, encouraging undesirable activity.

In order to facilitate people to comply with existing rules, an efficient and effective urban planning process is required to address an area’s underlying vulnerabilities and disinhibitors of crime. For example, by designing for easier maintenance and promoting a sense of ownership, a perception of oversight in an area can be established by the urban planner. This will reduce the circumstances which are being used as an excuse for committing crimes and will promote rule compliance.

Safety/security considerations

Facilitating compliance can both be used to serve security and safety goals; warning people for dangerous situations and informing them about a requirement to use hard hats in a construction area is an example of the latter. As the measure of facilitating compliance does not impose new rules, but only provides incentives and support to voluntarily uphold existing rules, this measure has no side effects.

Social considerations

An important social aspect of facilitating compliance is the responsiveness of this measure to citizens' felt security needs. In general, it is not easy to address citizens' by built infrastructure in order to influence their behaviour in using that infrastructure. The reason for this is that – among other things due to culture aspects – citizens ‘read’ built urban environment in different ways: One central tenet in environmental psychology is that meaning intentionally embodied in built environment is not always decoded by citizens' according to that intention.

Practical addressing of social aspects and aspects of security culture as they apply to facilitating compliance 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 of facilitating compliance should include tests of usability in relevant social contexts. Suitable methods to assess the appropriateness of the measure of facilitating compliance from the citizen point of view, and that can also help supporting implementation of the measue, include Planning for Real. This helps assess risks and how to address it, giving emphasis on cultural contexts. At the same time, the method aims at creating conducive contexts for security-enhancing cooperation among neighbours, experts and local interest groups.

Economic considerations

From a rational-economic perspective, security measures that facilitate compliance can be regarded as a help for individual agents to comply to the laws. Put differently, they alter the risk-benefit analysis of agents in such a way that these agents will refrain from any illegal or unwanted activities (see the case example below). This process of reducing the risk of crime automatically also leads to a reduction of the negative economic impact (of crime). The provision of 'graffiti boards' (where messages can legally be painted), for example, will not just prevent material and immaterial damage to other urban objects, but will also prevent indirect economic damage to the economy, as it contributes to a safe and whole environment, attracting investors, tourists, richer citizens, etc.

Case example: Fake security systems

With the help of fake security systems (camera's, signs, dog warnings, etc.) one can create the impression of a monitored secure asset without the high investment and maintenance cost of the real version. This kind of security is all about perceived security, and for sure cheaper than real cameras.

As for all other security measures, there are also cost involved with the controlling of disinhibitors. The cost of facilitating compliance contain the relatively straightforward direct expenditures on capital equipment and operational cost (both temporary and permanent) such as investments in public urinals, rehabilitation programmes for addicts, waste bins, etc. In addition, facilitating compliance measures can generate various types of secondary costs effects. If this will happen, depends, amongst others, on the impact of these measures on the perceived security of citizens, consumers and investors, or if the measures influence the reachability of an area, etc.

In order to decide if this specific security measure makes sense from an economic point of view, the urban planner should not just map both the cost and benefits of facilitating compliance measures (both direct and indirect), but also wonder if there exist potential alternative security measures that have a better value for money (benefit-cost ratio)[1]. On top of that, one should always consider how stakeholders (citizens, suppliers, customers, employees, etc.) are affected by the considered measures, and to which extend. How will potential criminals/terrorists, for example, react? Will they easily find ways to ignore the foreseen security measures, or will the facilitating compliance measures force them to comply to the laws (the economics of criminal/terrorist behaviour)? 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.

In terms of benefit-cost ratio, facilitating compliance can be considered as a type of security measure which in a relatively subtle way increases security, in contrast to measures such as security guards, big concrete walls and barb wire that may be pervasive, but can also arouse feelings of fear and anxiety[2]. Hence, the measure of facilitating compliance is an example of the designing out approach, or as an aspect of sustainable design, which seeks a balanced consideration of social, economic, cultural and environmental aspects in urban design. In general, these kind of measures demand larger initial investments than traditional security measures, but at the same time they are able to avoid future costs due to the long-term prevention of crime.

Mobility considerations

There are several possibilites to facilitate compliance of traffic. As written above, this can be done using measures for directing traffic flows to ease right and discourage wrong behaviour, like one-way turnstiles to discourage using an exit for entry or clear signs indicating the preferred route around a closed or one-way road.

One of the principles of the Dutch approach Sustainable Safety is predictability, which is a means of facilitating compliance as well. As explained in [3], road design should be so consistent that road users instantly understand what they can expect and what is expected of them on a certain type of street or road. The road design itself gives information about the type of road/street. If the street is paved with bricks, there are parked cars and the street is shared with cyclists and gives access to homes, the road user will instantly know and feel this is a 30km/h (19mph) local access street. However, if the road has two carriageways separated by a median, there is no parking and cyclists have their own cycle paths, it is clear to the road user that this is a through road.

Another principal of the Sustainable Safety approach is Forgivingness; Humans make errors and willingly or unwillingly break rules. This is a given that cannot be changed. So roads and streets should be designed in such a way that this natural human behavior does not lead to crashes and injuries. An example is a shoulder with a semi-hard pavement. A road user coming off the main road will not crash immediately; the semi-hard shoulder will give this road user the ability to get back to the main carriageway. The equivalent for cyclists is a curb with a different angle; 45 degrees in stead of 90 degrees. Hitting this curb with your front wheel will not immediately result in a fall. Forgivingness towards other road users is enhanced when road design leads to a predictable behavior of road users. A result of this principle is that motorized traffic sometimes gives priority to cyclists even if they don’t have it. Because it is so clear where the cyclists want or need to go the motorist anticipates their behavior and gives the cyclist more room than he or she is legally obliged to, often to the surprise of especially foreign cyclists [3].

Ethics considerations

Facilitating compliance first requires the selection of those areas and types of risk where compliance is sought to be facilitated. This involves ethics issues because limited resources will probably not allow addressing all relevant urban areas. This may lead to the creation of different levels of security in society. Therefore, investigating human and societal needs regarding target hardening should be a priority. To support this, VITRUV offers a commented list of methods to determine ethics aspects in relevant urban planning.

Legal considerations

Major legal aspects include balancing of facilitation of compliance that may be seen as compulsory to some extent, with freedom to act and other fundamental rights. VITRUV offers a summary checklist and a list of methods to assess legal aspects in resilience-enhancing urban planning.

Footnotes and references

  1. See also the flow chart of an economic assessment.
  2. Coaffee, J., P. O’Hare, and M. Hawkesworth (2009): The Visibility of (In)security: The Aesthetics of Planning Urban Defences Against Terrorism. Security Dialogue 2009 40:489.
  3. 3.0 3.1