Public services and facilities

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Public services and facilities are urban objects designated to fulfil supportive functions related to the health and well-being of the citizens of a modern society or urban area.

The provision of public services and facilities in the urban environment has a significant impact on the quality of life that residents and others enjoy. Good quality local public services, including education and training opportunities, health care and community facilities, are identified as one of the key elements for a Sustainable Communities Plan connected with crime reduction and community safety[1].


Public services and facilities play an essential role in providing support services to create viable,sustainable, healthy and cohesive communities,overcoming social barriers and raising achievement.
They refer to all of the services/facilities which are required by an urban area to provide the necessary and essential functions for its citizens. These include:

Public service/ facility type Description Icon
Educational The land uses and buildings that are used to serve the educational purposes of the community. These facilities very often have a secondary function of providing a location for social and recreational activities of the community.
Health This category of urban object includes all facilities where medical treatment of some form is offered. For example, it would include a local GP clinic or a city hospital. This category is, however, not limited to clinical or medical healthcare, it includes all object related to the diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of people with sickness or illness.
Government Assets Buildings and facilities relating to government departments or entities. This would include, for example administration office associated with a government department or agency, police and fire services stations, etc. For the purposes of Urban Securipedia, government assets do not extend to recreational services or utilities such as water/waste/energy infrastructure or facilities.
Government Assets

All of the above perform vital roles within the overall operation of the urban area. The different types of public services and facilities will occur in all contexts of the urban fabric, depending on the role and function of the individual object.

The icon representing the above urban objects will be shown throughout this page where a description relates specifically to that urban object.



In the case of public services and facilities, societal security should be a natural frame of reference for identification of vulnerability and enhancement of resilience. In particular for this type of urban objects, urban planning practice has to incorporate appropriate security measures for vulnerability identification and resilience enhancements of urban objects. Vulnerability assessment should take place based on different sets of indicators, from physical to social, and across several levels of reference, from individual to cultural community. It is know, for example, that citizens' felt risks to urban infrastructure and needs to protect it can be influenced according to ownership structure (public vs. private owners; domestic/foreign owners)[2]. This is an aspect of types of impact of critical infrastucture failure on citizens and society to consider. Public services and facilities can also be associated with citizens' perception of individual dependence, which can increase their perception of risk related to the infrastructure and the need to protect it.[3]

Therefore, related risk assessment for urban planning should identify related levels of risk perception at the level of the citizens as the end-users of public facilities and public service infrastructure. VITRUV identified a set of practical methods for such citizen participation. For planning of public services and facilities, methods that are particularly suitable include activating opinion survey (with a focus on identifying citizens' fears and needs) and appreciative planning (with a focus on stakeholders and mapping of communities for which the public services and facilities are of particular importance).


The economic function of social infrastructure is to provide for the well-being of individuals, families and communities. Investment in social infrastructure is essential for maintaining quality of life and to develop the skills and resilience essential to strong communities. There is a growing consensus amongst scholars and politicians that social infrastructure is at least as important for the successful development of a modern economy as more physical infrastructure such as roads, utility facilities, and sewer systems. Social infrastructure such as schools, theatres and sport facilities make people want to live in a certain area, which subsequently attracts businesses and other investors that provide for jobs and income (economic impact). "In short, social infrastructure planning involves minimal resource for high returns"[4].

In terms of security threats, public services and facilities are subject to crime and vandalism. These activities create costs in anticipation of crime (e.g. locks, surveillance, etc.), as a consequence of crime (loss of/damage to property), and in response to crime (police investigation, legal system, etc.).

Security measures such as access control, ownership, surveillance, etc., mitigate the negative effects of crime and terrorism, but are not without direct investment costs (both temporary and permanent) and more indirect economic effects, the economic effects of security measures. The ‘designing out’ or 'sustainable design' approach in the earliest stages in the planning process could be in the long run an effective measure from an economic point of view to prevent security threats and to reduce the economic damage. In general, these measures demand larger 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.


Public services generally require good possibilities for mobility, e.g. public buildings should have a good accessibility. However, in order to reduce safety risk of vulnerable public places such as schools, accessibility might also be reduced on purpose in order to make it more difficult for criminals to enter the place.

In [1] an example is given of a recently-rebuilt secondary school which is unusual in having the grounds unfenced and accessible to the public. It is on the site of a prefabricated school that had many security and disorder problems. The aim was to create a school that students would be proud of and would be safe without having overly visible security measures. This aim has been successful, thanks to a secure building envelope with a single controlled entrance and a comprehensive CCTV system monitored by security guards on 24-hour duty.


Some public services and facilities contribute directly to the safety, welfare and well-being of people, such as health facilitiesHealth.jpg, fire departments or security forcesGovernment Assets.jpg. Disruption of these services can result in unsafe situations, as people in emergency situations would not receive required help.

Security Issues

Crimes most relevant to public services and facilities, are:

  • Vandalism and Graffiti: These security issues are related to the fact that public services often reside in buildings which are publicly accessible, highly visible and which are located in area that add to this visibility. Due to the presence of young people, this issue is most prominent at and around educational facilitiesEducation.jpg[5].
  • Riots in Copenhagen as result of a demonstration in 2006
    Destruction by riots: is a threat particularly for Government assetsGovernment Assets.jpg, as riots can origin from peaceful protests and government assets are likely targets for protest demonstrations.
  • Destruction by fanatics can result from the fact that many government assetsGovernment Assets.jpg have a highly visible and prominent position, which adds to their attractiveness in the eye of terrorists.
  • Assault is a recent phenomena, which expresses itself in violence against rescue workersGovernment Assets.jpg.


The measures for each type of security issue can be found on the respective pages. There are few measures that are specifically suited or unsuited to this kind of urban object, but some general considerations can be mentioned:

  • Ownership is required for the public to be aware to enter private space and know to act accordingly.
  • Access control is closely related to ownership and one of the most rudimentary measures as it ensures the possibility to determine who does and who does not get access to the office. It is usually enforced by having a reception and a form of dynamic barrier, such as a turnstile, a blockable revolving door or a guard on duty.
  • Screening is a measure that can be employed supporting access control. By screening visitors, a more rigid access control can be enforced.
  • Directing traffic flows can be employed to ensure only the expected kind of traffic enters via the entrances. Examples of directing traffic flows for offices are: directing all cars away from the entrance by, for example, locating the parking facilities some distance from the entrance, closing parking garages from entry on foot or creating separate entrances for trusted visitors.
  • Intelligence can be used to detect increasing risk by fanatics.
  • Target hardening can be used to increase the effort to commit vandalism or graffiti. An other form of target hardening can also be employed to delay the effect of riots to the point when sufficient intervention force can be employed.
  • Surveillance can be effective against vandalism or graffiti when perpetrators can be detected and corrected fast enough.
  • Intervention force is needed to make detection measures, such as alarms or surveillance effective.

Footnotes and references

  1. 1.0 1.1 Safer Places - The Planning System and Crime Prevention (2004). Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.
  2. Cf. Coppola, D.P.: Introduction to International Disaster Management. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2007, pp. 164-166
  3. Cf. Slovic, P./Fischhoff, B./Lichtenstein, S.: Facts and Fears: Societal Perception of Risk. In: Monroe, K.B./Abor, A. (eds.): Advances in Consumer Research, Vol. 8 (1981), pp. 497-502. Retrieved from:
  4. Smarth Growth (2009): Social Infrastructure Planning Framework for the Western Bay of Plenty Sub-region.
  5. Lamm Weisel Deborah, Graffiti, Problem-Oriented Guides for Police, Guide No. 9