HIDING SECURITY IN PLAIN SIGHT
Given the spread of terrorism in recent decades, and the third year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, it is not surprising that security has become a sustainable feature of modern urban life. The response to the threat of terrorism has profoundly affected America’s urban environment from an architectural, design and street landscape perspective.
Retrofitting facilities and sites to improve security has proved challenging, especially in addressing threats associated with blast mitigation and perimeter security issues. In some cases the response has resulted in the closure of streets, the creation of check points, and the hasty erecting of barriers, and has impacted the aesthetics of our urban landscape, creating a fortress-like environment of fear.
In contrast, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED (pronounced “sep-ted”), is also being seamlessly integrated as permanent, effective and visually appealing security planning solutions in our towns and cities across the nation. Cities and counties, such a Tempe, Ariz., Sarasota, Fla., and Broward County, Fla., are adopting CPTED ordinances that mandate plan reviews with crime prevention in mind. The National Capital Planning Commission, Washington, D.C., is also actively involved in addressing the Nation’s Capital urban design incorporating CPTED principles.
CPTED is based on the theory that the proper design and effective use of the built environment can reduce crime and the fear of crime, and improve the quality of life. Obviously, the best opportunity to apply CPTED, especially from a cost perspective, is in the formulation of site and building master plans and in the early phases of building architectural and urban landscape design.
Common CPTED Strategies
There are three basic and overlapping strategies in applying CPTED: natural surveillance; natural access control; and territorial reinforcement.
Natural surveillance is a design concept directed primarily at facilitating continual observation, thus preventing the opportunity of crime (e.g., proper placement of windows overlooking sidewalks and parking lots, using transparent vestibules at building entrances to divert persons to reception areas, etc.). Placing physical features, activities, and people in ways that maximize the ability to see what is going on around them is key. Landscaping and lighting can be pre-planned to promote natural surveillance from inside or outside a building. This strategy can also be supplemented with the use of security and police patrols and application of closed-circuit television.
Natural access control focuses on limiting and providing guided access. Properly located entrances, exits, fencing, landscaping, sidewalks and roadways, signage, and lighting, all can assist in directing both pedestrian and vehicle traffic in ways that discourage crime. These design strategies coupled with the use of locks, security personnel and spatial definition (e.g. providing increased scrutiny and limiting escape routes) will create a perception of risk to the criminal element.
Territorial reinforcement promotes a sense of expressed ownership and social control. People living, visiting or working in or around an area that is physically designed to protect designated space are more likely to challenge intruders or report suspicious activity. Such an environment also causes strangers or intruders to stand out and makes them more easily identified. The use of fencing, seating areas, pavement treatments, art, signs, landscape and good maintenance of facilities and grounds promotes a perception that these defined areas are controlled.
The success of CPTED must consider the design of the physical space and its intended use. There must be a direct connection between the functional objective of space utilization and behavior management. Being able to address the “3 D CPTED principles” is critical to security planning (see sidebar).
Challenges of CPTED
The goal of CPTED is to design and build safer, less fortress-type environments that reduce costs and liability, promote transparent security controls and ultimately improve the quality of life.
The “Urban Design Guidelines for Physical Perimeter Entrance Security: An Overlay to the Master Plan for the Federal Triangle,” prepared by the General Services Administration (GSA), Washington, D.C., presents the concept of applying security design zone solutions. Zones 1 and 2 are related exclusively to the architecture of a building. Zones 3, 4, and 5 are related to both the public right-of-way and the surrounding design context of the building. This includes building yards, sidewalk, curb or parking lane areas. Zone 6 focuses on addressing streets and whether they should remain open or closed or controlled through the use of security checkpoints. Depending on the identification of security risks and required security response, different types of streetscape security elements can be considered — such as fences, planters and hardened street furniture. These can be translated into different architectural and landscape security responses to meet individual security needs and requirements. They provide a layered protection of security starting at the outermost boundary or perimeter of a building and continuing up to the immediate access point or pathway leading to the building interior. The higher the needed level of security, the more concentrated become the layers of security hardening measures.
There are several challenges associated with the use of CPTED. First, there remains a lack of knowledge by planners, engineers, architects, developers and the general public on its intended vision and mission. This lack of awareness is gradually being overcome through publications and educational programs. Second, there still is a resistance to change. Some professionals have developed strong resistance or complacency when considering CPTED as part of their planning strategies. They fail to understand or recognize the value of CPTED and the historical precedents established more than 50 years ago in addressing defensible space. Finally, there is a perception that CPTED is a panacea to addressing crime or terrorism. There are no hard and fast rules in CPTED. It is more an art than a science. It is about sharing ideas and asking the right questions that improve security planning and decision-making processes related to the design, use and protection of space.
CPTED has been used to develop practical and flexible security master plans that can respond to a variety of threats.
THE THREE D’S OF CPTED
Once the following questions have been answered, the resulting information can be used to guide decisions about the relationship between urban design, the built environment and security management.
What is the designated purpose of the space?
For what purpose was it originally intended?
How well does the space support its current use or its intended use?
Is there a conflict?
How is the space defined; is it clear who owns it?
Where are its borders and are there conflicts or confusion between its purpose and definition?
Are there social, cultural, legal or administrative rules or policies that affect how the space is used?
How does the physical design support the intended function, desired or accepted behavior?
Does the physical design conflict or impede the productive use, functionality or intended human activity?
Does the end result satisfy or substantiate the intended purpose and costs associated with the design?
For The Record
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Robert Cizmadia is senior program manager for Post, Buckley, Schuh & Jernigan (PBS&J), Chantilly, Va., and leads the firm’s security planning systems program.
Learn more about CPTED from the following sources of information:
Crowe, Timothy D. (2000). Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design: Applications of Architectural Design and Space Management Concepts (2nd Edition), Stoneham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.
Jeffrey, C. Ray (1971). Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications.
National Crime Prevention Council, Designing Safer Communities: Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Handbook, Washington, D.C. 1996.
National Institute of Justice, The Expanding Role of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Premises Liability, U.S. Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., 1996.
Newman, Oscar: Defensible Space, The Macmillan Company, New York, NY, 1972.
Zelinka, Al, and Brennan, Dean, SafeScape: Creating Safer, More Livable Communities Through Planning and Design, American Planning Association, Chicago, IL. 2002.