Reducing fear


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Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an urban planning and architectural design methodology that has existed for over 50 years, going back to Jane Jacob’s (1961) prescriptions for safe streets in New York city.1 It starts out with the proposition that safety in shared and public spaces is not just a question of the presence of organized policing of criminals. For most crimes to happen one needs not only the potential criminal, but also unprotected targets and a space with lack of social control.

Although the question of safety varies, the issue is now a global one in cities, as pointed out viz. in the UN-HABITAT global report, ‘Enhancing Urban Safety and Security’ (2007). Here the UN sees CPTED as a useful tool and describes it as part of an effective methodology in urban planning, design and governance. However, the report also talks of other approaches, including community building as well as strengthening of formal criminal justice and policing. Women’s safety also gets special attention.

Crime prevention as a whole is a wide concept including both social, educational and urban environment policies. It is not just about the police, the justice system, paid guards and CCTV. It also has to do with local cooperation between schools, social authorities and the police, as well as technical crime prevention of different kinds – everything from locks on doors and the design of windows to careful urban planning.

CPTED basically tries to reduce crime and violence as well as fear of crime by working with territoriality, surveillance, access control, target hardening, and image and maintenance issues.2 It also involves activity support to increase natural surveillance and to create environments that stimulate activities other than crime. The means of CPTED concerns the spatial structuring, the locations of different functions, the visual impression, and the robustness of buildings, components and furniture. The best overall effect is achieved by a combined effort which does not narrowly focus on technical security gadgets.


The background for the development of CPTED has been a high level of crime and/or fear of crime in the context of anonymity and density of cities. The background also includes problems with modernist urban planning and modernist architecture as well as spatial and social segregation, which in many places are combined with multicultural issues. A part of the background relates to insufficiency of other crime prevention approaches. In recent decades this approach has also come to be seen as an alternative to gated communities.

CPTED is a normative approach built on a combination of scientific research and the common sense of guideline writing experts. As there are different kinds of crime, fear and safety problems as well as many different local conditions, CPTED necessarily has to be a compromise between different concerns. It needs to combine ‘good enough’ practices without insisting on a strict scientific suboptimization of specific crime prevention measures at the cost of other reasonable goals and demands.


The basics of the CPTED approach were initially developed in the 1960s and 1970s in the USA by the journalist Jane Jacobs and her critique of large modernist urban renewal projects in New York City that threatened existing vibrant urban settings like Greenwich Village. Subsequently, the architect Oscar Newman advanced the concept of ‘Defensible Space’ to improve safety in the modernist projects that were already built.3 Like Jacobs, though much of his focus was on natural surveillance, the informal social control related to everyday life activities, he argued that this approach worked only if related to a clearly designed territoriality. As Brantingham and Brantingham point out, Newman assumed that people are territorial, that proximity creates community, and that architecture has deterministic effects.4

The term CPTED was coined by the criminologist C. Ray Jeffery,5 who assumed a more complex human/environmental interaction than Newman where planning and architecture are seen as having probabilistic effects, a framework/approach favoured by most CPTED scholars and practitioners.

During the 1970s, the concept was further refined in the United States, with direct support from the federal government through the Department of Justice and the Department of Housing and Urban Development and by drawing on routine activity theory in criminology related to situational crime prevention. Routine activity theory relates to everyday life, wherein incidents of crime depend on opportunity. Environmental criminology also contributes with the spatial and temporal aspects of routine crime activity, for instance by focusing on movement patterns of criminals and spatial awareness.


A major question concerns the prevention of actual crimes as a starting point in crime prevention vs. a starting point aimed at increasing the feeling of safety. In other words: the focus on real, statistically measurable risks of crime on the one hand and the focus on perceptions of fear on the other.

In real life there is often a large difference between experienced or imagined safety on the one hand, and the actual, real safety on the other. The manner in which crime is reported through the mass media often creates a very different impression of risks compared to real statistical crime rates – different risks for different groups of the population, in different places and at different times. The feeling of safety or unsafety is to some extent also age and gender dependent, sometimes proportional in contrast to the real risks.

In Canada fear of crime and the gender perspective on CPTED was put on the agenda in Toronto in the early 1990s as a result of safety audits by women’s groups, police, and transit officials of the Toronto Transit system. Today in Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and Austria, the question of the ‘feeling of safety’ is in as much focus as actual safety, to simultaneously address actual crime prevention and an increase in the feeling of safety by focusing on the experience of well-being in the urban environment. Such an approach is expected to result in more populated public spaces, which can both reduce crime and increase the feeling of safety. The focus on well-being also means that the environment should not be painted in negative colours which by itself can increase the feeling of unsafety.


The circumstances between North America and Northern Europe differ, and the differences become sharper when one considers low and middle income countries. It must, therefore, be questioned if CPTED principles can be transferred to other countries since there are both variations in crime and causes. The relative importance of different background causes varies between countries, as does fear of crime.


It is known that victimization by crime and fear of crime varies with the degree of urbanization, social and ethnic background, gender and age. Many different reasons have been proposed to explain these variations: the level of economic development of the society, inequality, the status of women, the amount of alcohol and/or drug use, secularization and individualization (seen as a lesser social ethic), increased personal competitiveness in late capitalism, the growth of mental illness, religious extremism, the proportion of prison population, the effectiveness and fairness of government and police, and so on.

Today, in Northern Europe, though there are ‘technical’ laws for traffic safety, for fire protection, for accessibility for disabled, and so on, crime prevention still focuses almost exclusively on the criminal through social and law enforcement means.


Traffic safety measures since about 1960 have been both driver, road and car focused – with excellent results. All three major factors are taken into account resulting in significant improvements, not just concerning driver behaviour but, to a large degree, also with regard to the roads and cars, for instance traffic separation, speed limits, safety belts, ABS brakes and airbags. Traffic safety work accepts that not all drivers are good drivers all the time. Therefore, traffic accident prevention has to work with all three corners of the triangle. Through a broad traffic safety policy, the deaths/100,000 cars in traffic accidents in Scandinavia have been reduced by about 90% since 1950. (Table 1)


The Difference Between Countries Can be Large, as the Statistics Below Show (my selection)



England and Wales




Worst Country







South Africa and Colombia







South Africa




no data










Northern Ireland















Motor vehicle theft







Drug related



no data











Worst Country

GNP/capita 2010 USD













South Africa

Literacy women %






Afghanistan and Chad

Women in parliament %






Saudi Arabia, Qatar, etc.

Urbanization %







Cars/capita %






Bangladesh, etc.

Alcohol litre/capita







Population in prison, rate







Police reported crimes and some background data for Denmark, England and Wales (UK), USA, India and ‘worst’ country, rate per 100,000 population (Harrendorf et al, International Statistics on Crime and Justice, UNDOC, 2010). Police reported crimes may vary because of other factors than actual crime. Victimization rates based on surveys are more true, but does exist for India, i.e., police reported rape in India is probably too low.

In situational crime prevention and CPTED too there is a conceptual triangle, though in practice crime prevention usually overwhelmingly focuses on the criminal (the offender or the potential offender), while the two other corners of the prevention triangle are either given low priority or neglected. As crime is related to opportunity, the attempt to eliminate crime is unfortunately, both unrealistic and inefficient. As a result of this narrow focus, it inevitably appears that the number of crimes grows in proportion to economic growth, i.e., the richer we get the more crimes we get. Little surprise that both personal income and crime in Scandinavia are now about 400% larger than in 1950.

Based on situational routine activity theory, CPTED works with the two other corners of the crime triangle: space control and the safety of persons and things – targeting the ‘criminal’ indirectly, just like safety measures for roads and safety measures for cars do. For ensuring safety in streets and public space, we don’t need the full CPTED package. When thinking about CPTED and urban transport, we can delimit CPTED to deal with the configuration of public space and the ways buildings relate to public space. Most of this public space is outdoor (exterior) space. As regards the interior of buildings, we mainly have to focus on buildings related to urban transport, like railway stations, public garages and parking structures, petrol stations, and the like.


This is still a vast spatial field, especially when we consider all forms of transport, including walking and cycling which have to be encouraged for several reasons. In short, urban transport space covers public and semi-public space all the way to the entrance of one’s destination, where private or semi-private space begins. It includes public squares, streets, roads, alleys, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and even parks and recreation areas, if these are used for through traffic of any kind. It also includes semi-public areas close to the origins and destinations of journeys, as one should be safe and feel safe all the way from start to finish.

Public space and semi-public space in this context is defined by use, not by formal ownership of the space in question. What is left out of CPTED in this urban transport perspective are some aspects of the interior of dwelling complexes, office complexes, school complexes and the like, though not the ways the buildings face public space through entrances, windows and balconies, which still have to be considered.


Traffic Accident Event ‘Triangle’ and Situational Crime Event ‘Triangle’



In the public space and traffic environment CPTED is more about increasing natural surveillance than territoriality. The question of access control also changes as its possibilities becomes weaker in public space. Natural surveillance is probably also a more universally useful aspect of CPTED to begin with – the social control of space through natural surveillance by people themselves. The basic human aspects of this are not always clearly understood:

* Depending on circumstances, most people can commit criminal or violent acts or be tempted to commit such acts. There is no definite, clear division line between ‘bad’ people and ‘good’ people in this regard. This means that we cannot keep all potentially ‘bad’ people out.

* To be a human being means to be equipped with a basic sociality to react on other human beings and most people have the ability to feel some degree of empathy with others, including with strangers. Most grown up people also have a sense of what is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ behaviour, at least in their own society.

* People like to be in places where other people are, as it can be comfortable, interesting and fun. This means that if the public space has positive qualities, there will be people and ‘eyes’ there.

* Most people do not want to get caught doing ‘bad’ things, as there can be consequences they would like to avoid.


It is, therefore, very important that CPTED concerns for public space start with thinking about space and behaviour, and not with technical solutions like fences or CCTV. First of all we need to stimulate natural surveillance. Co-presence of people and their social control of space is a basic starting point and has to be thought about together with differences in spatial structures and designs, cultures, concrete locations, times of day and week, and so on.

Second, public spaces and the traffic environment can be complemented with technical installations and hardware, specific choice of materials, specific design of urban furniture, etc. The question then is how safety through CPTED can be achieved in practice in different settings and under different circumstances and, if natural surveillance is not enough, how it can be best supplemented with other safety and security measures.

An urban planning and design perspective is needed on safety and crime prevention, not the least because of the many design failures of modernist urban development following the ideologies of CIAM (Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne). Modern urban planning takes as its departure Le Corbusier’s and CIAM’s utopia of a new and modern city – a framework that acquired worldwide influence after 1945. In the real world, however, this utopian model has increased the problems of crime and fear of crime, in part because of its foregrounding of spatial separation and large scale.


The specific problem facing US architect Oscar Newman was especially how to improve modernistic US social housing projects built since the 1940s. Often they had free-floating space at ground level combined with large and high buildings with entrance corridors and many apartments concentrated around the same lift and stairwell. Further, combined with negative social segregation, these areas had high crime and fear of crime problems that Newman tried to solve by introducing a more gradual territoriality through the creation of semi-public and semi-private spaces, and to some degree by putting up fences.


Natural Surveillance

Source: Lancaster Community Safety Coalition.

These kinds of problems did not show up only in the USA. Modern urban planning and mass industrialized housing were shaped by the international movement, CIAM 1928-59. After the Second World War, the general solution advanced for meeting the housing shortage was implementation of housing developments, often in the periphery of cities. In many countries large-scale social housing projects were rapidly built in greater numbers, the phase culminating around 1970. In Sweden and Denmark, this resulted in large numbers of empty apartments, as people preferred other kinds of dwelling and urban environments. Spatial, social and subsequently ethnic segregation to experienced severe sharpening through these projects.


The CIAM charter contributed to the demise of the traditional street, resulting instead in functional separation, anonymous, repetitive housing, vast open areas (often little used) and the building of isolated enclaves surrounded by ‘no-man’s-land’. Safety in these new urban districts, especially in relation to burglaries, car related crimes and violence, soon became a major concern. The housing projects that resulted were increasingly populated not by a utopian social mix but with a new urban underclass, some of them immigrants from different cultures and poorly integrated into the labour market. Currently, people living in these urban districts with large-scale modern housing projects are more concerned about fear of crime than other average city residents. For some, fear of crime also changes their behaviour viz. avoiding the use of public spaces, cultural facilities and public transport in the evenings.

In Europe, which has seen more of the CIAM like projects than the US, the interest in CPTED began to grow in the mid-1970s. The UK Home Office soon formed a crime prevention unit with qualified researchers, while in the Netherlands and in Denmark the CPTED studies and initiatives surfaced in the 1980s. The geographer Alice Coleman, for instance, argued that CIAM projects increased crime and fear of crime, even if her data and analyses to some degree can be contested.6 Coleman showed far more clearly than Newman that the scale and size of the built environment were essential parts of the problem: the size of the building lot, the number of blocks, the number of dwellings per block, the number of floors, and the number of households around the same stairwell. Many of Coleman’s design conclusions are now widely accepted. The essence of her message is that small is beautiful, like gridded districts composed of semi-detached houses.


The CIAM planning was often combined with the idea of the neighbourhood. The ‘Neighbourhood Unit’ was introduced in urban planning in the first half of the 20th century, its purpose to do away with disorderly, traditional cities through the building of separated hierarchical urban units. In the UK, both the police and the British Standards Institution in the 1980s realized that there was a major crime problem with the traditional grid street pattern, and a large focus on real cul-de-sacs as the safest residential design. In Sweden, the hierarchical development of isolated enclaves in new urban districts was taken a step further by the 1968 traffic system development guidelines. They became an effective paradigm for urban planning and resulted in creating districts with a very limited permeability. These areas were marked by under-populated streets, roads and paths, where people felt unsafe. Later, Hillier7 and Hillier and Sahbaz8 provided evidence of more complex links between crime, spatial layouts and street patterns, which rarely support neighbourhood enclosure and cul-de-sac solutions.


The traditional city of streets and blocks provides a better starting point for a safer city and a city with lower fear of crime. It better promotes a culture of urbanity, though its different dimensions must be better understood: its street configuration pattern, its balance of the pleasurable, the exciting and the safe, and its relations to variations in lived urban intensity – the basic low level of co-presence, the higher level of co-presence in central places and well integrated streets, and the more extreme co-presence of crowding.

It is not that the traditional city, developed over thousands of years, did not experience safety issues as an important concern. Unfortunately, a combination of CIAM inspired modernism and the ideology of the neighbourhood unit to a large degree succeeded in diverting this concern. Spatially, the CIAM ideas were the systematic and deliberate opposition to and the negation of the traditional city. The modern neighbourhood unit ignored the development of urbanity and its relation to social behaviour. CPTED, it turns out, is to some degree a second reversal, as it builds on the negative lessons of CIAM and to a significant degree tries to correct it. CPTED approach approximates the traditional western city built on the principles of streets, blocks and squares; a clear distinction between public and private space; windows facing the street and a difference between the fronts and backs of buildings and gardens; a continuous urban fabric; economically mixed housing, mixed functions, a reasonable scale, and a mixture of old and new; and mixed traffic with pedestrians in public street space and no pedestrian tunnels.


To Jane Jacobs, a safe city was best exemplified by a traditional city with its diversity and concentration. Populated streets and neighbourhood parks were seen as essential. A sometimes misunderstood point is that her preferred ‘small blocks’ are often quite similar to normal block sizes in European cities, particularly those built before the 1920s. It is insufficiently realized that if block sizes become too small, they will be counterproductive to the creation of populated streets.


Copenhagen, Vesterbro 1890 (left) and Egebjerggaard 1990 (right).

The traditional city is linked to the word urbanity, commonly defined as the character or quality of being urbane: courtesy, refinement, or elegance of manner; refined or bland politeness or civility. At the same time, urbanity is the state, condition or character of a town or a city, the life in a city and town. Today, urban planners and city politicians have once again started to recognize the value of urbanity as related to the city of density, multiplicity, coincidence and opportunity as well as the positive value of encountering strangers in daily life.


It now seems increasingly clear that urbanity has to do with an elementary social and cultural ‘playing field’ related to public space and including strangers and chance. My own short definition of urbanity would be that it is a rich information field between humans and between humans and artefacts in freely accessible space, where the new and unexpected can happen in ever new combinations and in growing complexity. Related to this, urbanity also has to do with difference and the unique.9 Urbanity does not thrive in the spatially hierarchical and enclaved modernist city. It needs a more continuous and ‘gridded’ spatial network.

From an urban planning and design point of view, urbanity incorporates three other major aspects – the exciting city, the pleasant city and the safe city. CPTED is about the safe city which, at least in its Scandinavian interpretation, does not have to be in conflict with the pleasant city. On the other hand, the exciting city and the safe city might be partly contradictory. We cannot maximize all aspects at once.

In developing a more qualified contemporary notion of urbanity and urban safety, the Space Syntax is a useful analytical and planning tool to better understand the spatial complexity of cities and its consequences. Computerized space syntax analyses has been available since the early 1990s and based on these, space syntax advances theories on space, people and development of cities that have revolutionized the way we look at cities. Within space syntax, the understanding of the city is developed from the notion of the ‘city as a spatial object’ built by isovists, axial lines and convex spaces. It is then possible to demonstrate city development dynamics at work. Starting from integration differences in the street network and related co-presence of people, further city development leads to an increasing differentiation of the city concerning uses, economy, building height, and the social/ethnic distribution of residents. ‘Urbanity’ in space syntax is mainly related to spatial integration and co-presence. Through space syntax it is also possible to show some of the ‘lack of urbanity’ in modern urban development in the 20th century, like islands of deeply segregated spaces with low permeability.


In traditional western cities, 70 to 75% of the variation in the distribution of the pedestrians can be explained by variation of the integration values of the street network. The situation in India might be somewhat different though. Several of the highly integrated lines in New Delhi are part of a monumental street system that does not normally promote co-presence, and many highly integrated lines in Indian cities are walled or fenced and without buildings facing the street which also reduces the co-presence of pedestrians. Since the late 1990s, space syntax has also been used for crime analyses. For instance, scholars have shown that robberies are manly concentrated along or are close to well integrated lines in the movement network.

Concerning affluent western cities, it is necessary to describe the common problem of the thinning out of the city. As an example I compare a square kilometre in a working class Copenhagen area in 1890 (Vesterbro) to Egebjerggaard in Ballerup, a 1990 mixed residential suburb in the Copenhagen region.


The 1990 example has a radically lower density, a rather isolated neighbourhood and a fine grain movement pattern that creates empty streets and paths. In 100 years the population density has gone down by a factor of 50, while the length of the movement network has been increased by a factor of three. Based on these factors, the amount of visible people in the public space reduced by a factor of 150, a dramatic reduction. An absence of people is a general suburban impression. The situation in Latin America, Africa and Asia is often very different from this – dense and crowded. These differences have many implications: for safety and the feeling of safety. One, therefore, needs to recognize that urban life has different quantitative levels of intensity of urbanity.


Signs advertising gated communities along highways in India. The contrast between the vitality of activities along the highways and the isolated projects could probably not be much greater.

It is useful to operate with at least three different levels of intensity of urbanity related to the co-presence of people in public spaces. The three levels have qualitative differences:

1. Basic level urbanity with at least three people visible within 100 metres.

2. Urban centrality with at least 1000 people visible/hour.

3. Crowding, with less than two square metres of public space/person.

The basic and lowest level is, among other things, where the possibility of informal surveillance starts (visibility of people in buildings not included). The next threshold is when the feeling of a central place and where people often like to gather starts to develop. Crowding is the third level where, for instance, harassment and pickpocketing might easily happen.


The first threshold is related to a change from morals to ethics. Morals concern the relations between two people. As soon as a third person enters into the equation, it becomes a matter of ethics. Combined with the largest visible social distance we might then say that three people visible in public space within 100 metres is the lowest level of urbanity as co-presence. Between a quarter and half of the streets and paths of suburbia in affluent countries are below this level.

The second threshold might have to do with visual experiences turning into a somewhat continuous flow of different stimuli. This seems to start happening at the average level of about 15 new ‘images’ per minute, or roughly at about 1000 persons/hour, if you consider co-presence.

The third level, crowding, begins when one, on an average, can touch other bodies stretching out ones arms. According to Whyte,10 and contrary to much early writing on urban issues, many people in cities seem to like some crowding. In crowded places the behaviour of people might change, as normal social barriers to some degree break down or are allowed to be ignored. This may have both positive and negative effects.


Urban enclaves that turn their backs on ‘public’ streets, as well as fenced and gated developments, are other answers to severe problems of crime and fear of crime, viz. in India, South Africa, Latin America and the US. These developments may ease the situation for the well-to-do for some time, but are unlikely to solve the problem of crime and fear of crime in public spaces and in the long run will also be detrimental to social cohesion and sustainability.

The latest and perhaps more extreme reaction to the problem of crime and fear of crime in cities are enclosed housing developments, often called gated communities. These housing developments have become popular in some severely crime-ridden low and middle income countries, such as South Africa and Brazil, but are to a considerable degree also found in the US, where more than seven million households (about six per cent of the national total) are in developments behind walls and fences. About four million of them are in communities where access is controlled by gates, entry codes, key cards or security guards. In India too gated communities and ‘lifestyle townships’ are on the increase. Advertising for gated communities is plentiful along major roads and in the real estate sections of newspapers. Several of the projects look like the old CIAM projects, although they are aimed at an expanding upper middle class – at least for the time being.


Gated communities seem especially to be a growing issue in socio-economically unequal societies. Inequality has many adverse effects, for instance lack of trust.11 In Europe, despite the lack of statistics on gated communities, these communities also exist to some degree, although it is more common to build enclosed housing developments without gates but with security guards. According to Colquhoun, gated communities must be considered as non-sustainable, as they contribute to increasing segregation, making the rest of the city even more fearful, and often increasing sprawl and private transportation.


The road Lala Lajpat Rai Marg seen from the Lajpat Nagar metro station (right) and from the street level towards the urban neighbourhood ‘Defence Colony’ (left). There are long fences with backs of buildings behind and no economic activity outside the fence along the road.

From a public space and traffic space point of view, the problem in, for instance, Indian cities, is not only the walled or fenced edge of really gated communities, but also the common practice with long uninterrupted walls and fences towards the major streets even along non-gated communities. If at all visible, buildings behind the walls and fences also often turn their backs on the larger streets. This is, for instance, normally the case in Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh and often in Delhi.


Looking at the increase in the number of gated communities in many countries, one may ask oneself, whether CPTED is valid everywhere or only in countries with the right circumstances. If it is not possible to avoid gated communities all together, a better compromise between ‘gated-ness’ and CPTED in countries like India would be to at least:

1. Build relatively small ‘gated’ units, preferably not larger than 7,000 m2 and with more than one entrance from the street (7,000 m2 is a rather normal block size in European cities).

2. Create spaces for economic activity and pedestrians along major roads (through retail, etc.) as shown in Figure 6. Without interfering with the presence of pedestrians and natural surveillance too much, necessary walls and fences can then be placed behind these activities, with ‘gated’ building lots behind.

3. Plan the street pattern of gated communities in such a way that when walls and fences are later removed, a continuous, integrated and permeable urban fabric can be established with ease.

In general, the current implementation of CPTED is unsatisfactory, not just in the western world, but in most other countries around the world. In Denmark, though CPTED guidelines have been in operation for more than twenty years and in Sweden for more than ten, the general impression is that implementation still remains fragmentary. Also in the UK, the Netherlands and some other European countries, though CPTED guidelines have a rather long history, there remain the problems of implementation. We, therefore, need a better and up to date overview of the already existing research on evidence of CPTED effects and its costs. CPTED would also benefit from further research and the development of more precise concepts. Most reports and guidelines on CPTED take for granted that it works, and make at best only a few references to research on tested effects of CPTED. There are several reasons for this.


For many years there was a lack of digital crime reports with enough information on the spatial circumstances. It was tedious to collect comparable crime data with sufficient detail. Even today, the latest technologies are not commonly in use, for instance, GPS notifications as part of police crime reports. Until the practical use of space syntax, there was no systematic, mathematically general and meaningful way to combine crime and spatial descriptions. The basic functions of GIS (Geographical Information Systems) are not sufficient for precise CPTED research. In most cases, it is also difficult to eliminate social factors in the explanation of criminal events, for instance when studying the effect of natural surveillance. It is easier to come to conclusions about the effects of technical devices, like different kinds of locks and security doors. Further, it is difficult to generalize the results of case studies located in different places with different circumstances.


Despite these difficulties, various studies confirm the crime preventive value of CPTED. Official CPTED guidelines now exist in more than ten countries. The implementation problems are, therefore, to a larger extent probably related to its competition with other interests: other safety and security issues, other professional interests, economic issues, and so on.


Economic activity and pedestrians along streets/roads in Delhi, India.

Some common objections to CPTED are: It is based on failed deterministic behaviourism; it just displaces crime in space or to other kinds of crime; it may reduce more general city qualities and architectural qualities; and that it is expensive. This is not true. CPTED is based on probability, and displacement only happens to a small degree; CPTED need not reduce quality and, in the long run, CPTED expenses are not a real problem. Handling objections to CPTED is really more a question of educating qualified professionals and ensuring a more fair distribution of benefits and costs among the involved stakeholders. However, CPTED has to be better adapted to different local conditions and also better integrated into urban management. It might even have to be made into law, if better implementation is not ensured by conviction alone.

In the long run, CPTED needs to have proper legal foundations if it is to be widely implemented as a tool for planning sustainable urban environments. When laws and regulations are in place on fire protection and escape, accessibility for disabled people, traffic safety measures, and many other things, one may well ask why there cannot be laws and regulations about crime prevention and crime related safety issues?


So, in conclusion: CPTED is implemented to some degree here and there, but slowly. Official guidelines exist, but maybe they are too many, too general or too complicated to use. Architects and planners want maximum design freedom and may well see CPTED guidelines as restrictive. There is a need for more CPTED education based on best practice and on context. CPTED also needs more robust cost-benefit analysis. CPTED needs to be fitted into routines of developers and governments and CPTED law-making has to be speeded up.

Some of the major CPTED issues are: How to make streets that are shared by pedestrians and bicycles as well as cars safe and attractive, and how to diminish the unwanted consequences of gated communities in the long run. With an ‘open society’ and general well-being approach, crime prevention can never be seen as something absolute, which aims to stop all crime. This will invariably be an unrealistic goal. Instead, crime prevention in this perspective must aim to reduce the level of crime, especially situationally conditioned crime. ‘This is not just about the issue of safety, but it is even more profoundly about all citizens rights to use the city.’



1. J. Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities: The Failure of Town Planning. Random House, New York, NY, 1961.

2. R. Moffat, ‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design: A Management Perspective’, Canadian Journal of Criminology 25(4), 1983, pp. 19-31.

3. O. Newman, Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design. Collier Books, New York, 1972.

4. P. Brantingham and P. Brantingham, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. ICURS (Institute for Canadian Urban Research Studies and SFU (Simon Fraser University, Burnaby), powerpoint presentation at CEAMOS, Center for Analyses and Modeling of Security, Santiago, Chile, 2009.

5. C.R. Jeffery, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, CA, 1971.

6. A. Coleman, Utopia on Trial: Vision and Reality in Planned Housing. Hillary Shipman Limited, London, 1985.

7. B. Hillier, Space is the Machine: A Configurational Theory of Architecture. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1996; B. Hillier, ‘A Theory of the City as Object: or How Spatial Laws Mediate the Social Construction of Urban Space’, Urban Design International 7(3-4), 2002, pp. 153-180.

8. B. Hillier and O. Sahbaz, An Evidence Based Approach to Crime and Urban Design, 2008,

9. B. Grönlund, Urban Odyssé, København, Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademi Kunstakademiets Arkitektskole, Institut for Planlægning, 2007; B. Grönlund, ‘Some Notions on Urbanity’. Conference contribution to the 6th International Space Syntax Symposium, Istanbul, 2007.

10. W.H. Whyte, City: Rediscovering the Center. Anchor Books Doubleday, New York, N.Y., 1988.

11. R. Wilkinson and K. Pickett, The Spirit Level: Why Equality is Better for Everyone. Penguin Books, London, 2010.