Saturday, September 4, 2010

An incomplete equation

Clean, efficient design with great sightlines, yet empty streets.

I spoke to Elisabeth Miller, a planner friend from Saskatoon, this week who told me about the pending publication of some CPTED and Design Guidelines for developers and architects. She is a planner with the city of Saskatoon and last fall I researched and crafted these design guidelines, which Elisabeth and I then wrote into a Guideline document, from best practice around the world.

Could a similar approach work at a larger scale, for example in urban zoning?

If you study different types of zoning it is clear that most forms of zoning align with architectural design guidelines. Then I realized there is a problem with zoning.

In Death and Life of Great American Cities Jane Jacobs says, "No amount of police can enforce civilization where the normal, causal enforcement of it has broken down."

Jacobs used the ideas of territoriality and social capital as part of her equation for safe streets. Unfortunately early CPTED used only half of that equation - urban design.

As all new students of CPTED soon learn, basic 1st Generation CPTED involves urban design and architecture to reduce crime opportunities. There are three components:

1. We See You: Natural surveillance is lighting and landscaping that puts eyes on the street. The purpose is to see offenders or to signal to offenders they will be seen.

2. You Are In Our Place: Access control is gates, fences, roadway barriers, or walkway placement to limit the number of people into or out of an area. It allows people to see who is entering or to signal to visitors - we live/work here.

3. You Can't Get Away With That Here: Territorial reinforcement divides public space to semi-private or semi-public areas - for example, paving patterns and floral landscaping to demarcate a building entry. Clean-ups are another way to signal someone cares. These make it difficult for offenders to offend with impunity.

All three components hinge on one simple (and debatable) idea: It's our turf and we care. Design guidelines fit perfectly into this part of the equation. Zoning – not so much.

Here's the problem

In the absence of social capital, territoriality doesn't just happen. It is not necessarily true that people care simply because their space encourages it.

There are plenty of places where access control, good lighting, and natural surveillance provide a very poor sense of territory. Urban mega-projects like sports stadiums and casinos are notorious for plenty of crime (pick pocketing and robbery come to mind).

Large box stores are another example where there may be many eyes on those streets, all sorts of branding, signs, and territorial markers and yet crime can flourish (auto theft comes to mind).

Territoriality can help but it cannot ensure crime is absent. The intimate personal space of a residential living room or bedroom is already "owned" and controlled yet that is precisely where most domestic violence occurs.

The fact is territoriality does not work without social capital.

Next: How zoning can help.

5 Replies so far - Add your comment

Mark said...

I think territoriality shows up when people care. Big boxes have auto thefts (outside) because their territoriality is focused inside the box, not outside. A IKEA in Arizona opened up their cafeteria to see the parking lot and vehicle thefts/parking lot crime are minimal

Anonymous said...

Ikea did the same in Calgary. I think Greg you are ssuming that everyone who teaches CPTED doesnt think of the social issues. We may not call it Seconf Generation, but we have evolved to include social engineering and frankly I am dismayed that you continue to berate 1st Generation CPTED. Just because the name didnt change doesnt mean we are all a bunch of dummy's who dont practice Crime Prevention Through Social Developement. I attended a course that was put on by the ICA and there was little or no mention of 2nd Generation CPTED, as a matter of fact, the most basic of seasonal changes wasnt mentionned, which we all know in Canada have a huge effect on CPTED. I would ask you to respect those of us who practice 1st Generation CPTED, because we just call it CPTED, but believe me it contains everything you speak of in Second Generation. I have yeat to even find a course in Canada on Second Generation CPTED and have been asking for over three years now, so I could take it. I really want to see the difference in training and what you speak of when you speak of it. Please notify me and others on this blog of your next course and where it will be in Canada, I will gladly attend. I already support the 2nd Generation Concepts, but it would be nice to get on a course. I know this reponse sounds harsh, but I really don't like the how you make us CPTED Pratitioners fell, when you say things the way you do.


GSaville said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
GSaville said...


Thanks for that idea. That is an excellent point.

I only wish most box stores would get that message. I've been to hundreds and have yet to see them do these kinds of things in a systematic way. Perhaps that's a great tactic for CPTED practitioners to recommend in future?

Of course, both territoriality and natural surveillance would be much easier if land use methods of the box-stores were replaced with mixed land uses suggested by Jacobs 40 years ago.

Thanks again.

GSaville said...


I'm curious why you don't share at least your first name with us? Regardless, let me try and answer your comments.

I never said those teaching CPTED don't think of social issues. I certainly never said CPTED teachers were "dummies". If anyone in the CPTED world believes I said that, then I apologize. In fact - and I have always said this - teaching CPTED means it is impossible to teach proxemics WITHOUT teaching the importance of social issues.

Except for a short session before the annual conference, I'm unaware the ICA puts on any courses. CPTED instructors usually run their own courses, some very good - others, less so. As always, it is a case of caveat emptor.

For me the issue is three-fold:

1. Many (not all) CPTED practitioners do not include 2nd Gen CPTED in their work. The history of 2nd Generation CPTED goes back 15 years. It is not social development, seasonal changes, nor is it social engineering.

2. I have seen too many CPTED practitioners teach urban design solutions without focusing on motive reduction strategies that might be needed BEFORE urban design is put in place. One example: I cannot tell you how many times I have been asked to review CPTED recommendations where lighting has been installed to "reduce opportunities for crime" with no regard for the social context of that neighborhood. Crime, in some of those cases, actually went up. We ignore 2nd Gen at our peril.

3. CPTED was created 30 years ago and has changed little, except it has added security to urban development (in contrast to what Jane Jacobs originally suggested). One example - target hardening. That is a problem.

Some believe CPTED practice has changed. But if that is true (and I think it is), then it is outfits like ICA, conference presentations, publications, and the research literature where those changes get aired and tested. Thankfully that has finally begun to happen with recent publications. Two examples: Randal Atlas' book 21st Century Security and CPTED; and Ian Colquhoun's text Design Out Crime (both of which, incidentally, describe 2nd Generation CPTED). I also see innovative presentations at the ICA CPTED conference that reflect these changes.

I do not criticize CPTED practitioners. I applaud them. I think they are a dedicated bunch doing the best they can. I do criticize obsolete CPTED practices that have long been revised with new strategies, such as 2nd Generation CPTED.

Finally, we have conducted courses in 2nd Gen CPTED in Canada for some years, starting with seminars at the University of Calgary school of environmental design 5 years ago. This year, we ran courses in St. Albert (Alberta), Grande Prairie (Alberta) and Saskatoon (Saskatchewan) called SafeGrowth which incorporates 2nd Gen CPTED. The dates are published on the ICA calendar of events each year.

Thanks for your comments.