Thursday, March 31, 2011

Magic carpets?

Sometimes things come along that are…well, just plain cool.

I've written before about the design against crime movement in the UK. They have shown us how to use inventive ergonomic design to curb bad behavior, reduce loitering on public benches and cut crime at bike racks.

My friend and colleague, UK professor Lorraine Gamman, recently sent photos of her talented colleagues work at the Design Against Crime Research Centre in London. They have come up with a method to cut ID theft (shoulder surfing) and ATM crime through a privacy mat.

It's simple enough. Stick a 3M mat to demarcate territory around ATM machines. Says one article, the mats can "be laid directly onto pavements or the floors of shopping centers. They take just 20 minutes to lay and no planning permission if they unbranded." People are "controlled" through subtle messaging to keep far enough away to protect your PIN and far enough to make it difficult to snatch and run with your cash.

It won't stop everyone, but I'm told it seems to work. Why?

The first thing you learn in CPTED is something called proxemics - how people use their own sense of personal space to ensure their privacy. That subtle messaging is precisely what privacy mats accomplish, albeit in a subtle and inexpensive fashion.
I've said before territoriality doesn't happen without social capital.

When it comes to small scale design, it seems I'm wrong.

According to one European ATM security survey, over 85% of respondents indicate privacy spaces help reduce crime at ATMs. Loraine tells me more rigorous evaluation research is underway.

Like I said - simple, cheap and effective.