Saturday, September 12, 2015

CPTED - The death and life of social

GUEST BLOG – Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia completing her Ph.D on the implementation of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). She is a certified SafeGrowth instructor and has taught SafeGrowth in Australia and New Zealand.

Diane Zahm, urban planning professor and former ICA Chair, once wrote that without citizen involvement in the process and locally relevant practices, implementation of CPTED strategies is “merely security and not really CPTED”.

I uncovered that quote recently while researching CPTED theory and history. I was amazed how much information supported the social and motivational aspects of CPTED and yet were largely ignored in contemporary CPTED literature. From my research it was clear CPTED, as originally intended, was more similar to SafeGrowth than the physical, 1st Generation CPTED today.


In Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs wrote of urban life and “eyes on the street”  representing the foremost example of the design that supports informal control and builds social capital. Similarly, Elizabeth Wood emphasised that people’s needs and desires should be taken into account and that “design cannot do everything for the population”.

Newman’s 1972 concept of defensible space relies on the social fabric to create the expression of territorial proprietorship. Therefore the power to defend space is not a consequence of architectural design but rather its prerequisite.


Following Newman, the Westinghouse CPTED studies examined the most comprehensive demonstration CPTED projects. The studies emphasised the importance of motivational reinforcement, a concept that somehow got lost in the implementation process. As a result, outcomes were mixed.

A 1993 evaluation of the Westinghouse studies concluded:

“The reason for inconsistent and temporary effects appears to be that crime and violence arise from interactions between the social environment and the physical environment, which cannot be controlled entirely through manipulations of the physical environment.”

Volunteer-run outdoor library. Social reinforcement activities in Ljubljana, Slovenia
Photo by Marusa Babnik
Given the power relegated to social reinforcement in the work that pioneered CPTED, how did it get lost in modern CPTED theory?

Social motives for crime receive practically no attention in modern CPTED with the exception of Second Generation CPTED in which social and community aspects are reintegrated back into CPTED practice and theory.

With the renaissance in community-development called collective efficacy, the exciting social design revolution called tactical urbanism, and the evolution of SafeGrowth as a new way to plan safer neighbourhoods, I hope CPTED will join these new 21st Century movements and finally recognize the need to fully integrate the social and the physical.

For it is within community where the power to drive social change emerges.

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Unknown said...

Never better said.