Saturday, October 31, 2015

Nightmare on Elm Street - CPTED and displacement

Halloween front yard spookiness - harmless fun in the neighborhood
Tonight is Halloween - that ancient Celtic harvest festival where children turn into goblins and threaten mere mortals with tricks or treats. Not really the stuff of serious nightmares, more the frivolities of fun.

Last week the International CPTED Association ran another successful conference with exceptional speakers from around the world. Presentations are online at the ICA website.

Saskatoon planner Elisabeth Miller, criminologist Tarah Hodgkinson and myself delivered our research on something that represents a real nightmare for 1st Generation CPTED practitioners – the return of displacement.


Displacement is an old enemy of 1st Generation CPTED. Moving crime from one  place to another violates ethical practice and the promise every crime prevention practitioner should make to do no harm.

Over the years a body of mainstream research has grown up around the idea that displacement isn’t inevitable and that crime levels are cut through displacement.

Research by Catherine Phillips at the Nottingham Trent University questions the orthodox view.

This year Elisabeth, Tarah and myself were able to test this for real. We examined a well-known disorder hotspot at a fast food restaurant in downtown Saskatoon. We were able to track disorder in years before and after the restaurant was demolished.

This is where a real-life nightmare begins.

Spiders target opportunities where-ever they arise - Offenders do the same

The mapping results suggested displacement to a nearby homeless shelter. Street interviews confirmed many of the same offenders moved there. But then results got scary.

While calls for police service declined throughout the area, this particular displacement did not seem to reduce calls nor create benefits. Instead it appears to have triggered an eruption. The homeless shelter calls increased nine-fold!

If our further research bears this out, displacement research will need a re-think because our findings suggest something very scary. Not the frivolities of Halloween fun but the stuff of serious nightmares.