Thursday, December 10, 2015

Green answers for crime - 3rd Gen CPTED

Some words confuse rather than clarify, like "sustainability”. Planners use it to mean sustaining a viable neighborhood. In CPTED it means a prevention program that lasts. But in science it means we must sustain the natural world of water, air, land, flora and fauna so that we may continue to…well, live.

The science version of “sustainability” ranks a tad higher on the What-Really-Matters-in-Life-o-Meter. 

Third Generation CPTED hopes to bridge the sustainability gap between places, people, and the natural world. 3rd Gen CPTED emerged from an M.I.T. paper for the U.N. regarding improving urban security through green environmental design. 


I highlighted it two years ago in 3rd Generation CPTED and the eco-friendly city.

The key idea:
The premise of third-generation CPTED is that a sustainable, green urbanity is perceived by its members and the outsiders as safe. Third generation CPTED’s focus on sustainable green environmental design strategies insists on practical measures, physically or cybernetically enhanced, that foster the perception of urban space as safe beyond mere concerns about crime.
Obviously 3rd Generation CPTED theory has tremendous promise. 

Except 3rd Generation CPTED does not exist! 

It is an idea from a discussion paper! There is no formal theory. No one has deployed and tested its principles. Those who wish to claim the 3rd Generation mantle will cling to jelly. Like ether - it’s there, but it’s not there. Yet!

It is time for the emergence of 3rd Generation CPTED. It must be a real theory with practical strategies. 

But that birth rings alarm bells. As co-developer with Gerry Cleveland of 2nd Generation CPTED, we warn there will be obstacles along the way. Here are a few alarms we faced:


  • Demands to modify. Sometimes that makes sense. Walter Dekeseredy suggested adding gender to create “gendered 2nd Generation CPTED”. It was a reasonable proposition now inhabiting the community culture principle of 2nd Gen. Third Gen will be no different. This is how science proceeds.
  • The Comfort Clingers. There are many CPTED Traditionalists and opportunity theorists of a particular vintage who cling to 1st Gen and still don’t like 2nd Gen because they think it stains original CPTED with the “white noise” of social relationships (as though social relationships had nothing to do with crime). What deluded silliness. No doubt there will be climate-change deniers who ignore 3rd Gen and cling to lights and CCTV.

  • Turf protection. Some academics describe 2nd Gen as fluff, partly due to white noise silliness and possibly because they didn’t invent it. But take a moment and consider the irony dripping off that sophistry: The theorist protects his turf from intrusions with the same vigor that wolves protect their kill in the forest. Yet when the Grizzly bear shows up at a wolf kill, the wolves discover they are not top predator! Same with 2nd and 3rd Gen CPTED. What the turf protectors will discover is that it is the most suitable theories that prevail, not those with the loudest voices. 
  • The number crunchers. Some demand more evaluations ignoring that plenty of empirical evidence already exists on 2nd Generation CPTED, for example Robert Sampson’s expansive book on the power of collective efficacy or Steven Schneiders research showing the success of collective action for prevention crime.
Ultimately, as with all new theories, 3rd Generation CPTED will survive based on its logic and practical use. Innovative, courageous, and committed researchers… apply here!

2 Replies so far - Add your comment

  1. Thank you for this blog Greg. Having studied CPTED for the past few years, 3rd generation certainly doesn’t have the same theoretical foundation that 1st and especially 2nd generation CPTED do.

    It would be interesting to see integration of the green design with CPTED implementation practices although it seems to me that much of the modern innovative design already claims to do this despite not undergoing the necessary CPTED implementation process. Can this be called CPTED though or is it just use of green technologies to enhance environmental sustainability and beautify places?

    Wouldn’t in this sense community gardens and propaganda gardening strategies that are implemented BY the residents themselves be considered 2nd generation CPTED principles that inherently incorporate the “sustainable green environmental design strategies”? Or do we need a hi-tech aspect to it to recognise them as worthy of a new theoretical development?

    I think that applying green design technologies to practices of both 1st and 2nd gen CPTED can enhance each of these approaches in terms of safety and sustainability. Only properly defining and then testing the so-called 3rd gen CPTED strategies will determine whether it’s worthy of its own theoretical development, or whether this is this just a CPTED rebranding strategy.

  2. Thanks Mateja. Excellent points.

    I agree it would be interesting to see green design integrated into CPTED. In fact, given the importance of yesterday’s historic global climate change agreement in Paris, it is imperative. 3rd Generation CPTED is the future! We desperately need a more coherent theory of it, and its link to 1st and 2nd Gen.

    It is also true what you say about innovative green design already heading in that direction - community gardens being a good example. Yet, without a testable theory, those strategies cannot include evaluations to determine whether they cut crime. We are told by environmental scientists they do help the environment. Now we need the theory to test and see if they also cut crime.

    Does it really matter? Maybe we should just accept the fact that green CPTED design is necessary for reasons of climate sustainability and ethics? We should. But you are bang on point on CPTED rebranding. That probably won't be adequate since so many climate change deniers already infest politics (at least in this country). Without a full theory we run the same risk that we face with 1st Gen/opportunity theory vintagers who deny the power of 2nd Gen to fight crime. Except with 2nd Gen CPTED we have social studies showing positive crime reduction. We don’t with 3rd Gen and without a coherent theory, we won't. We need a specified theory.


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