Saturday, December 26, 2020

Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood?

Movie night - watching movies on our neighbor's garage door

by Greg Saville

Seasonal celebrations are now underway. Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and National Don’t Make Your Bed Day (Yes, there is such a thing! I’m a believer). Each event celebrates a different aspect of life – seasonal, religious, cultural – and, in so doing, each celebrates our human community. Given the mess that is 2020 - inequity protests around the world, the Racial Reckoning riots in the United States, and the scourge of COVID-19 - we desperately need to celebrate something this year!

Human “community” is an elusive animal. It means different things to different people, and consequently, it means nothing that you can put your finger on. Of course, since we’re not testing a theory in a lab experiment, who cares? It’s okay that we have regular celebrations of community; it’s needed now more than ever.

To some, “community” is their immediate family and circle of friends. (I’ve been particularly lucky in this regard.) For others, it is their social circle or their affiliation with sports teams. To yet others, it is those who share political affinities or who occupy the thousands of groups in 


For my part, I recently became obsessed with a YouTube group that takes virtual rides on famous trains around the world (yes, yes… I know how pathetic and uncool that sounds. COVID cabin fever takes a toll!)

Yet there is another important part of this story worth telling. For those of us in the community-building and crime prevention world, the term “community” is too elusive. We prefer using local geography to describe our neighborhood – those buildings, neighbors, parks, shops, and other places within a 15-minute walk of our home. After all, it is within those neighborhoods where we actually live much of our lives. 

Our immediate neighbors, for better or worse, matter a great deal! And it is in those very places where we experience, recover from, or hide from, crime and fear. Mateja Mihinjac and I describe some of these ideas in our Third Generation CPTED article last year.

A pre-Covid, summer afternoon with neighbors

Neighborhoods matter and neighbors matter. So let’s celebrate our neighbors too during this holiday season. I’ve been fortunate to have some great neighbors over the years. We may not always agree about politics or see eye-to-eye on our philosophy of life, but we agree it is important to be a good neighbor. When neighborliness works well, it costs you little, it means a lot, and it contributes to your quality of life. In an upcoming blog, Mateja will describe how we encourage neighborhood engagement. In the meantime, let's celebrate our neighbors. 

To the great neighborhoods and to the great neighbors who care, thanks. You rock! 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Abolish CPTED?

Is CPTED racist? Does it exclude minorities?

by Gregory Saville

As our COVID ravaged cities impose social isolation, working-from-home, and cabin fever, those who live in high-density apartments and housing developments must be confident they are safe from crime and violence. And, more than ever before, residents must feel their home is a sanctuary. Crime prevention through environmental design - CPTED - is an ideal answer for these difficult times, especially 2nd Generation CPTED and SafeGrowth.

Next Thursday, Dec 17, I and some colleagues are running a free educational webinar for property managers, realtors, and housing groups seeking residential safety. The “Virtual Property Management and Safety Summit” is sponsored by real estate safety expert, Tracey “the safety lady” Hawkins.


All this stands in stark contrast to recent calls for the abolition of CPTED from municipal codes and city planning due to the perception that CPTED can exclude minorities from public life. Consider the Vancouver City Planning Commission website or articles by Bryan Lee Jr in Bloomberg City Lab website.

Keeping residents safe at home - What are the alternatives?

According to Lee: 

“While CPTED principles are said to help discourage crime by orienting building windows and entrances to aid in providing “eyes on the street” that monitor activity, in practice this strategy can end up serving the same suppressive purpose as stop-and-frisk policing — to assure that anyone considered suspicious is made to feel uncomfortable.”

The solution, say these latter-day gurus who would protect us from the current Racial Reckoning, is to abolish CPTED, a crime prevention strategy that has brought safety and security to millions of citizens all over the world – as you will discover by reading some of the hundreds of scientific publications regarding CPTED. 


In my view, CPTED is not the problem. For example, while aspirin has been an effective pain remedy for over a thousand years, improper use can result in overdose and stomach problems. The solution is not to abolish aspirin. Same with CPTED. It is vulnerable to improper use by poorly trained practitioners. No doubt some practitioners indiscriminately lock and fence properties without regard to alternative options. CPTED can produce racial exclusion if placed into the wrong, untrained hands. But the solution isn’t abolition. It’s proper training and certification through legitimate accredited courses – the very thing the ICA has offered for years.

In his 1972 landmark book “Defensible Space”, architect Oscar Newman wrote 

"The question to be asked is how does one initially achieve thoughtful building groupings rather than having to resort to barbed-wire fences and locks after the fact?"

One answer appeared on the International CPTED Association’s “Special ICA Webinar: Exclusion versus Inclusion – In CPTED Everyone Has a role”.

On Thursday, Dec. 17, we will provide another during our Safety Summit

Join us.

Thursday, Dec 17 - free summit on property safety