Thursday, April 8, 2021

Third-Generation CPTED in post-pandemic cities

What will cities look like and how will neighbourhoods function in the 21st Century?

by Mateja Mihinjac

A couple of weeks ago Greg Saville and I presented an online masterclass for the International CPTED Association in which we talked about the evolution of CPTED. We described the journey from the early urbanist and architectural influences in the Jacobs/Newman CPTED era through to the criminological, psychological and sociological research that informed our development of Third-Generation CPTED, a theory we introduced in 2019. 

We described some of our most recent advancements to the theory and we presented four principles that inform liveable neighbourhoods – we call them the 4S of Third-Generation CPTED.

From the beginning of the CPTED movement, Florida State University’s Professor C. Ray Jeffery called for interconnections between all sorts of environments - from psychological and biological to urban and social - in order to create a truly “environmental” crime prevention. 

Twenty years ago, South African researcher Chrisna Du Plessis made a similar connection between sustainable urban development, quality of life, and crime prevention. In 2014, Paul Cozens in Australia made the point that CPTED needed a much broader view of wider environments, specifically public health and urban sustainability. These authors, and others, laid the foundation for what we later developed into Third-Generation CPTED.

The story below describes how we consolidated that early work into a new, coherent theory of crime prevention. 

Hanging gardens and building greenery contribute to environmental sustainability
- photo by bobarc, Creative Commons


One of the main characteristics of Third-Generation CPTED lies in the amalgamation of safety with neighbourhood liveability. The theory says that highly liveable neighbourhoods should offer opportunities to satisfy the basic, moderate, and also the highest-level human needs at the same time – a process that psychologist Abraham Maslow described as a hierarchy-of-human-needs. 

This means that advanced neighbourhoods will have already addressed basic physiological, psychological, and social needs. When crime and safety risks emerge, that neighbourhood will have the capacity to proactively address them through collaborative local plans. In such places, residents themselves will have resources for pro-social activities, to engage in activities that satisfy what Maslow called self-actualization or access to activities that allow them to positively contribute to the lives of others beyond one’s self (Maslow describes this as self-transcendence). 

Maslow's hierarchy and neighbourhood liveability

When a neighbourhood has that kind of capacity, it becomes a thriving and collaborative place of joy, contentment, safety, and sustainability. For many, if not most, such neighbourhoods help children socialize and thrive, and adults gain personal fulfillment from the urban design, cultural excitement, and pro-social opportunities that flourish there. Opportunities for crime are minimized and opportunities for personal satisfaction are maximized. The key is to extend public safety and crime prevention beyond the simple focus on crime and onto the liveability and sustainability of neighbourhoods. 


Future cities must learn from, not repeat, ancient cities. Third-Generation CPTED
helps us use new discoveries in neighbourhood liveability

In Third-Generation CPTED we built neighbourhood liveability around four principles emerging directly from Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs. These principles act as the framework for this integrated theory of crime prevention and they are centred around sustainability: environmental, economic, social, and public health sustainability. We call them 4S (sustainability x 4).


There is research support for the preventive mechanisms in each of these four sustainability principles. For example, public health research demonstrates how physical exercise through neighbourhood walking enhances safety from crime.

The presence of those afflicted with mental health problems in a neighbourhood has long been known to contribute to conflict and suffering. Accordingly, there are many strategies that contribute to building the mental health of a neighbourhood, such as emotional intelligence training, self-awareness and meditation training, or dealing with risk factors from early childhood personal trauma.

Third-Generation CPTED employs 4S

Similarly, environmental factors can also provide a preventive shield, such as the greening of vacant lots to decrease gun assaults or enhancing overhead tree canopies to reduce street crime.

Autumn in the Bornste Hamlet, Germany. Tree canopies in urban areas need maintenance but provide beauty and connection to nature - photo by Deitmar Rabish, Creative Commons 

Investment in local infrastructure enhances economic sustainability and attention to social sustainability through grassroots community-based developments enhances the quality of life for local residents and can help reduce crime. 

Our proposition is that high-performing neighbourhoods designed around each of these four sustainability principles offer a more long-term solution to prevent crime and improve the quality of life. 

These four sustainability principles provide a powerful new integrated model for planning safer and resilient neighbourhoods in post-pandemic, 21st Century cities.