Sunday, December 12, 2021

New era for neighbourhoods - The latest in 3rd Generation CPTED

Cities in the future need safe, liveable and thriving neighbourhoods -
3rd Generation CPTED provides the roadmap

by Mateja Mihinjac 

The birth of a new theory is not a straightforward matter, especially in social science or urban planning. A few years ago, when my co-author Greg Saville and I published our proposal for a Third Generation CPTED in the research journal, Social Sciences, we built on a decade of theories in crime prevention, including our own work in SafeGrowth. We described how, for over 60 years, theoreticians and practitioners learned how to prevent crime using the natural and built physical environment (1st Generation CPTED), and then in the late 1990s added social strategies to that local prescription (2nd Generation CPTED). 

Over the past decade, our cities and neighbourhoods faced new and unprecedented challenges that demand that we think in a much more integrated way about safety. 

In 2019 we presented Third Generation CPTED as that new integrated approach. 

We built this theory on the premise that it is not sufficient to consider CPTED apart from the idea of liveability if we want a better quality of life within neighbourhoods. Our neighbourhoods – our core units of life, work and play – must offer opportunities for satisfying not only our basic needs (what psychologist Abraham Maslow called our physiological and safety needs) but also our needs at the medium and higher levels – needs of self-esteem and self-actualization. This is known as Maslow’s human needs hierarchy pyramid. 

Our theory translated that pyramid into a hierarchy of liveable neighbourhoods, and our 3rd Generation CPTED was the key to elevating our quality of life. 

Neighbourhood liveability hierarchy and corresponding liveability outcomes

After the past few years of additional development, we presented the full model at the recent International CPTED Association international conference. This latest version of the theory will also appear in a forthcoming academic publication. 

The most recent advances in this theory include the following 4 S strategies for achieving those liveability outcomes.


I first introduced the 4 S strategies in a blog several months ago. Here I will describe some specifics for practitioners.

Liveability and sustainability are intrinsically linked. Some scholars say that communities cannot be sustainable unless people want to live in them and people need to have a say in identifying their preferences to ensure long-term environmental, economic and social impacts. This is the whole point to sustainability and so within 3rd Generation CPTED, we have four sustainability strategies. 

Environmental sustainability

Environmental sustainability is the most frequent topic discussed in relation to urban development, safety, and liveability. Evidence shows a strong link between environmental stressors (heat islands, lack of greenery, long-distance travel) and crime. Third Generation CPTED practitioners will apply tactics that help improve environmental liveability, such as the greening of neighbourhoods, greening of vacant lots to reduce crime, and building on local assets.

Social sustainability

Social sustainability points to people-focused design and it promotes opportunities for social interaction and collaboration, such as pedestrian infrastructure, gathering places, and Third Places.

It includes building a physical “command centre” – or neighbourhood hub – for local decision-making. An early version of neighbourhood hubs was described in an earlier SafeGrowth blog.

The goal of social sustainability is social cohesion and resilience through grassroots urban design where the residents have direct influence and stewardship over the local neighbourhood. Social sustainability can help prevent the seeds of criminality from taking root before they become unmanageable. SafeGrowth offers one such approach. 

Graduates from SafeGrowth - local residents, police and others learning in Helsingborg.
Projects included a youth activity centre and intercultural gathering places for fostering cohesion. 

Economic sustainability

Research continually shows the indisputable relationship between income inequality, disadvantage and crime. Focusing on the immediate economy through investment in neighbourhood infrastructure and economic development is one antidote to some of the issues that are endemic to crime. Third Generation practitioners, residents and business partners can use tactics such as local partnerships, a focus on local creativity, and business incubation.

Practitioners can also implement tailored employment transition and reintegration programs for those with a criminal history so they don’t fall back into habits of gang membership, violence, and drug abuse. Neighbourhood economic sustainability has a direct impact on breaking the cycle of criminal recidivism.

From our ICA conference presentation - all styles of CPTED and urban development should move toward advanced neighbourhoods of a high quality-of-life 

Public health sustainability

Public health sustainability refers to enduring physical and emotional health. At a time of Covid, it seems redundant to make this point, but the fact is that urban design and social cohesion are correlated with outdoor pedestrian movements, the use of physical infrastructure, the perception of safety and trust among neighbourhood residents. Those are not only part of public health but they are part of the psychology that can trigger, or mitigate, crime motives. 

Residents should have opportunities to co-create neighbourhood plans for amenities to promote health. In particular, these include amenities such as testing facilities and counselling to monitor unchecked trauma experienced by children during their formative years. Neighbourhood and family trauma, such as substance abuse, violence, and social dysfunction, have a direct impact on offending behaviour and violence, especially in later years.  We have written about similar issues such as suicide prevention in prior blogs. 

Emotional intelligence programs, perhaps offered at neighbourhood hubs, offer a great tool for assisting both young people and adults to learn self-awareness tactics, mindfulness skills and pro-social behaviours. Third Generation provides CPTED with a way to remove some of the breeding grounds for future criminal behaviour in a way that better lighting and access controls cannot accomplish.

Physical infrastructure and urban design should be conducive to fun physical opportunities


Third Generation CPTED is obviously much more complex than basic CPTED tactics. Practitioners need a wider set of competencies and collaborative methods and forums for discussing and deploying such an integrated approach. 

It extends beyond simple opportunities for crime - not that there is anything wrong with cutting crime opportunities! Rather, and more to the point, 1st Generation CPTED is simply insufficient in the contemporary 21st Century neighbourhood if we want a higher quality of life in the long term.

The 4 S strategies amalgamate crime prevention, safety with neighbourhood liveability. Third Generation CPTED offers strategies so that we can realise many of our long-term, highest level, personal needs within our own neighbourhoods. Most importantly, by extending the discourse of public safety and crime prevention beyond the focus on crime, we can create opportunities for a different kind of neighbourhood in which residents will not only survive but thrive.