Design Against Crime

15 May 2006

Designing out crime: redesigning the environment

It was decided to restrict the debate at this seminar to the design of the environment rather than to the wider consideration of design and crime, which would have included goods, services, legislation etc. We felt that a more focussed debate, covering some of the key issues in environmental design would be the best use of the time available.

The seminar delegates included academics and police practitioners, particularly architect liaison officers.

New Urbanism: Professor Ted Kitchen - Sheffield Hallam University
Download: presentation (pdf) [43kb]

He felt that the UK is unusual in including crime prevention advice in planning and there is therefore a lot of interest in UK work. Both the Home Office and ODPM regularly publish guidelines to introduce planners to crime prevention ideas, but they seem to think that this is all that is required. Professor Kitchen suggested that far more effort needed to be put into training.

Professor Kitchen felt that new urbanism has relatively little directly to say about crime - it is basically about urban design, although this clearly has crime implications.

He identified the following research questions:

  • Can we track the development of police/planner working relationships and understand the factors that impact on them?
  • Can we look at the professional training of police and planners?
  • Can we better understand how crime prevention policies are written into current work on new development plans and follow up to look at implementation?
  • Can we understand and record the crime experience of developments and understand people's reactions to them? We should be better informing the public about crime and design.
  • There is a need to track the crime experiences of new urban designs.
  • We need to interpose crime prevention considerations into the density debate and to follow up the experiences of developments and better understand the density-crime relationship.
  • We need to get better at identifying and disseminating good practice (for example Professor Kitchen said that the police secured by design website had been sanitised to make it compatible with government policy).
  • Achieving 'safer places' should be the start of a process rather than a one-off exercise.


Horses for Courses: Interactions and home security - Professor Ken Pease
Download: presentation (pdf) [1518kb]

Professor Pease discussed the development of secured by design (SBD) which he thought had improved between the years 1994 and 1998 but had deteriorated since then.

He suggested that in looking at area crime rates in relation to housing design and layout care had to be taken to avoid the ecological fallacy - ie assuming that an effect which was apparent at area level also applied at the individual house level. So for example, richer homes in poor areas are disproportionately burgled. He also discussed 'Simpson's Paradox' ie when the successes of several groups seem to be reversed when the groups are combined.

Further research is needed on:

  • The interactions between housing type and area characteristics
  • Changes over time in a given area.
  • The security variation within places and the existence of transient or recurring risk.
  • A deeper understanding of SBD
  • Area classification schemes need to be challenged
  • The concept of victim blaming

In discussion the following further points were made:

  • Political engagement is important but difficult - Ministers, Departments and staff keep changing
  • Training needs more attention for ALOs, planners and architects
  • The knowledge base needs to be improved
  • Solutions can be complex; there are no simple solutions


Design and street crime at the Macro Level - Professor Bill Hillier and Ozlem Sahbaz
Download: presentation (short version) (pdf) [5246kb]

This was a joint presentation from Professor Hillier and Ms Sahbaz. They described some ongoing work using a large data set which covers over 6 years worth of crime data and urban layout in the Brent area of London . They mentioned some earlier work on burglary and housing layout which was analysed using space syntax but the bulk of their presentation considered street robbery. This work is in its early stages and preliminary results were presented.

Street Crime and Design: Micro Scale - Professor Paul Ekblom
Download: presentation (pdf) [864kb]

Professor Ekblom considered the importance of designing out street crime at the micro level - the design of street furniture, the layout of bars and the provision of secure places for valuable objects such as handbags and purses. His presentation, which is also available on the JDI website, included a range of pictures of good (and bad) designs.

Professor Ekblom stressed the need for constant monitoring of the effects of designs on crime and the ways in which offenders overcome them.

Download: Design Against Crime report (pdf) [17kb]

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