Crime Prevention through Architecture

Manila Bulletin, September 5, 2007 | Go to article overview
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Crime Prevention through Architecture

Byline: Francis N. Tolentino

CRIME prevention has always been a major concern of society. Day in and day out, we hear from television and radio news and read on broadsheets about robbery, physical injuries, homicide, among others, being repeatedly committed. We believe that our law enforcement officers are doing their best to apprehend offenders. However, the physical environment within which an offender plans to commit an offense can also influence a criminal's choice. That is why we also believe that physical structures should be designed with crime deterrence in mind.

This principle is called architectural determinism. Such principle claims that "the environment causes certain behaviors...that people can adapt to any arrangement of space and that behavior in a given environment is caused entirely by the characteristic of the environment." On this principle rests the crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) - a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior.

"People's behavior can be influenced through design. Behavior can be influenced by changing the conditions of which it is a function. The environment communicates, through a whole set of cues, the most appropriate choices to be made, the cues are meant to elicit appropriate emotions, interpretations, behavior, and transactions by setting up the appropriate situations and contexts. The environment can thus be said to act as a mnemonic. It takes the remembering from the person and places the reminding in the environment. By analyzing the built environment, a more complete understanding can be provided of the people's behavior that occurs in the settings as well as a greater understanding of the contribution that environments make to people's behavior." (Behavioral Architecture, 2006)

We all agree that the primary crime prevention is the reduction of criminal opportunities without reference to criminals. This type of crime prevention strategy relies upon the ability to influence the offender's decision that precedes criminal acts.

CPTED takes upon four most common strategies to deter crime. These are:

* Natural Surveillance (which limits the opportunity for crime by taking steps to increase or maximize visibility and interaction among people within public or private spaces)

* Natural Access (which limits the opportunity for crime by taking steps to clearly differentiate between public space and private space such as the use of single, clearly identifiable point of entry and use of substantial, high, closed fencing between a backyard and a public alley, among others)

* Natural Territorial Reinforcement (which promotes social control through increased definition of space and improved propriety concern which make the normal user of the space feel safe and make potential offender aware of a substantial risk of apprehension or scrutiny)

* Target Hardening (which is accomplished by placing in features that prohibit entry or access such as the use of window locks, dead bolts for doors, or interior door hinges)

Crime prevention through environmental designs (CPTED) is being practiced right now in the United Kingdom and has resulted in police forces in that country creating specialist posts of architectural liaison officers who offer advice on the designs of buildings and public areas to make them likely to deter crime and disorder.

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