301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org
CPTED applications are varied based upon settings and include commercial office buildings, industrial buildings and facilities, parking facilities, schools, automated teller machines and U.S. federal government buildings.

10.10.19 – HOWARD BELFOR

Balancing the art and science of environmental design is a foundation of a solid CPTED approach.

CPTED. I know you are familiar with the acronym, however, to be clear, CPTED is a protection strategy. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. A term first used in 1971 in Ray Jeffery’s book by the same name. This short article is not intended to be a primer but a reminder that the principles of CPTED should not be overlooked when renovating or increasing space to accommodate growth at your location/facility, whether urban and suburban and rural.

Myriad Applications for Myriad Market Sectors

There are many thoughtful checklists and well-written guides, tutorials and reference materials, some used for the development of this article and noted in the closing remarks. Most importantly, is the relevance CPTED has in your overall security plans and planning.

CPTED applications are varied based upon settings and include commercial office buildings, industrial buildings and facilities, parking facilities, schools, automated teller machines and U.S. federal government buildings — obviously this is not the comprehensive list of all CPTED’s focus. It’s interesting to note that the list contains many of the physical elements found on the grounds of most universities and colleges, which in some instances may include hospitals as well. So, it should be clear there isn’t a one size fits all solution.

Reducing crime opportunity is at the heart of this discipline. The careful design of spaces can improve security posture and awareness while deterring opportunities for crime. Designing without the blended approach of CPTED while working with other project members can lead to potential injuries, expensive retrofitting and the need for additional security personnel, not to mention putting the community and your organization at risk, both physically and financially.

CPTED’s Basics

The classic elements of CPTED are often listed as territoriality, surveillance, and access control. According to Crow (1991), the three basics are:

  • Mechanical – involving physical security hardware or electronic systems – also known as target hardening.
  • Organizational – involving people or activities  rather than equipment, per se, or
  • Natural – involving natural features such as terrain, layout, landscaping and other non-mechanical objects.

I lived for 30 years in the New York metro area and travel quite a bit nationally and internationally. As a former childhood vandal, (I’m reformed – a story for another time). I learned to observe my surroundings with great care whether to ensure a safe walk home in waning light or out for a jog, or taking a short cut through a spooky park or stepping behind the 42nd Street Library in the 1980s. Even getting back into the house after dark without waking my parents after taking the old man’s car for a joy ride helped grow skills I would find useful later pursuing my career in the security industry.

I had intuitively grasped the concept of environmental criminology, namely that these, not so carefully designed spaces, put me at risk or created an opportunity for others to commit a crime against persons (me) or property. This street sense/intuition as it related to “casing” the surroundings for vulnerabilities and opportunities for criminal behavior proved to be an asset to my clients and my family.  I have reviewed hundreds of sites and reviewed existing mitigation strategies and security plans. I discovered during many of those site surveys that CPTED principles were neglected or not taken into consideration.

How to Evaluate Your CPTED Readiness

There are many tools for evaluating your CPTED factors. I had the pleasure of co-editing a textbook called the “Physical Security Principles,” which is an ASIS-published textbook now in its third printing. I refer to it regularly as it is a great desk reference and appropriate for college and careers in security. My contribution was as a volunteer and I receive no remuneration for my work other than the satisfaction that others may benefit from the text and use as a sourcebook.

I mention this because in preparing this article I reviewed the book yet again. I discovered that I would not do the subject justice in a 1,500-word article, so I have opted to strongly encourage you to embrace and revisit and review the concepts as they can relate to your individual location(s). It is important to note that many universities, colleges and government organizations are offering training and certification in CPTED. A quick search will produce many reputable instructional organizations, reference materials and qualified consultants eager to share their knowledge with you.

Accounting for Security

Not only are the principles of CPTED concerned with criminal behaviors and patterns, but there are also tools aimed at addressing an additional three elements as well: architectural design, employing access controls and surveillance and territorial reinforcements. Alleyways and footpaths at the rear of buildings, poor or nonexistent signage, confusing entrances and exits, spaces not easily viewed by others, layouts which provide cover, foliage overgrown and adjacent to low windows and entrances all present opportunities for misadventure. CPTED as a standalone security management tool is not likely to be an adequate strategy. It is art and a science, a blend of risk mitigation strategies, observations, procedures, products and plans, which necessitates it being woven into your security program.

The technology ingredient in the CPTED recipe is on one hand remarkable with new technology developments that seem to change every day. It is also one of my biggest concerns. Although advances in detection-using sensors, video surveillance, artificial intelligence, situational awareness, mass notification, social media texting and organized safety and security communications protocols are being touted as the next big thing in security controls, none of these by themselves eliminates the threat of a determined bad actor.

It is here, again, that art and science converge. My cautionary note is not to rely too heavily on one or the other. Although infrared or thermal imaging cameras, (used only as an example) can detect an intruder in darkness, it doesn’t address the definition of the use of the space, namely is it a private space or one under surveillance. It may not deter criminal activity in that application but rather result in an unintended consequence to contribute or invite undesired behavior. Video surveillance has emerged as the ubiquitous technology standard, but is it better suited as a deterrent or simply a forensic tool?

Don’t Forget The Plan

A reliance on technology in lieu of foot patrols, signage and physical design elements, training, CPTED tools, combined with security best practices, may result in a relaxing of basic tenants of CPTED developments and behavior identification. I’m concerned that a growing reliance on sensor devices is presenting an imbalance between human observation and intuition and mechanical and electronic operations.

Designs associated with the growth in the use of sensors and electronic elements must be weighed against dependence on communications, environmental and operational limitations and practical application. It would be wonderful if a one-pill solution were available. In this case, one pill will make the patient sicker I’m afraid. Solid security is a balance of art and science, much like medicine. Security must be practiced as art with elements of science as well.

CPTED’s thought-leadership tools are solid and are part of a choreographed technology approach that once designed is always in need of being tested and verified. It’s easy to miss subtle changes to the environment like new services in the neighborhood, maturing vegetation, a new tenant and their visitors, social and other nearby environmental influences.

The three generations of CPTED thought leadership remain in play and include:

  • Use of space for legitimate and criminal intentions – a multidisciplinary approach engaging stakeholders and working in teams while preparing designs.
  • Second Generation (early 2003 -2008) – reinforcement of original thinking but with a focus on social resources in the community.
  • Currently, CPTED 3-D Design as it relates to desired function and behavior

It is accepted that CPTED is a legitimate strategy for reducing the opportunity for acts of terrorism as well as more common criminal acts. Unfortunately, we are not seeing an elimination of events, which, are mitigated by a good plan and one, which incorporates the elements of CPTED. The list of threats is daunting whether it be street crime, workplace violence or sabotage and terrorism against critical infrastructure. Target selection may be influenced by the appearance of vulnerability. Hence, the importance of incorporating CPTED into your security plans is crucial to mitigating your risk factors.

I’m hoping you will seek additional information in developing your security plans to include a closer look at how the principles and tools found in CPTED will positively impact outcomes and enhance your overall security program and planning.

About the Author:  

Howard J. Belfor, CPP is a member of the ASIS International Board of Directors. He has also served as a Council Vice President and the Chairman of the Physical Security Council. He has over four decades of systems design, integration, testing and verification experience. He has owned and led design installation and integration companies. He is currently the president of Belfor & Associates, LLC, providing consulting to the security industry. (www.belforassociates.com).