How SBD-trained police officers work
Most of the day-to-day frontline work carried out by Secured by Design (SBD), the national police crime prevention initiative, revolves around the SBD-trained police officers and staff based in Forces around the country.
They work with architects, developers and local authority planners to ‘design out crime’ on new-build developments and major refurbishments in the UK. But what practical impact does their work have on construction and what difference does their guidance make to the residents who live in these communities?
The overall concept of designing out crime
Designing Out Crime Officers provide guidance on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (known as CPTED). It’s a method of reducing crime through the design and manipulation of the built environment and the physical security of buildings by influencing planning strategy and policy. Our officers do this across a number of building sectors including housing, commercial, health, education, leisure and many others.
How it works in practice
Research shows that criminals will be looking for suitable targets and the absence of capable guardians when weighing up the risk of whether or not they commit burglary. SBD will be seeking to stop them committing a crime by incorporating CPTED techniques into the architectural planning, ideally long before construction commences. Some of the key elements of CPTED in the built environment are increasing natural surveillance, limiting through movement, creating defensible space and increasing physical security.
Increasing natural surveillance
Increased surveillance can be achieved by, for example, positioning homes facing each other to allow residents to easily view who is around or through good lighting and absence of recesses, which could become potential hiding places.
Limiting through movement
Access should be limited to defined areas or routes to avoid excessive permeability, which creates legitimacy for criminal activities. Something as simple as ensuring that fences are in good order can stop short-cut traffic through a site. Burglars would also be looking for a different way out to how they came in and are likely to regard something like an alleyway as a convenient escape route.
Creating defensible space
Defensible space, such as rumble strips, change of road surface by colour or texture, pillars, brick piers or narrowing of the entrance all help to create the look and feel of an area in which residents take pride in their homes and where it feels like neighbours know each other. This is a difficult environment for burglars as it increases the likelihood of them being noticed and challenged.
This is all about improving building security to make the physical security of homes more difficult to overcome quickly. The way we do this is by working with manufacturers to encourage them to make products like external doors, windows, rooflights and locks more robust and resistant to physical attack from opportunist burglars.
Such products can achieve SBD’s Police Preferred Specification, which is our minimum security standard. We are the only authorised organisation in the UK to give this police accreditation, which requires independent third-party certification to ensure regular production audits and re-testing over time and goes beyond the one-off testing required by the Building Regulations in England.
Crime reduction benefits of CPTED
Independent academic research by the Secure Societies Institute, University of Huddersfield (2009) shows that new SBD developments that incorporate crime prevention techniques and physical security are almost four times less likely to experience a burglary than non-SBD properties.
The study focused on 16 SBD developments in West Yorkshire and found that these SBD dwellings had 5.8 burglary offences per 1,000 properties compared to 22.7 offences per 1,000 properties in the county overall. This represents a burglary rate of 75% lower within the SBD sample. All the evidence suggests that figures like these are sustainable year-on-year and represent a significant reduction, especially as most SBD developments are in social housing, many of them in deprived areas.
As part of the same research, SBD developments also outperformed their non-SBD counterparts in a visual audit, which included graffiti and vandalism, litter and broken windows. Since SBD launched 28 years ago, thousands of residents have moved into SBD homes and continue to benefit from our standards of security.
Lower maintenance benefits too
Including crime prevention into the built environment reduces demand on police and council resources because there is less crime and anti-social behaviour, freeing up capacity, resources and budgets which can then be allocated to more pressing issues and concerns. In addition, police-accredited products like doors and windows are built to higher specifications, which means they last longer and require less maintenance, repair and replacement over time as well as providing a long-term legacy of safer, more cohesive and desirable communities where people choose to put down roots.
And it doesn’t add much to the costs
Further research from the University of Huddersfield found that providing extra security at the design stage does not add significant building costs – costs typically ranged from £70-£240 for upper and ground floor apartments respectively and £170 for a 2 or 3 bed detached house.
Even convicted burglars endorse the principles CPTED!
To find out what burglars think of the principles of CPTED, the University of Huddersfield showed 22 prolific burglars serving prison sentences a series of images of houses and asked whether they would target a particular house or avoid it. What they said confirmed the principles of CPTED as being effective in deterring burglary.
They said they would avoid:
- Open environments where properties overlook each other.
- Homes where there is an absence of alleyways, which can act as escape routes.
- ‘Complete’ cul-de-sacs where there is only one route in and out where they could be challenged by residents.
- Roads and estates that had a private appearance where residents were likely to look out and notice when a stranger was around.
Instead the burglars said they would target properties that were hidden by high gates, hedges, walls and planting so they could operate unobserved from the road, with busy traffic an added bonus to cover the noise of breaking in.
University of Huddersfield research found that homes overlooked by three or more other properties experienced 38% less crime. In addition, through roads experienced 93% more crime compared to a complete cul-de-sac.
SBD seeks to achieve sustainable reductions in crime through design and other approaches to enable people to live in a safer society.
Tel: 0203 8623 999
Our promotional film about how we work:
Further information from the University of Huddersfield
Sustaining the crime reduction impact of designing out crime: re-evaluating the Secured by Design scheme 10 years on:
October 2011, Volume 24, Issue 4, pp320-343
Exploring the impact of innovative housing design on crime:
European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research
March 2011, Volume 17, Issue 1, pp29-54