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Designs against crime

There is a risk that cutbacks and planning changes could lead to new developments becoming crime magnets

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The prevention of crime is not the sole responsibility of the police and it can be managed through appropriate design.

In England and Wales the consideration for crime reduction within planning is facilitated by police architectural liaison officers and crime prevention design advisors, whose roles include assessing planning applications and offering crime prevention advice to mitigate any potential risks.

Progress has been made in recognising that design can and does influence crime but recent changes within the planning system, compounded by public sector cuts, risk jeopardising this. The national planning policy framework replaced 44 planning policy statements with just one 59-page document.

Supplementary planning guidance, which many local authorities and police forces had used to develop crime prevention themed documents, has been discouraged, and the Taylor review of planning guidance recently recommended the cancellation of Safer Places: The Planning System and Crime Prevention. This has been compounded by recent cuts in police budgets causing ALO and CPDA numbers to fall from 350 in 2009 to 197 in August 2012.

There is still the official secured by design scheme, which is awarded to housing which is designed and built to minimise crime risk. While physical security is one element of the scheme, its principles are much broader and many of the methods of reducing crime focus upon subtle changes to the design and layout, such as a narrowing of the entrance to a development or a change in road colour and texture for example. Independent research has shown that SBD reduces crime and the fear of crime, and is a cost-effective crime reduction measure; such research no doubt playing some part in the consideration for security within the Homes and Communities Agency’s quality standards.

The British crime survey has identified social housing as being disproportionately vulnerable to burglary risk. With this in mind, the progress made in incentivising crime prevention must not be lost.

Care must also be taken to ensure that what works in designing out crime is disseminated to communities, which will, under the changes introduced by the Localism Act, play a key role in deciding where development will be and what it will look like.

Dr Rachel Armitage is deputy director of the Applied Criminology Centre at the University of Huddersfield


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