September 05 2012

How Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Works in Tacoma, Washington

Wright Park in Tacoma, Washington's redesign using CPTED principles.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design; or CPTED, was originally coined and developed by C. Ray Jeffery, a criminologist who published a book of the same title in 1971. Jeffery built on the principles of notable authors, including the famed Jane Jacobs herself, an urban activist who campaigned for new, community-based approaches to planning for over 40 years. CPTED theories contend that law enforcement officers, architects, city planners, landscape architecture, interior designers, and resident volunteers can create a climate of safety in a community right from the start.

Tacoma, Washington’s CPTED program is based on Jeffery’s theory that the design of our physical environment directly affects our behavior. It influences both the opportunities for crime to take place and our fear of crime.

Natural access control (limit access): Guides people entering and leaving a space through the placement of entrances, exits, fences, landscaping and lighting. Access control can decrease opportunities for criminal activity by denying criminals access to potential targets and creating a perception of risk for would-be offenders;The basic CPTED principles Tacoma adopted are:

  • Natural surveillance (increases in visibility): The placement of physical features, activities, and people in a way that maximizes visibility. A potential criminal is less likely to attempt a crime if he or she is at risk of being observed. Avoid landscaping that creates “blind spots”or hiding places and make sure there is effective lighting for pedestrians;
  • Territoriality (promote a sense of ownership): The use of physical attributes that express ownership such as fences, signage, landscaping, pavement designs, defined property lines and clear distinctions between private and public spaces are examples of the application of territoriality. Territoriality can be seen in entrances into a community or development, and in the use of borders and texture.

The environmental design principles of the program can be seen largely in the redesign of Tacoma’s Wright Park. Lack of adequate lighting and overgrown trees made the park hidden and unsafe for the public.  Recent modern design improvements to Wright Park opened up the center of the park with the removal of trees and clearing the undergrowth, allowing increased visibility from the edges of the park through to the center, and the extra lighting has created a much safer environment. The park is used more often by the public and has added more eyes and witnesses, deterring crime.

Does your city have and CPTED program?  If so, what example of crime prevention through environmental design have you seen?

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Kennith George

Kennith George grew up in the Greater Seattle, Washington area and holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from the University of Washington. His interest began in architecture, but he quickly found his passion in urban planning and policy. He views much of the built environment as unsustainable and detrimental to healthy societies and community life. He plans to pursue a Masters of Urban Planning from the University of Washington, but for now he is enjoying a local government internship in community and economic development. He is grateful for the opportunity to have been an environmental design blogger for Global Site Plans,' The GRID. Kennith’s area of focus lies with the New Urbanism movement of creating walkable, compact, mixed-use, livable, and pedestrian-sized sustainable communities.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 5th, 2012 at 1:28 pm and is filed under Environment, Environmental Design, Landscape Architecture, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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