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Designing out crime – making housing safer

Research undertaken by the Applied Criminology Centre (ACC) has made a significant contribution to crime prevention through environmental design. This research into ‘designing out’ crime has been incorporated into national and local planning policy and procedures and has influenced international urban planning.

The UK Association of Chief Police Officers has worked with the ACC to extend the designing out crime initiative, Secured by Design, to 350,000 homes, reducing burglary rates by more than half in housing designed to this standard.

Building crime-free homes

Designing out crime involves changes to the design and layout of residential housing such as limiting access, maximising natural surveillance and ensuring that car parking is within the boundary of each property. Consideration for what may seem to be minor design changes can significantly reduce a property’s vulnerability to crime.

Research by the ACC has shown that properties located on through roads are targeted 93% more than those on a true cul-de-sac (without connecting footpaths). Maximising natural surveillance also limits crime, with properties overlooked at the rear experiencing 38% fewer crimes than those not overlooked.

Clever design means less crime

Homes built to the Secured by Design standard have been shown to be subject to 34% less crime and 60% less burglaries than those not built to this standard. The scheme is also economical, with additional costs being recouped by reduced crime in less than two years. These results were achieved through rigorous study carried out by the ACC of over 1000 homes across West Yorkshire, and concluded that a standard property is almost four times more likely to experience a burglary than a Secured by Design property.

Translating research into policy

Building upon the analysis carried out by the ACC, government policy has resulted in 350,000 Secured by Design homes being developed in the UK since 2007 and, consequently, a reduction in burglary rates of around 60% in homes designed and built to this standard. Particularly important in difficult economic times, these houses help to reduce crime and the negative experiences and considerable costs that accompany these crimes.

Transforming housing locally and internationally

As well as shaping national policy on designing out crime, the ACC research has had widespread impact on the practices of local authorities and police forces including Leeds City Council and Thames Valley Police, resulting in improved policy, extra staff resource and robust evidence to base key decisions on. The work has also been drawn on internationally, assisting the Abu Dhabi Planning Council and the Parliament of Victoria; Australia in their approaches to community safety and crime prevention.

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