CPTED: Principles, Training & Strategies

Instructor: Alexander Hey

Alexander Hey has a master's degree in criminal justice from the University of Cincinnati.

Gain insight into the background and principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). Learn about various organizations that teach how to implement CPTED. Explore some strategies that are used in CPTED.

Preventing Crime through CPTED

At the end of the 1950s, half of all suicides in England and Wales were committed using gas. Suicide by gas was viewed as a painless, easily accessible, minor work to set up (simply stick one's head in the oven), and did not cause any damage or disfigurement. However, as new technologies were introduced in the production of gas, the toxicity of gas in homes began to drop. Then, between 1968 and 1977, a conversion to North Sea gas (which contains no carbon monoxide) occurred. Not only did the number of suicides by gas drop, but the number of all suicides dropped dramatically. In short, those who would have committed suicide by gas did not switch to another method of taking their life.

Those who study crime have pointed to the above study of suicides by gas in England and Wales as proof that opportunity affects behavior. This has led to an acceptance of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED, pronounced ''sep-ted''). CPTED is a multidisciplinary approach to preventing crime that utilizes the design of a location to stop criminal behaviors. This theory expresses the belief that crime occurs in part because an opportunity to commit crime exists and that altering an environment can make crime less likely to occur.


In 1971, criminologist C. Ray Jeffery began arguing that criminologists overemphasized social factors in offending and advocated for focusing more on biological reasons for offending and reducing environmental opportunities for crime. His ideas were not well received. Some were appalled by Jeffery's suggestion that biology could influence criminal behavior, and almost everyone ignored his claims about the environmental opportunities.

Architect Oscar Newman published a criticism of American public housing in 1972, seeking to demonstrate how the design of a building could create a sense of territorial behavior in residents. He promoted designs that reduced the anonymity of residents, increased surveillance, and reduced escape routes for offenders. Newman called his theory defensible space. Newman's theories were originally criticized by criminologists, but over time, Newman and others who agreed with him made a substantial impact on how public housing buildings are designed.

Also, in the 1970s, the criminological research department of the United Kingdom's government began to research ways to reduce opportunities to commit crimes. This research was conducted to reduce opportunities for any type of crime in any scenario.

While the initial reaction to CPTED was negative, acceptance of CPTED has grown in recent years. In 1991, criminologist Tim Crowe began to demonstrate, through his writings and the guidelines he began developing, how opportunities to commit crimes could be reduced using CPTED. Studies and the development of the rational choice and routine activity theories have increasingly shown the influence of opportunity with regards to crime. Evidence has shown that implementing CPTED reduces crime. Worries over displacement have been shown to be less warranted than had been previously thought.


Several organizations offer training in CPTED:


Depending on where it is implemented, CPTED can have many different strategies. There are few common guidelines with respect to implementing CPTED. Practitioners use their training and previous experience to implement CPTED uniquely in each project. CPTED advocates stress using a scientific approach to determining what problems exist in a particular location and what strategies will work best to prevent crime in that area, and efforts are being made to develop guidebooks and diagnostic tools for the implementation of CPTED principles and strategies.

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