Designing Out Crime - June Crime Prevention Blog by Gerry McBride

For my June blog, I’m going to cover the subject of designing out crime.

Many police forces in England and Wales employ an Architectural Liasion Officer (ALO). The primary role of the ALO is to liaise between police, architects and clients at the design concept stage of a development to provide security recommendations appropriate to possible risks. They are able to advise on design and material specifications, which will help prevent crime.

At Cleveland Police, we have three members of staff that are trained as ALO’s who carry out a dual role of crime prevention and architectural liaison officer.

Inappropriate design or choice of materials for a building may provide easier targets for criminals. Improvements identified at the design stage are far more cost effective to implement during the construction stages, rather than trying to add them after the completion of the project.

It is possible to design out crime with sound crime prevention advice. If included at the design concept stage, it can reduce the likelihood of an attack to the property. It can be said that crime prevention through environmental design acknowledges that the built environment can influence criminal behaviour for good or bad.

We can have beautiful buildings that are also able to provide a higher degree of security. When a building is attacked, it is important that we don’t immediately adopt extreme measures. We have to take a step back and look at the reasons why the premises have been targeted, then put forward a solution.

What are the reasons behind places that are repeatedly victimised and those that are not? Burglars could choose one of the countless numbers of premises to attack but they don’t - a burglar picks their victim based on their own risk analysis such as, ‘what are the chances of being caught?’ ‘Is the reward worth the risk?’

Design can help to reduce the opportunities to commit crime and increase people’s sense of security. Designers must also be aware that attempted solutions to security problems do not have one inevitable consequence. In fact some ‘solutions’ may make matters much worse. The use of ‘target hardening’ techniques such as security grilles and door reinforcements can create a ‘fortress mentality’. This in turn may provoke more violent or ingenious attacks. Unfortunately, buildings are still being designed today without any consideration given to their impact on crime.

High unemployment and social deprivation are quoted as factors which fuel crime, however, the traditional approach to crime prevention does little to address the cause.

When examining options of improving security, we would aim to 1. Maximise the opportunities for natural or passing surveillance, 2. Indicate clearly the boundaries between public and private space 3. Limit the number of access points 4. Avoid creating potential hiding spaces, recesses etc.

Once a building has been constructed the main chance to prevent crime will have gone, however, some improvements can be added later.

We are here to help! If you are considering any building work, you are a developer, architect, planner or builder, please consider getting in touch with a member of our team. Ring the non-emergency number 101 and ask for Crime Prevention.

Gerry McBride
Crime Prevention Officer
Cleveland Police