Secured by Design: A crime prevention programme for a safer built environment

Crime prevention programme
Paul Gardener and Heather Gurden discuss the latest planning applications on camera

Secured by Design aims to create a safer society by incorporating a proven crime prevention programme into the built environment

The importance of public sector organisations working together and smarter for the benefit of local communities has never been greater to make money and services go further at a time of continued financial austerity. The Association for Public Service Excellence (APSE) conference in September heard how local authorities around the country are continuing to operate within tough economic restraints, yet are still able to produce outcomes that improve the lives of the residents they serve. In this article, Secured by Design (SBD), the national police crime prevention programme, which was one of the APSE Service Award category sponsors, explains how it is working with local authorities – and many other organisations – to achieve sustainable reductions in crime through design and other approaches, to enable people to live in a safer society.

Let’s start with our film at the APSE conference

SBD was one of the contributors to an APSE film made in partnership with ITN Productions, ITN’s bespoke production hub, which was shown at the conference. It was entitled Redefining Neighbourhoods: Beyond Austerity and featured key industry interviews and news-style reports along with sponsored editorial profiles. We chose to highlight how our network of 200 SBD-trained police officers and staff around the UK are working with local authority building control officers and approved inspectors, as well as architects and developers, to design out crime at the planning stage.

crime prevention programme
Alan Hall, Director of Communities, Epping Forest District Council being interviewed by ITN Productions for the SBD film at the APSE conference

How we work

These officers, known principally as Designing Out Crime Officers, seek to incorporate a proven crime prevention programme into the built environment, such as the layout and landscaping to increase natural surveillance, limit through movement to avoid excessive permeability and create defensible space.

It also includes increasing the physical security of buildings, such as doors and windows, to meet our standards to resist physical attack from opportunist burglars.

They carry out this work on new build developments, refurbishments and change of use projects in sectors including housing, commercial, retail, mixed-use, transport, health, education, leisure and others.

What the film shows

The film explains how Epping Forest District Council in Essex has gone one step further and included a Designing Out Crime Officer in the council’s Community Safety Team, which seeks to create safe communities and look after residents most at risk. This team gets together with planning and housing officials prior to planning application stage to consider how all new developments submitted by independent and commercial builders can achieve SBD standards of security for both the built environment and physical security. Here’s what two of their senior officers said on camera:

Alan Hall, Director of Communities: “We are encouraging as many developers as possible to adopt SBD. Why wouldn’t you harness the expertise of specialist police staff, community safety officers, developers and architects to achieve longer-term community benefits?”

Paul Gardener, Community Safety Officer: “The collaboration with SBD is a no-brainer. It has been shown to produce significant reductions in crime and will also help reduce the cost to the public purse on investigating crime, disorder and anti-social behaviour.”

SBD benefits to local communities

The film includes graphics of independent academic research supplied by Professor Rachel Armitage of the Secure Societies Institute, University of Huddersfield, which found that SBD new build properties are up to 75% less likely to experience a burglary than comparable non-SBD properties. All the evidence suggests that this figure is sustainable year-on-year and represents a significant reduction, especially as the vast majority of SBD developments are in social housing, some of which are in deprived areas.

At Epping Forest, Heather Gurden, Strategic Designing Out Crime Officer with Essex Police, who works at the district council, commented that police and councils working together is best practice.

“It brings together allied professionals who share the same concerns to make sure we deliver a better quality place to live and work,” she said.

crime prevention programme
Heather Gurden and Paul Gardener on an SBD development of 150 new homes on a former school site in Epping where there have been no reports of crime or anti-social behaviour since the development was completed in 2016

SBD benefits to police and council

Including crime prevention principles and physical security into the built environment reduces demand on police and council resources because there is less crime and anti-social behaviour, freeing up capacity, resources and budgets to be allocated to more pressing issues and concerns.

In addition, police-accredited products like doors and windows are built to higher specifications, which means they last longer and require less maintenance, repair and replacement over time, as well as providing a long-term legacy of safer, more cohesive and desirable communities where people choose to put down roots.

Of course, it also helps local authorities meet their legal obligation under Section 17 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 to do all they reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder.

The costs of SBD

Providing extra security at the design stage does not add significant costs, which range typically from £70-£240 for upper and ground floor apartments respectively and £170 for a two- or three-bed detached house. (Source: University of Huddersfield 2017).

Secured by Design

With a wealth of expertise and experience spanning nearly 30 years, we have adapted our guidance to keep pace with changing patterns of criminal behaviour. Our crime prevention programme has been embedded into many thousands of homes around the country, as well as at a number of iconic sites including the London 2012 Olympics, Wembley Stadium and the Scottish and Welsh Assembly buildings.


Secured by Design

Tel: 0203 8623 999


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