Secured by Design: Tackling crime through the built environment

built environment
Great Kneighton, Cambridgeshire

Secured by Design is a national police initiative that works in partnership with local authorities, architects and developers to incorporate crime prevention into the built environment

As a New Year gets underway, Secured by Design (SBD), the national police crime prevention initiative, takes a look at four developments around the country where SBD-trained police officers and staff have been working with local authority building control officers and approved inspectors to design out crime at the planning stage.

Based at police stations or embedded with local authority planning or community safety teams, these Designing Out Crime Officers also liaise closely with architects and developers on new build developments and refurbishments in sectors including housing, commercial, retail, mixed-use, transport, health, education, leisure and others.

We seek to incorporate proven crime prevention techniques into the layout and landscaping, such as to increase natural surveillance, limit excessive through movement and create defensible space. Also, we want the key features that make up the physical security of buildings, such as doors, windows and locks, to be to our Police Preferred Specification standard, which requires regular re-testing and production audits over time and goes beyond the one-off testing required by the Building Regulation in England.

Fife, Scotland

Over the last 20 years, Kingdom Housing Association, a registered social landlord, has had 3,000 homes designed and built to incorporate SBD crime prevention techniques on more than 150 developments in the Fife area.

A study by Police Scotland has revealed that these developments have experienced 87% fewer reported crimes compared to properties not similarly designed and protected. The crimes included housebreaking and attempted housebreaking (the Scottish equivalent of burglary and attempted burglary in England); sneak-in thefts (access through an insecure door to steal); and opening of Lockfast Places (usually vehicles, sheds or outbuildings/garages where the locking mechanisms are overcome to gain entry for theft).

Bill Banks, Group Chief Executive at KHA, said: “I feel all developers and providers of new housing projects should be adopting the SBD standards of increased safety and security to enhance the wellbeing of residents in their respective developments.”

built environment
Dunlin, Fife, Scotland


Great Kneighton, Cambridgeshire

More than 1,800 homes built near the Cambridge Biomedical Campus in areas known as Great Kneighton, Clay Farm and Trumpington Meadows, have been signed off by Designing Out Crime Officers to SBD standards.

Figures produced by Cambridgeshire Constabulary show that over the last five years, these developments had just one burglary (where a brick was thrown through a patio door window) and five attempted burglaries by forcing garage doors, but all failed.

A further 2,000 homes are being built in the area – all to SBD standards.

Police and Crime Commissioner for Cambridgeshire, Jason Ablewhite, commented: “At a time of high demand for the Police Service, techniques such as these are great examples of how partnership working can help prevent crime. I hope to see more new builds benefit from this initiative.”

North Prospect, Plymouth

When Plymouth City Council transferred its housing stock of 14,000 homes to Plymouth Community Homes (PCH) in 2009, part of the deal was that the regeneration of North Prospect, two miles north of Plymouth City Centre, would be a high priority.

The regeneration of the estate was long overdue, with building surveys highlighting structural cracking, wall tie failure and extensive and untreatable damp. Nearly 60% of homes failed even the basic Decent Homes Standard. The estate also had a reputation for crime and anti-social behaviour going back over many decades.

SBD was involved at the outset of this 11-year regeneration, which started 2011 and involves demolishing 800 homes, building 1,100 new ones and refurbishing a further 300. In 2017, figures released by Devon & Cornwall Police showed that recorded crime in North Prospect had fallen by an average of 62% across four crime categories – burglary, criminal damage, vehicle offences and violence against the person – between 2007 and 2016.

The Designing Out Crime Officer, who is embedded with Plymouth City Council, said: “It was great to have our improvements and crime prevention suggestions incorporated at the same time as all the building considerations.”

Elephant Park, central London

Global developer Lendlease took SBD crime prevention guidance on board at its 3,000-home regeneration at Elephant Park.

Ed Mayes, Lendlease Development Director, explained that getting SBD involved from the outset was critical to the success of Elephant Park, ensuring the masterplan layouts were inherently safe and would provide secure streets, public spaces and homes.

“Having those officers involved in the design teams from the early stages avoided abortive work and ensured we were reducing our costs and, more importantly, leaving a legacy which is truly safe for years to come,” he said.

SBD’s many benefits

Independent academic research shows that new builds with SBD crime prevention measures incorporated into the built environment and building security 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.

Less crime helps free up police resources for other priorities, while Police Preferred Specification-accredited products can reduce repair and maintenance costs – making money and services go further to improve the lives of local residents at a time of continued financial austerity.

Our aim is to achieve sustainable reductions in crime through design and other approaches to enable people to live in a safer society. With nearly 30 years’ experience, we have adapted our advice to keep pace with changing patterns of criminal behaviour.


Secured by Design

Tel: 0203 8623 999


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