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  • Kristy Cianci


CPTED is an acronym that is increasingly common when planning and designing the built environment. CPTED is short for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. Sometimes it’s also known as Safer by Design. The synergies between CPTED, Public Art and Place Activation are growing. This is due in part to the role that Public Art and creative projects can play in helping to achieve CPTED principles.

Let take a closer look at CPTED and its principles.

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a strategy that aims to reduce crime by designing the built environment according to a set of guidelines that make it more difficult for criminals to commit crime in a particular place.

CPTED is based on the principle that a large number of crimes are guided by rational thought. Applying CPTED methods aims to discourage offenders by maximising the risk and effort of committing a crime - while minimising the benefits and opportunities of committing that crime.

CPTED largely focuses on the opportunistic criminal. This is when a criminally inclined person makes an assessment of risk and determines the likelihood of getting away with it. The built environment can passively deter crime through the realisation that it’s not worth the risk or there is not enough reward in committing the crime. 1

There are five key CPTED strategies:

  • Natural Surveillance - increasing the opportunity for seeing and being seen. Natural surveillance discourages anti-social behaviour and criminal behaviour, as criminals feel they are more likely to be seen and caught.

  • Territorial Re-enforcement - distinguishing between private and public spaces and encouraging community ownership of public areas. This means encouraging the presence of positive user groups who discourage negative / anti-social groups.

  • Access Control - using physical and symbolic markers to restrict and encourage movement into private areas.

  • Space / Activity Management - creating formal uses for spaces to ensure maximum usage and to clarify who should be in the space and how it should be used. Like Territorial Reinforcement clarity of ownership is essential.

  • Environmental Maintenance - urban decay and poor maintenance give the impression of neglect and that no one is watching or cares about a place.

The most important thing to remember is that the five strategies do not exist in isolation. They all work together and reinforce the other. Success in one only category can undermine the effectiveness of the other CPTED strategies.

So now that we have a clear understanding of CPTED, let’s talk about the role of Public Art and Place Activation as a CPTED tool.

What is Public Art?

Public Art is essentially art that is located within the public domain. It’s an artwork that ‘belongs’ to its community and is created to give a place a point of difference, activate the public domain, tell a story, and will ultimately form part of a Place’s cultural identity.

The goal of Public Art is to become an integral layer to the public domain. Public Art attracts people – to view the artwork in the round, or to seize a selfie moment with the artwork.

Public Art is also used to activate spaces and buildings – whether on a permanent basis, such as a mural on an otherwise blank façade or on a temporary basis, such as brightening up construction hoardings.

Public Art is also an important wayfinder and spatial connector. Art trails, creative wayfinding elements and mural trails are methods to help people navigate the urban realm through a visually interesting and enticing way.

Redman Road - Catenary Lighting in Pedestrian Through-link

So how could Public Art help in creating safer places?

As we mentioned earlier, Public Art has the power to attract and help people move through the public and private realm. Below are a few ways that Public Art can help solve specific CPTED problems in the public and private domain:

ARTSCAPE delivered the projects cited as examples above. If you would like to discuss how your project could benefit from a dual Public Art and CPTED solution, we’d be delighted to talk to you.

1. For more information the NSW Police Website has a range of materials available.

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