This week's DOC-Gram describes 9 ways of using CPTED to reduce burglary risks.
Burglary is unlawful entry to a property with the intent to do something illegal.
The offense of burglary is of trespass, and is committed in addition to any subsequent theft, assault or other illegal acts.*
In Australia, burglary rates are high at 800 incidents per 100,000 persons per year - about twice the crime rate of vehicle theft. Some locations are much worse and repeat victimisation is common.
Burglary depends upon a potential criminal becoming aware of an opportunity to enter a property to undertake an activity the means are available and which the potential benefits exceed the potential costs.
Successful burglary typically depends on knowledge about the target(s) gained by prior criminal surveillance. This surveillance of targets typically occurs in only a few ways:
- Routine activities of offenders passing regularly past burglary targets, for example, while driving to a shopping centre.
- Locals living in the community and with a good knowledge of it from familiarity. A high proportion of burglaries are undertaken by offenders living within 2km.
- Deliberate surveillance with high-quality field-craft undertaken by expert burglars against carefully pre-chosen targets.
- Opportunistic burglary in which surveillance is undertaken almost at the same time.
9 Ways to Reduce Burglary Risks
1. Start with Crime Data, Geographical Analysis and Routine Activities
Crime data about how many burglary incidents per month, where burglaries are occurring and why helps you choose the most effective CPTED and Design Out Crime methods to reduce burglary.
Example: A new transit-oriented residential development near a rail station had high burglary rates. Crime data and geographical analysis showed burglaries mainly occurred on the route between the rail station and a particular bus stop. The routine activities of potential burglars traveling to and from the station enabled them to see crime opportunities and the routines of residents on this route.
2. Natural Surveillance: 3 aspects
This knowledge led to an effective economical CPTED solution: move the bus stop closer to the rail station. This resulted in immediate reduction in burglaries.
Natural surveillance is the ability for those outside a property to be able to see what is happening at or near a property. For example, it enables neighbours to see burglars attempting to break in, and call the police.
Natural surveillance requires clear sight lines from public viewpoints outside the property that are likely to have observers at a variety of times of the day (and night).
Natural surveillance is a double-edged sword: it can protect from crime and also encourage and enable crime
The crime prevention literature has focused almost exclusively using natural surveillance to enable criminal activities to be sen by others. This perspective was an extension of the assumption that increased 'eyes on the street' might reduce crime.
In fact, the criminological evidence indicating the value of natural surveillance to reduce burglary seems to be limited to supporting the removing of cover (shrubs, obscured entries etc.) that enable burglars to be able to break in without being seen.
Natural surveillance also however, facilitates and enables crime, especially burglary. Clear sight lines enable criminals to more easily surveil potential premises, spot opportunities, identify routine activities of victims, and even identify potential burglary high-value targets in and around the premises.
Better natural surveillance enables burglars to identify better crime opportunities at lower risk to themselves.
Finally, for quality of life reasons, natural surveillance also needs to be managed to provide privacy to property owners and users.
Three Sides of Practical Natural Surveillance to Reduce Burglary
Three requirements need to be satisfied to use natural surveillance to reduce burglary:
3. Use Territorial Reinforcement
- Enable neighbours and others who might act against criminals be able to see burglars attempting to burgle or damage a premises.
- Obscure from view the routine activities of the premises and any high-value burglary targets inside or nearby.
- Provide appropriate privacy for the normal activities of people using the premises.
Territorial reinforcement makes it clear to potential burglars they are trespassing on someone else's territory. It can include fences, signs, landscaping and more psychological features such as paint and pavement treatments.
Example: In the above, territorial reinforcement uses the extending blind with business name, cafe tables and chairs, and waiter. These indicate the cafe 'owns' that pavement and expects appropriate behaviour.
Example: A front garden clearly defined with fences and gate shows that it and the house are private territory.
Example: The 'front of house' of a shop or commercial premises provides a similar role to the front garden.
Territorial reinforcement can be also used between semi-private space and public space, and between semi-private space and private space.
Burglary is in essence a trespass offense. Territorial reinforcement makes it clear when trespass occurs.
Territorial reinforcement also provides a justification to ask for support from police force or security.
Territorial reinforcement works best to reduce burglary when used together with access control, target hardening, maintenance and other CPTED and Design Out Crime methods.
Caution: It is important that territorial reinforcement does not encourage vigilantism, or violently defensive or reactive or illegal behaviours.
It is also important to ensure that territorial reinforcement supports the appropriate user groups.
4. Use Image Management and Maintenance
There is substantial research indicating that when buildings and spaces appear well-maintained crime rates fall. Conversely, signs of lack of maintenance result in increased crime (the broken windows theory).
Image Management can, however, be complex with regard to burglary.
Lack of care of appearance of private dwellings puts out several signals in terms of burglary. It can indicate that burglary might well be easy and chance of reprisal low, in which case making the building a target.
It can instead, however, be an indication that the contents may be not worth stealing, and that a burglar should go onto somewhere that looks more wealthy.
It could also indicate that there may be a strong physical response that may not conform to lawful expectations.
Public and commercial property that is not well maintained can over time become regarded as open for use by anyone and adopted into the lawless public sphere.
Image management usually has a supplementary role rather than a primary role in burglary protection. Typically, it supports more primary CPTED and Design Out Crime methods such as access control, 3Ds, and territorial reinforcement.
5. Using Access Control
Access control and target hardening differ in how they control burglary risks.
Using access control to reduce burglary risks starts by answering questions including:
- How can we define different areas in a property to reduce burglary risks? (Boundary definitions)
- Which groups of users can access each of these areas of the property? (Access rules)
- How to identify members of different groups? (Access groups)
- Where will this identification occur? (Checkpoints).
- How will individuals and groups learn about where they can access? (Crowe’s 3Ds, usability, and signage).
- What will be the responses to individuals found in the wrong places? (Enforcement)
In residential situations, many of these questions and their answers are tacitly held, and as a result easy to break and hard to enforce. For example, in a house it would be tacitly expected that visiting teenagers do not enter the parents bedroom without some clear permission.
Practically, access control uses walls, doors, fences, natural features and other similar methods to provide territorial reinforcement signals that integrate with signage, cultural norms and other communications.
Taken together, these are the main tools used to control access to different places by different groups of individuals.
Caution: The two biggest weaknesses of access control to reduce burglary are ambiguity/deceit and force.
Access control fails when ambiguity or deceit allows individuals to be in places that they should not be and have justifiable reasons for doing so. The solution is increased clarity and territorial definition.
Access control can also fail from the use of force. To protect from this use target hardening.
6. Target Hardening
Target hardening consists of physical measures that reinforce Access Control.
Target hardening methods are practical ways of ensuring that access control decisions are followed. At the simplest, target hardening may include doors and windows that are made so that they are hard to open without the correct keys.
Burglars develop, however, skills in breaking into property with conventional ways of securing access.
In this case, burglary risks may be reduced by increased target hardening, by installing doors and windows that are more resistant to attack, higher fences, and having layers of security etc.
Unlike access control, target hardening is a technological arms race. Over time. increasingly more resistant target hardening technologies are needed as burglars learn to force past current target hardening methods.
Target hardening choices must be reviewed and revised
Caution: Target hardening technologies can be obtrusive, and, if overused, can compromise the ease of use and functionality of spaces.
7. Using Activity Support
Activity support is the concept of increasing the amount of activity near potential crime targets in order to provide more natural surveillance and potential defenders.
The use of Activity Support to reduce burglary must be handled with care and thought.
Increased public activity around a location and especially in semi-private spaces can increase the risk of burglary. It provides increased opportunities for offenders to surveille a property and gain access.
Activity support works best when it supports potential defenders to identify offender behaviours, and does not support offenders.
Example: Activity support for residences with sole access to the front can be achieved by locating living and main bedroom spaces to the front of the building to overlook semi-private entry spaces.
Example: Activity Support for shops and commercial premises can be achieved by enabling back office activities to overlook front of house activities.
8. Using CPTED to break Burglary Repeat Victimisation
Repeated burglary of the same premises is very common. The risk is up to 12 times higher in the month after the first burglary and 4 times higher over the year.
Repeat burglary victimisation occurs because the factors that encourage the crime at a premises remain significantly unchanged, and the offender's knowledge of the target has increased.
Premises with repeat burglary victimisation are characterised by same offender, same offender routines, same victim behavior routines, same location, same building protection, same assets offering crime benefits and same crime opportunities.
In addition, offenders' knowledge of the target has increased and their motivations and expectations of profitable outcomes are strongly reinforced by previous success.
Stopping repeat burglary victimisation requires significant changes to premises, routines and protection that are also visually obvious
Making changes at the level of replacing window locks with locks of similar appearance that are more resistant is typically insufficient to reduce offender motivation and the offender's view of the potential opportunities of profit from repeating the offence.
Changing offender motivations sufficiently for them to move onto a different target requires sufficient changes in structural protection, routine and visual changes to make offenders consider the property anew as if it were a different building.
In other words, the building has to look different, have very obvious significant increases in security, access control and target hardening, and preferably to have changes in routine activities that make things more difficult for them.
Until recently, sound criminological evidence across the world has indicated that CCTV does not reduce burglary (or almost all crimes). This has been the position of governments and crime prevention authorities in the UK and Australia. The enthusiasm for CCTV by police is different. It enables them to more easily catch criminals. However, that is not crime prevention because the crimes have already been committed.
Recently, however, there is increasing evidence from some countries, particularly the US, showing evidence for crime reductions apparently from public surveillance CCTV. The evidence is erratic, with some places consistently showing zero crime reduction.
The maximum crime reduction effects (around 30%) seem to be tied to a combination of very high numbers of public CCTV cameras with significant commitment to live feed inspection and high levels of police response. This is a relatively expensive approach.
The data currently leaves open the question of whether CCTV is reducing crime or whether it is due to some other factor such as increases in policing and security attention.
Currently (2019), the weight of evidence remains that privately installed CCTV cameras (i.e. not operated by the police) have zero crime reduction effect for burglary.
Using Temporary Solar CCTVs for Information Gathering
Identifying routine activities (who is doing what and when) is an effective approach to identify patterns of crime risks and make effective choices about CPTED interventions.
Temporary CCTV cameras provide an more economical and more effective alternative to human observers or other data collection methods.
Solar, battery-powered waterproof CCTV cameras provide are easy to use and can be temporarily located almost anywhere.
The Design Out Crime and CPTED Centre sell a range of effective and economical solar CCTV cameras for gathering CPTED information.
* Under Section 76 of the Crimes ACT 1958, a person is guilty of burglary if he enters any building or part of a building, as well as an inhabited vehicle or vessel, as a trespasser with intent-
- to steal anything in the building or part in question
- To commit an offence-
- involving an assault on a person in the building or part in question; or
- Involving any damage to the building or to property in the building or part in question- which is punishable by imprisonment for a term of five years or more.
A person found guilty of this offence is liable to imprisonment for ten years.
Under Section 77 of the Crimes ACT 1958, a person is guilty of aggravated burglary if he or she commits a burglary and-
- has with him or her any firearm or imitation firearm, any offensive weapon or any explosive or imitation explosive at the time
- a person was then present in a building or part of a building, and he or she knew that a person was then so present or was reckless as to whether or not a person was then so present, at the time of entering the building or the part of the building
A person found guilty of this offence is liable to imprisonment for 25 years.
These free DOC-GRAM newsletters provide new information on effective approaches to reduce crime and addressing anti-social behaviour.
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Dr Terence Love
CEO, Design Out Crime and CPTED Centre
+61 (0)434 975 949
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