Securing today’s schools takes more than locks and metal detectors

Using the human element through design provides enhanced safety and happier students


“It was mandatory CPTED compliance in the county schools,” says Hushen, whose group then we went on to work with the Florida state’s attorney general to create a state-wide CPTED designation that mandated a standard for law enforcement, architects and designers, and provided a path for them to be recognized as certified practitioners of CPTED. “When training architects on the principals of CPTED, they can look at the design of a school as a standalone structure or how it can influence positive social interaction. We emphasize that they focus on social management through design.”

The concept of CPTED is all encompassing. It is a “place-based” deterrent predicated on making both the man-made and natural environment safer. Criminologist Timothy Crowe, one of the founding fathers of the CPTED concept says, “The proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime and an improvement in the quality of life.”

The CPTED philosophy not only espouses the harmony of flow, light and open spaces, it facilitates positive social engineering. There is an increase in both the cerebral mantra of a safe environment, along with the hardened physical security aspect of the space itself.
“We encourage the interaction of students with one another, but design the facility so you have maximum visibility through video monitoring and visual surveillance, with a concentration on gathering areas and open walkways,” explains Hushen. “Students will come to school now knowing they are being monitored without feeling it is intrusive. By increasing visibility in places like stairwells and restrooms, where incidents tend to take place, we eliminate a lot issues.”

There are several universal key concepts related to CPTED, although practitioners and criminologist still debate the nuisances. They include:
• Natural Access Control — deals with ingress and egress from an area based on crime preventive or inhibiting elements that are part of the essential design of a building or site. Basically, it says that access control is more than just the school’s locks, gates and windows. It also involves the sidewalks, streets and landscaping that surrounds a school, as well as any areas that establish natural boundaries.
• Natural Surveillance — defines how users see into, through and around school buildings and site elements. For instance, unobstructed windows that overlook parking lots or playgrounds provide easier monitoring of risky or high-liability areas and proper lighting eliminates hiding areas.
• Territorial Reinforcement — lets visitors and potential intruders know they are now on school grounds. It involves physical features that clearly separate public from private places, such as schools from an adjacent park or neighborhood, and can be achieved with proper fencing, brick pavers or well-defined sidewalks.

Creating a safe school environment in today’s world should not force us to resort to barbed wire, armed guards and metal detectors. Unfortunately these are realities in many of our schools across the country. But with the use of CPTED, we can arrive at a complimentary solution that can make the school campus safe and inviting.

“The social aspect of CPTED is big on encouraging more social interaction between parents, teachers and students. Once you get all parties involved in the design aspect of the classroom they can appreciated the aspects of security and safety design they might never had considered,” adds Huschen. “You build off of that. You integrate the social aspects of safety with the physical tools of security to create the optimum environment.”