How CPTED is combining hardware with heart-ware

Nov. 4, 2021
CPTED has strived to create a more holistic model that considers the psychology of human behavior in reducing crime and the fear of crime

The early concepts of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) were considered in the U.S. in the early 1960s and helped form a new construct for criminologists and architects to work together to create and maintain safer communities. Consistent with this new idea of managing the built environment, architect Oscar Newman set into motion the concept of defensible space” in the late 1960s. In 1971, building upon the work of Newman, Jane Jacobs, and others, Florida State University criminologist C. Ray Jeffery, originated the term CPTED in his definitive book Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

CPTED Defined

The accepted definition of CPTED is “The proper design and effective use of the built environment that can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime and an improvement in the quality of life” (Crowe, NCPI). These three original goals of CPTED continue as the foundational construct of this important means to encourage or discourage crime. Natural access control, natural surveillance, and territoriality reinforcement were the original over-lapping strategies espoused by CPTED. While architects, crime prevention professionals and others began using CPTED in the field, some of the original strategies began to evolve, and others were included for consideration, such as maintenance, order maintenance, activity support, the three-D’s of space offered by Timothy Crowe (Designation, Definition and Design), image (physical condition and maintenance of areas), and concept of “milieu” (social characteristics linked to urban safety) presented by Oscar Newman. CPTED trainers and practitioners alike, continue to evolve in their teaching and practice of CPTED by adopting a hybrid approach of including all, or some of these emerging strategies and principles.

Decades later, many architects and public safety professionals maintain that the proper application of environmental design continues to increase the perceived likelihood of detection and apprehension of a criminal and that doing so, it is still the most important single deterrent for a criminal to act. This practice of designing-out crime” has been embraced by many disciplines, including architecture, criminology, city planning, urban design, community building, sociology, psychology and crime prevention. However, architects and public safety professionals have been the leading disciplines to continue the use and evolution of CPTED by creating a more holistic model that increasingly considers the psychology of human behavior in reducing crime, and the fear of crime. This evolved CPTED continues to be a crime prevention strategy that is important to incorporate from the design stage through day-to-day activities, including new construction, renovations, and retrofitting.

CPTED Refined

Dr. Macarena Rau is the current Director/President of the International CPTED Association, a position she has held since 2017. Her background in architecture, research, philosophy, and urban studies make her uniquely qualified to lead the current CPTED initiative on an international level. Dr. Rau has also been instrumental in promoting the new 2nd Generation CPTED that was introduced at the 1997 International CPTED Association conference by Gregory Saville and Gerry Cleveland. Primarily focusing on the social concepts of CPTED, it did so with a focus on smaller-scale environments (proximal orientation). This new alliteration of CPTED asserts that in addition to the benefits of reducing crime by addressing our built environment, it is also important to consider the social influences that affect human behavior, such as the sense of community and cohesiveness, family structures and belief systems, and the attachment that residents/users develop for a particular space.

In performing some of our technical assistance work with municipal-based CPTED projects, we have spent an increasing amount of time with the individual stakeholders and residents of the “neighborhoods” with which we are working. Training, focus group meetings and other small-group work projects have all proven to be excellent methods to learn directly from those who are most affected by crime and the fear of crime. We also conduct a pre-and post-project written survey to provide quantitative data of our project success through the lens of the residents/users who live and work in the neighborhood. As we manage these various community-based projects, we also find it useful to allow the residents of the areas to take leadership roles in many aspects of the work plan in order to build the necessary synergy and teamwork that is needed for our success and ultimate sustainability. Education and teamwork are fostered throughout the project and create a sense of personal responsibility for the individual residents/users of the space. This “cohesiveness” of the public becomes a key determinant in the resultant crime incidents and the opinions/beliefs of the users and the general public (guests).

I have been an avid crime prevention practitioner since first attending the two-week Crime Prevention Programming course at the National Crime Prevention Institute (NCPI) in Louisville, Kentucky, back in January of 1988. In moving through the ranks over my 30-plus year career in higher education public safety and policing, I continued to maintain a strong hands-on approach to “crime prevention” by making it an important cornerstone in each of my respective departments. I did this by embracing the connectedness between the police philosophy of Community Oriented Policing, and the success of a fully staffed and budgeted crime prevention program. It continues to be my personal belief that a robust and effective crime prevention program is one of the most critical components of our overall departmental image and perception.

In 2006, I began working with the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) as a curriculum developer, Technical Assistant (TA) consultant and trainer. Later that same year I was appointed as the Chair of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators (IACLEA) Crime Prevention Committee by then-President, Steven Healy. The following year (2007) I was awarded the IACLEA President’s Award for my work in leading the committee and for creating the original IACLEA crime prevention website.

Working as the liaison between IACLEA and the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) in 2006, we developed the curriculum for a new 3-day Campus Crime Prevention Officer training program that was funded through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Following several successful pilot classes conducted throughout the U.S. and Canada (Duke University, California State University-Northridge, Northeastern University, Toronto University, etc.) this program become a popular professional development opportunity for college and university crime prevention officers and administrators.

When developing this curriculum in 2006, we found it important to merge the two disciplines of basic crime prevention and CPTED, similar to much of the philosophy of the emerging holistic model of 2nd Generation CPTED. We called this our “Dual Approach” to crime prevention, by combining Hardware” (physical security, doors, locks, lighting, cameras, CPTED, etc.), with a heavy dose of what we called “Heart-ware (prevention programming/education, Community Oriented Policing, community-building, etc.). The natural cooperation that was created by merging the “Hardware” with the “Heart-ware” was also critical in soliciting much needed administrative and financial support for our various crime prevention/CPTED initiatives as we advocated a strong educational focus to our work, which paired nicely with the higher education “student-centeredness” philosophies.

This is particularly important in a campus setting where the majority of our students are between the ages of 17-21. Some emerging characteristics of this age group included how easily distracted they can become, how apathetic they can be, and how indifferent they act. This “softer” approach to our crime prevention programming appealed to the new student profile of service to others and watching out for each other (“Designated Driver,” etc.). This also corresponded to the proliferation of bystander intervention programs that began to sweep higher education campuses (Green Dot, M.V.P., Stand-Up!, etc.).   

The Changing Security Dynamics

The rise of global and domestic terrorism and high-profile school shootings in the past twenty years has also caused CPTED trainers and practitioners to adjust how we teach and practice CPTED on our campuses and in our communities. More recent challenges include the growing divisiveness of our society in response to racial and social injustices, a deepening political divide, and the unprecedented changes throughout the world due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Technological advances in the cyber and telecommunications sectors have also continued to develop at an incredible pace, as does the use and abuse of these various social media and communications platforms.

Since the 1991 Columbine High School and 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, we have been increasingly challenged to provide specific “target-hardening” strategies for our schools and college campuses. The horrific mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012 created another watershed of heightened physical security awareness and consideration, not only within the education sector but across our entire society. As a result of other high-profile violent events, including the recent assault and penetration of our U.S. Capital building (January 2021), other special CPTED applications have also been necessary for hospitals, large event venues including parks, parking structures, municipal buildings (federal, state and local), prisons, houses of worship, etc. While each of these special applications has its own unique risk and threat factors that must be properly identified and assessed, they all share a common desire to reduce their crime experience, reduce the fear of crime from their community members, and to create a resultant improvement in the quality of life.

Carrying the CPTED Torch

CPTED has been fortunate to have many outstanding professionals to continue the early work of Jane Jacobs, Oscar Newman, C. Ray Jeffrey, Wilson & Kelling (“Broken Window” Theory), Timothy Crowe, Ronald V. Clarke and others. Art Hushen (National Institute of Crime Prevention, Inc.), Randy Atlas (Atlas Safety and Security Design), Rick Arrington (Crime Prevention Center for Training and Services), and William Nesbitt (Security Management Services International) have all successfully developed and facilitated CPTED-based programs for decades and continue to move CPTED to this holistic model of merging original CPTED, with 2nd Generation CPTED, and beyond.

During this extended COVID-19 “pause”, WSM Trainers and Consultants has taken this opportunity to update all of our crime prevention and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) programs. As restrictions are lifted, it is our goal to be the “conveners” of our various regional crime prevention professionals to update and improve our crime prevention capacities, strategies, and effectiveness within each of our respective departments and organizations. We look to do this by partnering with individual departments, professional associations, and state-level organizations (DCJS’s, Crime Prevention associations, etc.). This “Think-Tank” and capacity-building approach to our training programs has produced new local and regional crime prevention partnerships that have benefited the crime prevention practitioners and the communities of which they serve.

Longtime CPTED instructor and practitioner Chuck Sczuroski joined WSM Trainers and Consultants in 2019. Prior to joining WSM, Chuck was a career law enforcement and crime prevention professional and served over 10 years as the Master Trainer for NCPC. He has experience providing technical assistance to assist communities throughout the U.S. and internationally to create and sustain effective crime prevention programs. Chuck’s firsthand experience in leading successful community-based crime prevention and CPTED based projects, together with his many years of training crime prevention and CPTED related courses throughout the world, provides a valuable perspective to the classroom.

A Holistic Approach

As we continue to update our crime prevention and CPTED curriculums, we are committed to teaching the history, principles and strategies of each. However, we are also modifying the goals and objectives of our various curriculums to include a more holistic approach that includes 2nd Generation CPTED and our “Heart-ware” approach that embraces the residents and the users of the spaces that we hope to influence. As we begin this new post-COVID-19 era, it will also continue to be expected of us to provide a more specialized and evidence-based approach to our CPTED courses and projects.

We believe that crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) continues to provide a solid framework for architects, law enforcement and municipal/university officials to work together for safer communities and campus settings by reducing crime, reducing the fear of crime and creating a better quality of life for our respective populations. A large part of our success will be our ability to grow and adapt our CPTED-based training programs and how we incorporate CPTED into our overall campus/community crime prevention strategy.

WSM Trainers and Consultants (est. 1996) can be reached at (585) 303-0533, or you can visit their website at


Clarke, Ronald V., Situational Crime Prevention, Second Edition, New York: Harrow and Heston, 1997.

Crowe, Timothy D., Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, Second Edition, Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2000.

Jacobs, Jane, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York: Vintage Books, 1961.

Jeffrey, C. Ray, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, Beverly Hills: Sage Publications, 1971.

Newman, Oscar, Defensible Space: Crime Prevention Through Urban Design, New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Wilson, J.Q. and Kelling, G.L., “Broken Windows” The Atlantic Monthly, March 1982, pages 29 – 38.

“Designing Safety Communities; A Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Handbook,” National Crime Prevention Council, 1997.

“Best Practices for Using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Weed and Seed Sites,” National Crime Prevention Council, 2009

 About the author:  Lee Struble is President of WSM Trainers and Consultants (est. 1996). He recently retired after a 30-year career in higher education public safety (Nazareth College, Monroe Community College, Rochester Institute of Technology and St. John Fisher College). He is also a senior trainer for the National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) and provides security assessment and consulting services to colleges and universities throughout the United States. Lee resides in Rochester, New York.

Sponsored Recommendations

ADT Commercial establishes standalone organization, rebrands company to Everon completing GTCR acquisition

Everon draws on legacy of excellence in commercial security, fire and life safety, emerges as standalone full-line U.S. integrator and service provider

Four ways to stay a step ahead of security threats

It takes a team approach to meet the challenges of a vulnerable world.

Exclusive Q&A: Alula President Dave Mayne

Take a closer look at Alula's merger with M2M Services, as well as the future of the brand, product development, leadership and more

M2M Services and Alula join forces to redefine the future of smart security solutions

Operating under the name M2M Services, the combined entity will leverage the strengths of both companies.