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Built Environment Strategies to Deter Crime

Community safety can affect the levels of physical activity within a community, including walking and bicycling. Areas with higher levels of crime and violence have been associated with lower physical activity levels. People are more physically active in areas where they feel safe. Gender, age, and other characteristics also influence how safety or perceived safety affect active travel. Crime prevention strategies can improve community safety. Some studies indicate such strategies may increase levels of walking and bicycling as well.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a specific approach to designing safety and security into the environment of a specific area focusing on five areas: 1) natural surveillance, 2) access control, 3) territorial reinforcement, 4) activity support, and 5) maintenance. CPTED approaches have been developed for public transportation planning to improve system safety and security. Many of the CPTED principles or similar concepts can be incorporated into the design elements for other modes as well. Elements to consider include lighting, visibility, treatment of visual obstructions and concealed areas (e.g., bridge structures, underpasses), fencing, walls, landscaping, police/security presence, maintenance for issues (e.g., graffiti, litter), parking, intersecting roadways, and density and land use mix.

Related Transportation and Heath Tool Indicators

How can this strategy result in health benefits?

  • Address chronic disease (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
  • Improve equity
  • Increase physical activity
  • Improve safety

How has this worked in practice?

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) for Transit Facilities - APTA

Under the APTA Standards Development Program, a Recommended Practice was developed to provide voluntary guidance on the use of CPTED at transit facilities. The purpose of the Recommended Practices is to enhance safety and security at public transportation facilities. The guidance addresses stakeholder and risk assessment considerations, recommends and illustrates public transportation applications for each of the five CPTED strategy areas, and provides a design considerations checklist.

Where can I learn more?

Enhancing personal safety in areas where people could be physically active is among CDC’s recommended community strategies and measurements to prevent obesity in the United States. Issues identified include the impact of crime and perceived safety concerns on walking, especially for children. Specific strategies such as street lighting are noted.

National Institute of Crime Prevention is a private entity that offers several basic and advanced CPTED courses, including transportation and planning topics such as barriers (e.g., fencing, landscaping, walls), lighting, planning and zoning, neighborhood reviews, traffic calming, and public transportation.

The non-profit National Crime Prevention Council administers a CPTED training program and provides basic, advanced, and targeted CPTED training courses.

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) has developed standards of recommended practice for CPTED for transit facilities.

The U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance provides an overview of specific approaches to address crime and factors contributing to crime, as well as measures to assess the effectiveness of CPTED strategies.

Evidence base

Carter SP, Carter SL, Dannenberg AL. Zoning out crime and improving community health in Sarasota, Florida: "Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design". American Journal of Public Health 2003;93(9):1442-5.

Ferreira I, Van der Horst K, Wendel-Vos W, Kremers S, vn Lenthe FJ, Brug J. Environmental correlates of physical activity in youth - a review and update. Obesity Reviews 2007;8(2):129-154.

Gómez JE, Johnson BA, Selva M, Sallis JF. Violent crime and outdoor physical activity among inner-city youth. Preventative Medicine 2004;39: 876–881.

Gordon-Larsen P, McMurray RG, Popkin BM. Determinants of adolescent physical activity and inactivity patterns. Pediatrics 2000;105(6):E83.

Keener D, Goodman K, Lowry A, Zaro S, Kettel Khan L. Recommended community strategies and measurements to prevent obesity in the United States: Implementation and measurement guide. Atlanta, GA: Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); 2009.

Khan LK, Sobush K, Keener D, Goodman K, Lowry A, Kakietek J, Zaro S. Recommended Community Strategies and Measurements to Prevent Obesity in the United States. CDC: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly 2009;58(RR07):1-26.

Loukaitou-Sideris A, Liggett R, Iseki H, Thurlow W. Measuring the effects of built environment on bus stop crime. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design 2001;28(2):255-280.

Painter K. The influence of street lighting improvements on crime, fear and pedestrian street use, after dark. Landscape and Urban Planning 1996;35(2-3):193-201.