Grounded In Safety

Most area law enforcement agencies consult with area neighborhoods and businesses on ways to prevent crime in their communities. Indeed, crime prevention is much more important, not to mention cost effective, than law enforcement in the minds of many.

You are probably familiar with programs such as Neighborhood Watch, Dare and Community Policing in the area of crime prevention. Another program that has been used effectively by law enforcement is a program called CPTED.

CPTED stands for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. This program provides valuable concepts for the design or modification of structures and spaces to reduce criminal activity.

Our local parks have used some of these basic concepts and adapted them to our needs. In doing so we have created more patronage, greater safety for our visitors, higher satisfaction of our users and reduced costs for maintenance

Goals & Concepts

The goal of CPTED within our parks is to ensure that proper design and effective use of space and environment will lead to a reduction in crime and vandalism, while increasing park use and customer wellbeing.

Concepts that are universal in the CPTED approach to design are:

1. Physical Environment -– Simply stated, this is the lay of the land and the layout of structures and their proximity to one another. By paying attention to the topography, natural landscaping and positioning of buildings and amenities within your park you can greatly enhance the usage of the facility and discourage undesirable activity within the park space.

2. Behavior of People –- People will behave in predictable ways depending upon certain characteristics such as age, gender, ethnicity and activity. Recognizing this and planning the space and space usage within your park area will help to further increase appropriate use while discouraging undesirable activity.

3. Effective Use of Space -– We have found that this concept as it applies to park design is the design of spaces so that they can serve multiple functions and facilities concurrently. What that really means is to have a park design so that it is being used all of the day and evening for multiple activities by the public.

Bad people, unfortunately, will continue to do bad acts. While this is insensitive and even stupid on their part, most often they are not willing to perform bad/illegal acts in the presence of witnesses. Thus a sports facility comprised of multiple playing fields and little else is only in use during the season or part of the day. With the inclusion of other amenities such as playgrounds, tot lots, walking paths and picnicking facilities, other uses will be encouraged during dead times.

This will reduce that opportunities for undesirable activities that lead to higher maintenance costs, and other unwanted consequences. All of which serve as a deterrent to the use of the facility by the general public.

4. Crime/Loss Prevention -– Most public spaces will suffer from the consequences of undesirable activity. These acts could be simple vandalism, such as graffiti, to serious acts of lawlessness. Let’s be clear… If your customers think that they or their loved ones are not safe in your parks they will stay away. If the regular customers stay away your public parks will suffer even more costly abuse.

This downward spiral can only be reversed by close attention to crime/loss prevention. Remove graffiti within 24 hours. Inspect problem areas often. Turn your maintenance staff into garbologists. Inspect trash and the contents of your trash receptacles. If evidence of alcohol abuse, drug use or gang graffiti appear, document this and engage law enforcement in a prevention effort.

Consider hiring private security to walk the park during the hours that your logs show high probability for undesirable activity. Private security is much cheaper than police officers on overtime. The presence of a uniformed person is very comforting to park patrons. Since your goal should be to get regular users back into these parks you can make a strong case for this to the policy makers of your community.

We have had great success with this approach, coupled with aggressive maintenance. Several parks in our inventory are located in a rough part of the city. These parks were in terrible shape and were virtually abandoned by the community. Repeatedly vandalized, they became havens for illegal activity of all types. Customer satisfaction was nil and people were afraid to use them.

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