by Gregory Saville
Happy birthday to Canada (July 1) and to the USA (July 4). Why mention this? Because the US, and to a lesser extent Canada, are the birthplace countries of CPTED – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
Some say CPTED began with my old friend Professor C. Ray Jeffery’s 1971 CPTED book. Some credit Canadian-born architect Oscar Newman’s 1972 book on American architecture - Defensible Space. But CPTED truly began with American/Canadian journalist Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book about American planning – The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
A decade after Jacobs’ book, CPTED began in Canada when it was presented at a University of Toronto criminology workshop in 1975. One criminologist at that event, Professor Gwyn Nettler, challenged CPTED to do the necessary scientific research to prove the theory. How, he asked, was it possible to do crime prevention with such poor quality social science of the 1970s? In other words, don’t just make stuff up.
I first studied defensible space and CPTED at university in the late 1970s. Many years later I spoke to Lew Haines, director of the Westinghouse CPTED studies in the 1970s, and urban planner Richard Schneider who implemented CPTED planning in Hartford in the 1970s. Those were the first-ever tests of CPTED. They used a principle called “motive reinforcement” for community-building tactics. They did not describe target hardening as a CPTED principle.
Eventually, traditional CPTED removed the social aspects of motive reinforcement from the theory. Traditional CPTED now includes target hardening, a concept Jeffery and Jacobs could not care one whit about.
In CPTED books of the 1990s, traditional CPTED bore little resemblance to what Jeffery was recommending at the beginning. The truth is so-called traditional CPTED is nothing like the social ecology and interdisciplinary model in Jeffery’s writing. THAT was his point at a keynote address at the 1998 ICA CPTED conference in Mississauga, Canada.
How can we know the difference in CPTED between fluff and the right stuff? Based on Nettler’s principles, and as Carl Sagan once said, here are some basic theory-building steps:
Attempts to rewrite CPTED theory did not use these principles and ended up with ‘crime opportunity’ (aka, target hardening). Check the logic. Traditional CPTED – aka 1st Generation CPTED – became devoid of social factors. The largest bibliography on CPTED lists over 700 studies. For goodness sake, read at least some of the publications.
A C. RAY JEFFERY MOMENT
That brings me to a recent blog of Tom McKay, a CPTED leader from Ontario. Tom is a former Peel Regional Police constable and he did CPTED duties after I retired from Peel Police having done the same thing. Tom is truly an exceptional fellow and went on to co-found CPTED Ontario. He was one of the original board members of the International CPTED Association. I have great respect for Tom McKay and his passion for CPTED.
Thus, it was with great disappointment I read a recent blog by him suggesting that both 2nd and 3rd Generation CPTED “run the real danger of confusing the utility of traditional concepts… and trivializing and or burying traditional concepts in an increasingly unwieldy model that bears little resemblance to the traditional CPTED flowchart”.
Traditional CPTED, as it is now understood, was never promoted by C. Ray Jeffery. None of Jeffery’s ideas made it into the 1990s, only Newman’s. As criminologists Mateja Mihinjac and Danielle Reynald point out in a 2017 study, “contemporary CPTED is, owing to its practical applicability, largely based upon Newman’s original conceptualization.”
That is what Jeffery was getting at.
Tom recounts the opening address of C. Ray Jeffery at the Mississauga ICA CPTED conference. I was the one who brought Jeffery to that conference and published his remarks in the ICA Newsletter. I was teaching at Florida State University’s school of criminology and Professor Jeffery’s office was nearby. He was my colleague, my mentor, and my friend. I know his dictum that CPTED should “study crime in terms of the science of ecology and call for interdisciplinary research”. Jeffery’s point was that Newman’s defensible space (aka “traditional CPTED principles”) was the problem.
In fact, 2nd and 3rd Generation CPTED were created to better align CPTED with the actual theory described by Jeffery. They are enhancements to the original theory and they are expansive and interdisciplinary – precisely what Jeffery was demanding.
THE SECOND-GENERATION ANTIDOTE
Second Generation CPTED has been around for two decades and has numerous scientific research studies published by members of the International CPTED Association.
Second Generation CPTED is neither new nor unproven. In fact it is now formally incorporated into the new ISO (International Standards Organization) CPTED standard, published worldwide last month, in part developed by members of the International CPTED Association. There is also the upcoming School CPTED Guidebook published by the ICA. It is the first formal document describing steps toward 1st, 2nd and 3rd Generation CPTED to prevent violence in schools.
You do not automatically do 2nd Generation CPTED if you teach 1st Generation CPTED “correctly” – an absurd idea I recently heard from a confused practitioner applying for CPTED certification.
Second Generation CPTED builds on decades of research demonstrating some very precise principles such as social cohesion, community culture, and neighborhood capacity issues like blighted housing.
Tom cites an article by Sally Merry in her attempt to categorize early CPTED. Ironically, Merry bases her ideas partly on British criminologist R. Mawby. Unfortunately, Mawby makes the opposite conclusion to Merry. He criticized Defensible Space for its lack of attention to factors such as social class and income. In other words, traditional CPTED of that time, as now, was silent on the social ecology of a neighborhood. That is the point Jeffery made in Mississauga.
CPTED in this “traditional” form is NOT about the social fabric in a community. If social programs are intentionally incorporated into this form of CPTED training, they are done so in spite of this early writing, not because of it.
With a few notable exceptions, social factors were washed out of early CPTED before the 1990s. In the so-called traditional CPTED, social fabric of crime is subsumed into fun-to-add artifacts of a CPTED program (neighborhood watch to enhance natural surveillance is not 2nd Generation CPTED). That is not the social ecology described by Jeffery.
SOCIAL AMNESIA IN TRADITIONAL CPTED
Jacobs was about healthy neighborhoods – places where people had plenty of pro-social behaviors and less exposures to crime. She described the crime prevention power of such activities as “tree planting, traffic calming, and community events.”
Newman realized his mistake in describing Defensible Space in physical terms that downplayed social factors. He restated his theory in his 1980 book “Community of Interest”.
But by then the traditional CPTED die was cast. CPTED courses far and wide taught territorial and access controls, natural surveillance, target hardening, landscaping, lighting, and so on. Go and research CPTED lesson plans on Google (basic or “advanced”… no matter). See for yourself.
As for 2nd Generation CPTED, that has been taught for over a decade. We’ve taught it to residents, police officers, urban designers, community groups, and many others – like those in a New Orleans high-crime neighborhood – and they love it. They do not find these models confusing or unwieldy. They find them logical, and scientific, and they get positive results. They use 1st Generation CPTED, but they no longer stop with physical modifications. They build the capacity of their neighborhood so they have some say in their own safety. We argue this is the kind of CPTED that addresses Jeffery’s true concepts.
In the free marketplace of ideas, all are welcome. Let scientific methods, logic, and original research guide the way.
THE THIRD-GENERATION BREAKTHROUGH
A few years ago Mateja Mihinjac and I launched the most Jefferyesque version of CPTED since Mississauga – 3rd Generation CPTED. We spent years carefully examining the original CPTED theory. Mateja is completing her doctorate in CPTED and I have published prevention theories and studies for 35 years. We were careful to follow theory-building principles, and, true to Nettler and Sagan, our propositions and hypotheses aligned with the logic of theory-building and recent supporting research. We did not just make it up.
Third Generation CPTED is the newest kid on the theoretical CPTED block. Its scientific development is still underway. But make no mistake - there is already a significant body of evidence in support and 3rd Generation CPTED. It represents an exciting way to help our 21st Century city residents figure out how to build more inclusive, ethical, and sustainable communities as we grow into the future.
That is the Jeffery moment I am having.