Criminals, like most people are motivated by needs, desires and the probable costs and benefits of behaviour. With few exceptions, offenders don't want to be caught or punished. Nor do they want to invest significant time and energy in crime if the risks of being caught are high and the returns are low. It is no accident that burglar often target one or two houses in a street and leave the rest; rapists will strike at particular places and times, armed robbers choose targets with clear escape routes and car thieves consistently favour certain shopping centres, commuter car parks and streets. Criminals, in other words, often make choices about what or who their victim targets will be.

In April 2001, the NSW Department of Infrastructure, Planning and Natural Resources (former Department of Urban Affairs and Planning) introduced Crime Prevention Legislative Guidelines to Section 4.15 of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, 1979. These guidelines require consent authorities to ensure that development provides safety and security to users and the community. 'If a development presents a crime risk, the guidelines can be used to justify modification of the development to minimise crime risk, or, refusal of the development on the grounds that crime risk cannot be appropriately minimised.'

The guidelines contain two parts. 'Part A details the need for a formal crime risk assessment (Safer By Design Evaluation) to be done in conjunction with trained police, and Part B outlines basic Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles and strategies that can be used by consent authorities to justify the modification proposals to minimise risk.' (DUAP 2001:2).

Councils and local Police are encouraged to identify the types of development that will 'typically' require a crime risk assessment, and prepare a consultation protocol. Protocols are location (need) based agreements which outline the types of development that will be jointly assessed, how consultation will occur and timeframes for consultation. Subject to council discretion, development types not listed in local consultation protocols will not require a formal crime risk (CPTED) assessment.

Planning NSW and NSW Police have also been working with the Australian Building Codes Board to incorporate crime prevention strategies into the Building Code of Australia

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a crime prevention strategy that focuses on the planning, design and structure of cities and neighbourhoods. It reduces opportunities for crime by using design and place management principles that reduce the likelihood of essential crime ingredients (law, offender, victim or target, opportunity) from intersecting in time and space.

Predatory offenders often make cost-benefit assessment of potential victims and locations before committing crime. CPTED aims to create the reality (or perception) that the costs of committing crime are greater than the likely benefits. This is achieved by creating environmental and social conditions that:

  • Maximise risk to offenders (increasing the likelihood of detection, challenge and apprehension);
  • Maximise the effort required to commit crime (increasing the time, energy and resources required to commit crime);
  • Minimise the actual and perceived benefits of crime (removing, minimising or concealing crime attractors and rewards); and
  • Minimise excuse making opportunities (removing conditions that encourage/facilitate rationalisation of inappropriate behaviour).

CPTED employs four key strategies. These are territorial re-enforcement, surveillance, access control and space/activity management. All CPTED strategies aim to create the perception or reality of capable guardianship.

Territorial Re-enforcement

Community ownership of public space sends positive signals to the community. Places that feel owned and cared for are likely to be used, enjoyed and revisited. People who have guardianship or ownership of areas are more likely to provide effective supervision and to intervene in crime than passing strangers and criminals rarely commit crime in areas where the risk of detection and challenge are high. Effective guardians are often ordinary people who are spatially 'connected' to a place and feel an association with, or responsibility for it.

Territorial Re-enforcement uses actual and symbolic boundary markers, spatial legibility and environmental cues to 'connect' people with space, to encourage communal responsibility for public areas and facilities, and to communicate to people where they should/not be and what activities are appropriate.


People feel safe in public areas when they can see and interact with others, particularly people connected with that space, such as shopkeepers or adjoining residents. Criminals are often deterred from committing crime in places that are well supervised.

Natural surveillance is achieved when normal space users can see and be seen by others. This highlights the importance of building layout, orientation and location; the strategic use of design; landscaping and lighting – it is a by-product of well-planned, well-designed and well-used space.

Technical/mechanical surveillance is achieved through mechanical/electronic measures such as CCTV, help points and mirrored building panels. It is commonly used as a 'patch' to supervise isolated, high risk locations.

Formal (or Organised) surveillance is achieved through the tactical positioning of guardians. An example would be the use of on-site supervisors, e.g. security guards at higher risk locations.

Access Control

Access control treatments restrict, channel and encourage people and vehicles into, out of and around the development. Way-finding, desire-lines and formal/informal routes are important crime prevention considerations. Effective access control can be achieved by using physical and symbolic barriers that channel and group pedestrians into areas, therefore increasing the time and effort required for criminals to commit crime.

Natural access control includes the tactical use of landforms and waterways features, design measures including building configuration; formal and informal pathways, landscaping, fencing and gardens.

Technical/Mechanical access control includes the employment of security hardware. Crime, Design and Urban Planning: From theory to Practice Formal (or Organised) access control includes on-site guardians such as employed security officers.

Formal (or Organised) access control includes on-site guardians such as employed security officers.

Space/Activity Management

Space/Activity Management strategies are an important way to develop and maintain natural community control. Space management involves the formal supervision, control and care of the development. All space, even well planned and well-designed areas need to be effectively used and maintained to maximise community safety. Places that are infrequently used are commonly abused. There is a high correlation between urban decay, fear of crime and avoidance behaviour.

The following publications outline crime prevention tips for your home, business, farm and boat.