Urban design is the practice of shaping the built environment, including buildings, streets, public spaces and neighbourhoods, to improve the liveability of cities and towns. When a place is designed well, it provides social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits. Urban design is important for crime prevention because poorly designed and managed built environments can create opportunities for crime and make people feel unsafe.
Design principles which help make public environments safer include:
- visibility and natural surveillance – places where activities can be easily seen deter potential offenders
- access, movement and sightlines – crime is less likely to occur in places where there are clear, well defined routes and people can easily enter and leave
- activity – maximising the use of public places by a mix of people encourages social interaction, increases visibility and surveillance by passer-bys and reduces the risk of crime
- ownership – places that generate a sense of ownership among users discourage crime
- maintenance – public places that are well managed and maintained generally feel safer and encourage people to use them. This in turn encourages activity and natural surveillance.
Changing the built environment can be hard and costly, so good urban design at the outset is important for community safety. Where there are existing crime problems, applying good urban design principles to a particular location is one way in which a crime problem can be addressed.