Property crime would fall if planners heeded police Designing Out Crime Officers’ advice

Greater Manchester sets the standard stipulating that Crime Impact Statements are part of the planning process

Without a statement, a developer cannot proceed to planning permission

BEFORE any new development is given the go-ahead, specialists should certify that it has been designed to deter crime, argues a University of Huddersfield expert who has forged global collaborations for her research in the subject.

Dr Leanne Monchuk has published a sequence of articles on the subject of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED).  She is convinced that its key principles can reduce the opportunity for crime and disorder.  All police forces in the UK employ a Designing Out Crime Officer who has received training in CPTED.  But Dr Monchuk is frustrated that police are often consulted when it is too late to make a difference.

“It’s imperative that crime prevention is considered early in the design and planning process.  Whilst policy and guidance may state the importance of designing out crime, processes must be established to ensure it’s actually implemented on the ground,” she states.

Dr Monchuk points to Greater Manchester as one area that has attempted to ensure CPTED is considered.  All ten local authorities stipulate that Crime Impact Statements are part of the planning process.  Without a statement – awarded after police scrutiny – a developer cannot proceed to apply for planning permission.

Recent articles by Dr Monchuk – who is a senior lecturer in criminology and policing – include Is It Just a Guessing Game? The Application of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design to Predict Burglary, in the journal Planning Practice and Research.

Derived from Dr Monchuk’s doctoral thesis, the article describes how she asked 28 experienced Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs) from across England and Wales to examine the site plan for a development – since built – and identify where they thought crimes might happen.  She was then able to compare the findings with actual crime data.

Her research confirmed that there is a skill to applying the principles of CPTED, yet discovered inconsistencies in its application and this had led her to call for better training and development.

She has recently returned from Melbourne, where she was invited to give a series of lectures and training workshops in tandem with her Australian collaborator, Dr Garner Clancey, of the University of Sydney.  This included a public lecture hosted by RMIT University and the Community Crime Prevention Unit of the Victorian Department of Justice and Regulation.

Within the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) DOCOs are serving police officers, whereas in the UK they are usually civilians.  Dr Clancey and Dr Monchuk have examined the way in which Australia’s NSW DOCOs engage in CPTED and have co-written an article for the journal Crime Prevention and Community Safety.

“Our research found that whilst some councils have clear policies in place, others don’t and so some officers felt their input was merely tokenistic.  Some DOCOs described how their advice and recommendations can often be ignored and so this raises the question as to whether this role is best use of a warranted police officer’s time and expertise” said Dr Monchuk.