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Why Designing Out Crime is Essential


The official police security initiative, Secured by Design, celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2024. In our latest blog post we look at the importance of Designing Out Crime.

New crime challenges are continuously emerging as technology evolves and behaviours change. Design plays an important role in reducing crime while at the same time not inhibiting legitimate usability of products, places and services. Designers including architects, town planners, software developers and many more, must all consider the ways in which the systems, environments, buildings and products they are designing might be criminally exploited. By paying attention to these concerns, early in the design process, the likelihood of crimes taking place can be minimised or even eradicated.

What is Designing Out Crime?

The overall aim of ‘Designing Out Crime’ is to reduce the vulnerability of people, properties and products by carefully considering aspects of design that might provide opportunities for crime. The ‘Designing Out Crime’ initiative also aims to reduce people’s fear of crime and therefore improve their quality of life.

The overall principles of ‘Designing Out Crime’ were clearly defined way back in 1980 in a book published by the Home Office Research Unit. The book presents a collection research studies, carried out between 1976-80. These detailed studies include examination of the impact that the introduction of steering locks for cars, manufactured after 1970, had on car theft in Greater London. Also, the experimental introduction of closed circuit television on the London Underground and how this had affected incidents of theft and robbery.

Steering locks on cars are now a standard feature and CCTV surveillance is now commonplace across the London Underground system and most overground stations. These examples demonstrate how informed design has been used to boost security and safety.

Crime Prevention Strategies

Crime prevention strategies are intended to prevent crimes before they occur. Taking steps to prevent crime diminishes the frequency and magnitude of crime incidents and therefore reduces the cost impact of crime. Individuals and businesses are forced to bear the cost of crime in three ways:

  • Costs incurred in anticipation of crime. E.g. Boosting security measures.
  • Costs incurred as a result of crime. E.g. Damage, lost property, injury and time off work.
  • Costs incurred in responding to crime. 

There are three primary crime prevention strategies.

  1. Situational crime prevention.
  2. Social and Community crime prevention.
  3. Environmental crime prevention.

Situational Crime Prevention

Situational crime prevention considers the opportunities that specific situations present for crime to occur. Crime prevention is achieved by making modifications to these situations to reduce the risk of crime. There are five primary ways in which situations can be beneficially modified:

  1. Increasing the effort required from an offender to commit a crime.
  2. Increasing the risks to the offender when they carry out a crime.
  3. Reducing the rewards or benefits the offender might gain if their crime was successful.
  4. Removing excuses offenders might use to justify or rationalise their crime.
  5. Reducing or removing provocations that may tempt or incite individuals into attempting criminal acts.

Perimeter security measures are a good example of situational crime prevention as they increase the effort required to gain entry to a premises and can increase the risks to intruders if they try.

Social and Community Crime Prevention

Social and community based crime prevention strategies consider the criminal along with the circumstances of the crime. This crime prevention strategy, sometimes called an actuarial approach, is based on identifying the individuals and groups who are most at risk of committing crime and intervening to stop them. The ‘Troubled Families Programme’, setup by the Conservative and Lib Dem coalition government, is a practical example of this form of crime prevention. And police forces work with probation services and other agencies to identify and manage repeat offenders in local communities.

Environmental Crime Prevention

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) aims to reduce crime and the fear of crime by focusing on tactical design and the effective use of the built environment. A key objective of CPTED is to reduce or entirely remove the opportunities for crime to occur, from an environment, while promoting positive use of spaces by legitimate users.

Everyday examples of environmental crime prevention design include enhanced lighting and landscaping to improve visibility and feelings of safety, considerately designed fencing and boundaries that don’t offer opportunities for concealment and establishing vines and plants to cover walls and deter graffiti.

Secured by Design - Boosting Security for 35 Years

Secured by Design is the official police security initiative, celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2024. The housing boom between the 1960s and 1980s meant that estates were being built very quickly and often without adequate attention paid to security. Criminals took advantage of these design failings, along with the poor physical security standards, that made it easy to gain access to homes and businesses. Crime inevitably surged with UK burglary figures reaching a peak of 1.8 million offences a year in 1996.

It was clear that improvements in design, environmental layout and product security standards were urgently needed. This prompted the UK police to establish Secured by Design. This organisation works closely with local authorities, architects, builders, developers and housing associations to ensure police crime prevention standards are incorporated into all developments - from inception all the way through to completion.

Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs)

Police forces throughout the UK now employ professionally qualified Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs). Their role is to provide specialist advice and practical guidance regarding the built environment at every stage of development. They liaise with architects, planners and designers to promote awareness of the Designing Out Crime service and crime prevention initiatives such as Secured by Design. They are required to engage with local authorities and influence planning departments to prioritise the key principles of reducing crime and the fear of crime.

Designing Out Crime Qualifications

Those interested in a role within the police force as a Designing Out Crime Officer must have successfully completed an NPCC approved L5 Diploma course in Crime Prevention - Designing Out Crime, within 12 months of starting their role.

In order to undertake this Level 5 training course candidates must be able to demonstrate achievement of the ProQual Level 4 Certificate in Crime Prevention or an equivalent Recognition of Prior Learning. Candidates undergo an initial assessment to identify gaps in their skills and knowledge. The qualification consists of two mandatory units:

  • Understand the principles of crime prevention
  • Application of Secured by Design

Learners who successfully complete the ‘Understand the principles of crime prevention’ unit will, for example, understand the concept of designing out crime through the application of CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design) and understand the design phase
in relation to the built environment. They will be able to apply designing out crime to the built environment which includes the ability to identify features in the built environment that may provide opportunities for crime and disorder and increase the fear of crime.

The ‘Application of Secured by Design’ unit enables learners to understand the role of Secured by Design (SBD) in the design process as well as understanding the purpose of testing and certification of security products.

Secured by Design - Design Guides

To help ensure Building Regulations compliance in England, Scotland and Wales and meet Secured by Design requirements, SBD has produced a valuable collection of free guides - available from their website

These valuable guides are regularly updated to make certain they keep up with advances in building technologies and practices along with the ever changing crime landscape. The comprehensive guides include new homes, commercial properties, schools, hospitals and housing schemes. And their excellent technical guides cover alarm standards, door security and more.

anti ligature mirrors
Anti-Ligature Mirrors - Secured by Design

Secured by Design Examples

The Secured by Design website offers a valuable Accredited Product Search facility where you can find details of companies whose products have been awarded the `Police Preferred Specification` status.

Many of the product lines offered from our store are accredited by Secured by Design, for example:

ground and wall mount anchors
Ground and Wall Mount Anchors - Secured by Design


Why Designing Out Crime is Vitally Important

Crime and fear of crime have a significant impact on the lives of people, their communities and businesses. Thoughtful planning and design plays a major role in reducing crime and improving the quality of people’s lives by minimising their fear of crime. The Designing Out Crime initiative brings together research, ideas and experience from police forces, local authorities, designers, architects, developers and communities to make certain security is always of primary importance.

If you have any questions about your security needs, or if you have any special requirements, remember we are here to help. Give us a call on 01273 475500 and we’ll provide you with free, expert advice.

This message was added on Thursday 16th May 2024

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