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Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) CPTED is a common sense approach to crime prevention that uses three main strategies. This interdisciplinary discipline helps predict behavior in the interest of preventing crime has generated a rich body of literature. Unfortunately, very little applies to restroom planning and construction so we ‘re trying to fill the gaps. Our study of CPTED and public restrooms is “Building Safe Public Toilets into Shared Urban Space” was presented at the 2011 World Toilet Summit in Hainan, China. CPTED is guided by three basic principles.
  • Natural Surveillance Dissuade potential wrong doers by activating public spaces and creating lines of sight.
  • Natural Access Control Use attendants, fences, locks, or simple definition of architectural space to create a perception of risk in potential offenders.
  • Territorial Reinforcement Use physical design to create a territorial sphere of influence so that users of a public space feel a sense of ownership over it.
The National Institute of Crime Prevention explains the value of CPTED as follows: “The proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear of crime and incidence of crime, and to an improvement in quality of life.”

San Diego Police Department CPTED guidelines for restrooms from the note that the unisex design “has the advantage that it does not provide room for multi-person criminal acts”

A 1995 case study that focusses primarily on restroom CPTED is “Redesigning Hell: Preventing Crime and Disorder at the Port Authority Bus Terminal” by Marcus Felson and colleagues at the Rutgers University School of Criminal Justice. Built in 1950, New York’s main bus station had the worst crime and disorder levels in North America and Europe by the 1980s. The situation was complicated by hundreds of homeless individuals who lived there. In the CPTED-inspired renovation, significant changes were made to restrooms, including the introduction of attendants. See especially page 28 for Table 2: Detailed Characteristics of Restrooms Before and After Renovation Port Authority Bus Terminal, New York City.

Planning Urban Design and Management for Crime Prevention is an excellent, current, beautifully-illustrated, 54-page CPTED manual from the European Commission. The focus on shared urban space but unfortunately, there are no specific references to public toilet design.

A guide with helpful information on a controversial area of crime prevention isVideo Surveillance of Public Places.” By Jerry Ratcliffe. Center for Problem Oriented Policing. Response Guide No. 4, 2006.


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