Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

What is  Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

In a nutshell Crime prevention through environmental design is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior through environmental design.  CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts.  As opposed to target hardening which makes it more difficult to commit crimes such as break-ins, CPTED attempts to deter criminals from even picking a target in a particular area.  It is premised on the theory that criminals make rational choices and that if the cost (chance of getting caught) are great enough criminals will not commit the crime.

CPTED is a multi-faceted approach but two of the tactics it employs in relation to neighborhoods are:

  1. minimize the number of entry and exit points on a block; and
  2. design roadways to discourage through-traffic.

Couple those two tactics with a barrier around a neighborhood and you have an excellent recipe for crime prevention.

It is theories, based on CPTED principles,  that led developers to come up with the gated community concept.

What follows are  three examples of naturally occurring crime prevention measures, namely a river surrounding  a community with a limited number of entrances and exits and roadways that discourage and in some cases eliminate through traffic that clearly demonstrate that the design of communities has a lot to do with the prevalence or lack of crime.

All the screenshots in this post were taken from the City of Winnipeg Crimestat website and depict reported crime for the offences reported on Crimestat for the period between January 1, 2015 and December 10, 2015.   The screen shots were taken on December 8th, 2015.


This first screen shot shows the Armstrong Point community in downtown Winnipeg which had 3 reported crimes:


2015-12-10 (1)



This screen shots show the West Broadway Community which is immediately adjacent to Armstrong Point.  West Broadway had 114 reported Crimes.

2015-12-10 (4)



This shot shows the Wildewood Park Community with 4 reported crimes:

2015-12-10 (3)

The adjacent community of Crescent Park reported 34 crimes:

2015-12-10 (5)


The  Kingston Crescent Community with 3 reported crimes:




Lastly, the Elm Park community adjacent to Kingston Crescent,  24 reported crimes:


2015-12-11 (1)


I think the screen shots and the number of crimes they depict make the argument.  If you have a barrier, in this case a natural barrier such as a river surrounding a community with limited points of entry and egress and a lack of through traffic, criminals are deterred from committing crimes in those areas.  This is not a fluke.  I have been tracking these communities for years and the results are the same or very similar year after year.

Some small enclaves in newly developed residential areas such as Waverly West embody limited CPTED principles either consciously or by default.  It is unfortunate that CPTED principles are not applied  across the board in new developments.  Neighbourhoods designed and laid out based on CPTED principles would be a boon to the residents living in those neighbourhoods, as well as the Police Service in terms of a dramatic reduction in crime and the resulting calls for  service.  A crime that is prevented requires no followup or investigation.


Surviving an Active Shooter Situation



Q  What is an active shooter?

A  The traditional definition of an active shooter makes reference to an individual(s) actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people usually  in a confined and populated area; in most cases, active shooters use firearms and the selection of victims has been largely random.  More recently, terrorists (such as those in the Paris incident) have employed the active shooter strategy to kill and spread  terror in the larger population of persons seen as opposed to their views or philosophy.

The recent killing spree by Syed Farook, 28, and his wife Tashfeen Malik, in San Bernadino California which resulted in 14 people being killed and 21 injured, is at best, an example of an active shooter scenario with terrorist undertones, and at worst, an outright act of  terrorism.

Although Canada, to this point, has been largely spared from these types of incidents, according to Mass Shooting Tracker there have been 336 incidents in 2015 so far in the United States where four or more people were injured by gunfire, many fatally.

It would be naive to think that it cannot and will not happen in Canada at some point.

Active shooter situations offer a unique challenge for police.  In a hostage taking scenario, for example, the passage of time is considered an ally but in the active shooter situation, time becomes the enemy as active shooters strike quickly.  In these types of situations, therefore, many people are killed before police are even alerted.  Quick  response and action must be the hallmark of the police response to these types of devastating incidents.

The problem is that by the time police become engaged in an active shooter incident, in most cases a large number of people have already been murdered.

Active shooter situations are usually resolved or ended only when police neutralize the threat by killing the shooter(s), or  the shooter(s)  commit suicide or in the case of  case of Islamic terrorist, martyr themselves for their cause.


The Situation in Canada

Canadian police agencies have undertaken training to deal with  active shooter scenarios but they have limited experience to fall back on.  It is inevitable that at some point an active shooter scenario, possibly terrorist based or motivated, will occur in Canada, regardless of the amount of fairy dust our current government sprinkles on the threat of terrorism in Canada.

If our government persists in not taking the terrorist threat seriously it is incumbent on citizens to be prepared to act individually in order to prepare and protect themselves.

What follows is a list of common sense approaches that can be taken by people caught in an active shooter scenario to attempt to protect themselves and increase the odds of survival.


Be vigilant and have a plan

Although it is impossible to accurately anticipate where an active shooter situation might occur, experience has taught us that they usually occur in situations or locations where people congregate: malls, theaters, restaurants, sporting events and the like.  The Paris  terrorist attacks which focused on a rock concert, restaurants, and a football stadium emphasize the point.  The Paris attacks also further demonstrate that active shooters tend to target and are most effective when they select locations where there is little if any security.  In the Paris example the the rock concert and restaurant scenarios resulted in large numbers of deaths while the football stadium which had perimeter security did not.

At a very minimum: be aware of your surroundings; know where the exits are located; be alert to what is happening around you.  Based on past experience we all have a sense of what constitutes normal behavior.  If you see something out of the ordinary go to a heightened level of alert.

In any situation where you could be at risk, know ahead of time what you will do if confronted by an active shooter.  For example, if you are in a mall or another public venue and you hear what sounds like gunshots where there should be no gunshots, do not hang around to see what is happening, wondering what you should do.  Have a plan and be ready to act.

The fight or flight response

1  Once you come to the conclusion that what is happening may be a threat to you, immediately leave the area, heading in the opposite direction from where the threat is.  Don’t rubber neck to see what is happening.  Encourage others around you to leave as well but don’t waste time getting into discussions with people as to whether you should leave.  Just leave, get as far away from the threat as possible, as quickly as possible.  As soon as it is safe to do so, contact 911 and alert the authorities to what is happening.

3  If the threat is between you and your avenue of escape, hide.  Find the most secure place possible such as a room with a door that can be locked.  If you can hide in a room use whatever there is in the room to erect a barricade in front of the door and identify anything within the room that could serve as a weapon in the event the shooter breaches the door.  Stay away from windows and turn out the lights.  Turn off your cell phone.  The last thing you want is a phone going off to attract attention to your location.

4  If no rooms are available, improvise, hide in a closet.  As a last resort if there is no physical place to hide, take cover – that is, put something between your self and the shooter that will provide some level of protection.  If no cover is available try to conceal yourself so that the shooter cannot see you.

3  Lastly, if fleeing or hiding are not options be prepared to fight  back.  Don’t take unnecessary risks but if you are caught in a situation where there is a high likelihood you will be shot if you do nothing, then act.  Any action you are able to take to injure or incapacitate the shooter increases your odds as wells as those of others.  Although taking on a shooter with a gun may be out of character for you, it may save your life.  If you take that step, then act quickly and act violently.


Good information sources

United Sates Department of Homeland Security   

The Art of Manliness





How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked by the Police

Well known comedian Chris Rock performed a  public service when he put out the video that outlines in a humorous manner how to “avoid getting your ass kicked by the police”.

Although based on the American experience, most of Rock’s ‘hints’ are as applicable in Winnipeg as anywhere else. Following  these common sense  suggestions might save you time and aggravation if you were to have an encounter with the police.

Hint #1  Obey the law

Most law abiding citizens have fewer  negative encounters with police than those who break the law.  Most people have a pretty good idea as to what is and is not legal.  If you don’t,  find out what the law is (in most cases a quick Google search will tell you) and obey it.  That way in the event you are stopped you know what the outcome is going to be.  You will be leaving on your own and end up at home as opposed to the Remand Center courtesy of  a black and white taxi.

Hint #2   Stop Immediately

If the police are attempting to pull you over they usually have a reason for doing so.  Perhaps you violated the Highway Traffic Act or you (and/or your vehicle) match the description of a person or vehicle wanted for a crime recently committed, or you are riding in a stolen car.  Once you see the flashing lights – stop.  Your encounter with police will be less traumatic it they don’t have to chase you down.

Hint #3 Be Polite

Most police officers, when they stop you, will be polite.  Be polite in return.  Do not give the police a reason to not be polite.  If your car is bouncing up and down with the music, take Chris Rock’s advice and ‘turn that shit off’.  If you are asked for your drivers license and registration (which police are entitled to do if you are driving a car), produce them.

Hint #4  If stopped stay in your car with your hands visible

With the number of illegal weapons (guns, tasers, peppers spray) on the street, police have a legitimate concern for their safety when they stop you either as a pedestrian or driving a vehicle.  If the police pull you over while driving your vehicle stay in the vehicle and keep your hands where police can see them.  Don’t be reaching under the seat or your glove box as police walk up to your vehicle.  They may think (and legitimately so) that you are reaching for a weapon.  Stay in the car until police ask you to get out.  If you are stopped as a pedestrian, don’t reach into your pockets, or inside your coat.  If police want you to pull out your identification, they will ask you.

Hint #5  Respond to questions when asked and avoid being verbally abusive

Most times when you are stepped by police they will advise you why they stopped you.  If they don’t, politely ask them for the reason.  Yelling and screaming at police during the first stages of a stop will not work in your favour.  If police are going to ‘detain’ you even for a short period of time, be aware that every citizen has the right under Section 10 of the Charter of Right and Freedoms to being informed of the reason for the detention.  So if you are not told up front, ask –  politely.

Hint #6  Be aware of what passengers in your car have on them

If you are going to give someone a ride and you know that they usually carry a gun, drugs,  other contra ban such as stolen goods or have outstanding warrants for their arrest, you are asking for trouble.  If the police see such a person in your car you will be stopped and the stop may well be treated as a high risk take down so you and your passenger(s) may find yourselves out of the car quickly and spread eagled on the street without a lot of questions being asked.  If you don’t want that have your friend take a taxi or a bus.

Watch the video.  Chris Rock says it so well  and he’s so right.

How To Not Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police

Education as a Crime Prevention Strategy

Crime Prevention Through Education 

As society evolves, the work world becomes more complex and demanding.  The ability of high school dropouts to find meaningful work is diminishing. 

A recent study in the United States suggests that a significant percentage of high school dropouts are turning their backs on the American dream and are turning instead to crime.

The study conducted by the Center for Labour Studies at Northeastern University yields some sobering data.  The number of male high school dropouts in jail or juvenile detention at any given time is one in 10.  This compares to one in 35 for males who graduated high school.  The rate was even higher for young black men (1:4).

The study suggested a direct link between lack of education and the inability to find employment, and between unemployment rates and crime. 

The collective social cost of unemployment and crime is staggering in terms of economic loss and the related cost of social services and incarceration.  In the United States, the per person added cost for each high school dropout is between $200,000 and $290,000. 

The numbers in Canada may vary from the United States but the trend is no doubt similar:  lack of education equates to lack of conventional, non-criminal economic opportunity.  Although the Northeastern study did not generate the same data for young women, it did track teen pregnancy rates and found that female high school dropouts  are nine times more likely to become single mothers than young women who went on to complete college. 

The implications are clear:  keeping young men and women in high school is positive at the personal, social as well as the economic level. 

In the United States the incarceration rate for young black men is disproportionately high.  In Canada and particularly in Manitoba the incarceration rate for young Aboriginal men is also disproportionately high.  Like the high school completion rate for young black men in the United States, the high school completion rate for young Aboriginal men in Canada is substantially lower than for non Aboriginal men. 

Perhaps we need to seriously  look at education as a crime prevention strategy.  Crime prevention approaches in Canada and the United States in the past 30 years have concentrated on target hardening techniques.  Such approaches which include better locks on windows and doors, marking personal property for identification and the installation of home and business alarms are positive.  However, in an economic sense they only address the supply side of the equation.  Target hardening reduces the number of easy targets (supply) but does nothing to address the demand side of the equation.  As a matter of fact, target hardening alone may simply encourage innovation and closer working relationships between individual criminals.  Young criminals may start working collectively in groups (perhaps gangs) to increase their chances of success and reduce the possibility of being apprehended.  

Perhaps it is time for all three levels of government to view high school graduation and education in general from a crime prevention perspective and address the demand side of the equation.  Education leads to employment and the ability to participate in society.  Education creates a sense of well-being and individual freedom and independence.  Education creates opportunities for young people and diminishes the relative attractiveness of crime.