A safe housing development goes beyond being gated and guarded – Crime prevention through design (CPTED) and community building activities are very much important too.
A fenced gated housing development equipped with full-time security facilities seems to be the choice of many urbanites as it provides for round the clock security against crime. Why then are kids still being kidnapped and cars being stolen from these very same developments?
Crime Safety Specialist, Shamir Rajadurai reveals that there is no such thing as a 100% safe residential development. The biggest snafu that most people make is to assume that having security guards and CCTV’s are sufficient to safeguard residences and to deter community crimes.
The key features to look out for in determining a safe township include:
Describing a show-house he visited recently, Shamir highlighted a bad example of a house design, where the master bedroom had no view of the front gate. This is a not encouraged as it does not give an indication of who is at the front door. Most homes have porches which block the view of the front gate, making it easy for thieves to scale over the front gate or wall unnoticed. Such housing developments which fail to implement CPTED could still breed criminal activity despite it having top-notch security guards and impressive fences.
Shamir also noted that the CPTED design in developments should be implemented from the architecture stage for it to be most effective. The strategic planning of CPTED is also meant to reduce cost-effective implementation will eliminate the need for spending huge amounts of money on CCTV cameras and alarm systems.
The physical layout of neighbourhood
CPTED should also come into play in the physical layout of the whole residential neighbourhood, where it is designed in such a way that encourages mass surveillance or ‘eyes on the street’ concept.
Highlighting an example, Shamir said that the neighbourhood park should not be obstructed by huge bushes or trees so that the occupants of the houses surrounding it can always have a view of the activities there. Hence, this will provide parents with a peace of mind when their children go out to play by themselves.
The first line of defence
The fencing around the neighbourhood, as well as the security provided at the development’s guardhouse, acts as the first barrier to entry for criminals/trespassers. Residents should ensure that the fencing being used is at least 8 feet tall as anything lower will be possible for someone to scale over. Good examples of fencing are those that are very finely designed, making it impossible for someone to gain a foothold. A reminder for developers is to not plant huge trees around the perimeter of the fence as this allows for a ladder to be placed against it.
Guardhouses should also be built with durable materials such as shatterproof/bulletproof glass for it to be steady. Shamir highlighted that security guards in Malaysia are not allowed to engage in combat and they do not have the license to carry guns. One thing that residents should ensure is that their security guards are well trained and not negligent.
Lighting is also an important factor – street lamps should illuminate the whole area and not just spotlight certain areas. This is because it is easy for a perpetrator to hide in the shadows and catch residents unawares. One tip he has for developers is to use LED lights instead of the standard orange lights, as the latter results in the creation of dark spots. The positioning of streetlights is also important as there should not be any trees planted in a way that would block the lamps’ illumination as this defeats the whole purpose of good lighting.
Shamir affirms that it is perfectly fine if one does not live in a gated and guarded development, as long as there are a good community spirit and relationship amongst neighbours. Residents who band together can keep crime to a bare minimum by using principles such as maintenance, good property management, and activity support. Maintenance means ensuring that trees and bushes are trimmed, street lamps are functioning, upkeep of sidewalks, etc.
Explaining good property management using the ‘broken window’ metaphor, he said that if a window is broken and left unrepaired, people walking by will conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge.
For instance, residents should do something about empty/abandoned houses. They should make a collective effort to keep it in good shape. Otherwise, it would be a harbour for drug addicts and unsavoury characters.
The planning of a safe housing development involves a three-way relationship between the developer, residents and the environment. He stressed that a safe township is based on the tenet that crime prevention is better than crime eradication.