Robert Clarke tells the story of his shift in perspective from Corrections to CPTED, and how the world looks a little different now.
Coming out of a lengthy career in Federal Corrections, I thought I understood the rationale behind many security elements and methodologies pertaining to the protection of assets, structures and people. It was simple – do things a certain way so the bad guys don’t damage, steal, misuse, etc. It wasn’t until I completed my first basic CPTED course, that I had that lightbulb moment where it suddenly all made sense and the majority of pieces all fell into place. After having that exposure to the CPTED methodologies, and being “bit by the CPTED bug” as it was once described to me, I have been unable to stop seeing things through that CPTED lens when I examine everything around me.
A new focus on my own environment
I live in a growing community of 9000+ residents in Central Alberta. Whilst my Town administration have heard of CPTED, there have not yet been any solid gains or movement towards adopting its principles in local policies or by-laws. I see opportunities everywhere within my own backyard, so to speak, of ways access to the businesses can be improved, sightlines be established of incoming foot traffic, of how lighting should be improved in certain areas, and the importance of initiatives such as wayfinding and placemaking around the town. I notice how other municipalities, such as Sundre, AB (25 minutes west) have already taken the initiative to implement traffic calming, wayfinding, neighbourhood identities and improved connectivity of paths and trails – all as part of Community Economic Development initiatives. Interestingly, they did not see the tie-in to CPTED until I sat down to speak with the town’s Economic Development Officer and saw that same look of revelation on his face, that surely must have existed in mine.
Bringing CPTED learning to new communities
In my own town of Olds, there is currently an incredible grassroots initiative to develop a mural strategy within the town. It’s a truly remarkable effort within a group of residents who are dialed into the importance of placemaking initiatives with regards to social engagement, but to my knowledge, they have not been explained the valuable CPTED lessons associated with their efforts. It is certainly on my agenda, as perhaps, one of a few, if not the only one within this town that has any practical knowledge of CPTED applications, to sit and speak with this group and assist their efforts. At this time, there are only two murals in town that were implemented with mixed feelings from some, but it’s value is certainly paying off, as more and more people flock to this area for events, for lunches, for photos, or as in the attached picture, a location to host a local Show and Shine with classic cars. It’s the perfect backdrop and opportunity to generate pride and ownership amongst business owners and town residents and put eyes on the street – all important aspects of crime prevention.
I’ve had informal discussions with representatives of other nearby municipalities, and I see a definite need to engage their business groups or Chambers of Commerce to spread the gospel of CPTED. I truly believe when one takes these courses, we all become ambassadors of this craft, of this methodology – and it is incumbent on each of us to have those discussions and provide those learning opportunities. The discussions start at the front-line level – particularly small business owners, as we see more and more small towns lose their downtown districts in favour of nearby larger centers or big box stores. The importance of making a downtown district a place to be, is not just an economic development issue, but one that desperately needs guidance from a CPTED point of view. What is needed now is a concerted effort to educate town councils and town planners on the importance of codifying elements of CPTED into municipal area plans and local bylaws so these principles are entrenched in everyday planning and approvals for everything from streetlight style and lamp temperature, to wayfinding initiatives and outdoor activity generators.
The CPTED inspired world is a wonderful place. The possibilities are endless, and all have a potentially huge positive impact on not just the safety of our towns but in attracting people and businesses to vibrant communities that are now more walkable, more livable, and safer.
I look forward to this journey that lies ahead, as there is much work to be done by each of us.