Guest Feature by Tom McKay, CPTED Canada President and ISCPP Past President
While I’m familiar with the saying “put it out in the universe”, I can’t say that I previously had the experience where the “universe” actually answered back. That all changed for me at the 11th Annual Crime Prevention Conference hosted by Safe City Mississauga on October 27th, 2022 where I took in Dr. Joel Caplan’s Keynote address on Risk Terrain Modeling. That session, answered a twenty-three year old challenge posed during a joint CPTED conference that I helped to organize in 1999 which was, ironically, located less than a kilometer away from the site of the most recent conference. It featured prominent Criminologist and Architect Dr. Randy Atlas, in a session that was entitled The Alchemy of CPTED: Less magic, more science. During that session Dr. Atlas spoke about the often less than scientific way in which CPTED has been traditionally practiced using words such as “mysticism” notwithstanding that I prefer to characterize its practice more like an art.
This led Dr. Atlas to conclude that CPTED had “failed” in part because of the lack of systematic risk assessment process. He went on to state that “the utilization of the scientific method and using a risk assessment model is what the future and long-term goals should be for the successful implementation of CPTED into the built environment.” Little did I know that I would have to wait twenty-three years before learning of a new model that would address Dr. Atlas’s concerns—enter Dr. Joel Caplan and his Risk Terrain Model.
Risk Terrain Modelling
Risk Terrain Modeling (RTM) was developed by Drs. Leslie Kennedy and Joel Caplan at Rutgers University. It is a versatile, research-based tool, which began as research in 2009. It is capable of diagnosing crime patterns at the places that need it the most. It differs from traditional crime mapping by focusing on the factors that contribute to the concentration of crime which in turn, provides the basis for the development of a “risk narrative” which serves to offer a plausible explanation as to how these factors connect with behaviour while interacting with each other.
It is for these very reasons that it is such a useful CPTED tool. CPTED, for those who don’t know it, is based upon an analysis that is broken down into five core components. They are crime, land-use, demographics, observations and resident and user interviews.
Speaking from the perspective of a former police officer with over thirty years of CPTED experience, RTM collects the most fundamental aspects of CPTED analysis in a comprehensive way then, with the aid of computer software, synthesizes that information and presents it in a comprehensible and digestible manner. In so doing it delivered on the challenge presented by Dr. Atlas, and further, provided some credence with respect to my invoking the “universe” answered back characterization.
Speaking on a more practical level, it offers the CPTED practitioner, or anyone interested in public safely, with a single tool, that brings the crime and land-use components of CPTED analysis together. This is particularly valuable to any CPTED practitioner, who may lack street level law enforcement experience, or anyone who finds themselves practicing CPTED in unfamiliar territories or surroundings. It can further help to identify other places with a similar problem, once diagnosed, taking into account the unique culture of any given city, while generating proven results.
There are many other advantages and applications for Risk Terrain Modeling be it environmental science, pollution control or as a city planning tool. For further information visit https://simsi.com/articles/what-is-risk-terrain-modeling/ or contact email@example.com.
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