Caulfield to Dandenong Delivers Safer Outcomes for the Community Through Design

The ‘broken windows’ concept is a reference to the sky-high crime rates of New York City in the 70s and 80s.

Images courtesy of Level Crossing Removal Project 


Fast forward one decade and violent crimes declined by more than 56 per cent while property crimes tumbled by about 65 per cent. This success is usually attributed to the city’s application of the broken windows concept which eliminated visible signs of societal decay—graffiti, public lewdness, and broken windows on abandoned buildings— to create an atmosphere that discourages criminal activity.


But broken windows owed much to the development of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) in the sixties.


Urban planners, architects, criminologists and social scientists studied multi-disciplinary approaches to crime prevention including themes initiatives such as natural surveillance, access control, and the sense of ownership that inspire local communities to embrace ‘natural guardianship’.




According to Samantha Harrison, Design Coordinator on Caulfield to Dandenong (CTD) for WSP, “The CPTED principles require the design to define space and encourage people to embrace the infrastructure as their own, in turn deterring vandalism.


“CPTED is now a widely-respected agenda for enhancing the built environment to create safer neighbourhoods. Tests show that applying CPTED measures overwhelmingly reduces criminal activity.”


Appropriate environmental design can also increase the perceived likelihood that intruders will be detected and apprehended – the biggest single crime deterrent. Wide-ranging recommendations to architects include planting trees and shrubs, eliminating escape routes, using lighting correctly, and encouraging pedestrian and bicycle traffic in streets.


WSP was a part of the team that delivered the CTD section of one of Victoria’s largest-ever infrastructure projects; the ambitious Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP). Featuring a ‘sky rail’ solution, CTD allows land under five new stations to be repurposed to create station precincts and places of community value – playgrounds, walking and cycling tracks, dog parks, basketball courts and more.


In her role for CTD, Samantha Harrison ran the CPTED sessions for each station precinct.


She explains, “We took our designs to Victoria Police, Metro Trains Melbourne, the local councils, Public Transport Victoria as well as our urban designers and our landscape architects. And, we viewed them through the CPTED principles lens — natural access control, natural surveillance, and people’s natural sense of owning the infrastructure.


“As a result of the workshop outcomes, new lighting strategies were produced, pod buildings created instead of linear buildings to generate visual permeability, and small spaces were removed to make the stations as open as possible.




The project’s Human Factors Specialist, Conor O’Brien (Opposite) also relishes the phenomenal capabilities that CPTED provides.


“It offers the opportunity to consider diverse expert and user-focused opinions for a wide range of scenarios,” he says. “CPTED can be a true pressure test of the asset or service provided as it considers a spectrum of behaviours that ultimately feed into an enhanced design.”


Specialists in the CTD workshops were concerned that some concourse buildings and furniture could obstruct natural surveillance and make users feel less safe and secure. Hence, designers opted to use more glass within the station concourses to improve view distances. And, instead of one long building, they designed pods. Pillars were also given rounded edges to help reduce blind corners. Soft landscaping and urban design elements removed hard surfaces to discourage graffiti. Integrating community elements into the precincts, such as the skate park in the Noble Park Precinct helped to further encourage the community’s sense of ownership.


“People’s behaviour is influenced by an environment’s design,” adds Conor.” CPTED strategies are reducing opportunities for crime and increasing communities’ safety in – and enjoyment of - their new station precincts.”


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