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Deterring crime through urban complete street design policies


Many state and local transportation agencies have adopted and applied Complete Streets policies to urban roadways under their jurisdiction to promote equitable access, mobility, and safety for all modes of travel and to promote social cohesion and economic vitality for the community. The municipalities these roadways traverse may have other policies in place that also regulate the design of public spaces, including roadways, in an attempt to deter crime.

Frequently these crime deterrence policies are labeled Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or_ CPTED. The design principles on which CPTED programs are premised typically include the interconnected concepts of:

· Natural Surveillance where criminal behavior is deterred by the potential of being observed by others;

· Natural Access Control where the differentiation between private and public spaces is clearly defined by being visually well-articulated;

· Natural Territorial Reinforcement where legitimate users of public and private spaces are able to assert their authority to exert control over the use of that space.

CPTED concepts and programs frequently include guidance on the use and location of vegetation, lighting, fencing, seating and other street furniture, maintenance, and allowable activities—the very elements and features promoted by a complete streets policy. It is currently unknown if CPTED policies can be accommodated while other social, economic, and transportation goals of a complete streets approach to transportation design are implemented. In particular, does incorporating CPTED principals into a Complete Streets program in minority or low wealth communities improve the quality of life for residents or does it create additional burdens to mobility through barriers, defensive structures, and other perceived restrictions.


In order to achieve the design goals of both policies, it is necessary to better understand how Complete Streets and CPTED reinforce or contradict each other. Research is needed to find where there is common ground and where there is disagreement in their design guidance and how environmental justice issues are taken into consideration.

The research program should review ten to twenty Complete Streets policies, programs or projects to identify and develop a set of effective and proven design strategies for a prototypical Complete Streets program, particularly specifying the character of its defining design elements. Meanwhile, international literature that provides relevant and useful information should also be considered. The research program should review ten to twenty CPTED policies, programs, or projects to identify and define their effective and proven design strategies and elements. The researchers should then compare the design strategies used to implement Complete Streets programs with those used to implement CPTED programs. The comparison should analyze what design features and elements typically used in CPTED programs reinforce, contradict, or have no effect on the implementation of Complete Streets. Similarly, the analysis should identify which design elements commonly used in implementing a Complete Streets program, reinforce, contradict, or have no effect on the implementation of CPTED. Finally, the researchers should offer a methodology for integrating the two approaches to urban street design.


Although the efficacy of complete streets programs is frequently admitted by state and local transportation agencies, funding has become harder to justify in many jurisdictions. Finding local partners with compatible needs may provide additional funding and political support for projects. Once these compatibilities are discovered, the simultaneous implementation of Complete Streets and CPTED programs will likely accelerate, fostering social cohesion and economic vitality by deterring crime and improving mobility, accessibility, and safety for all modes of travel.

Sponsoring Committee:AFB40, Landscape and Environmental Design
Research Period:12 - 24 months
Date Posted:01/15/2019
Date Modified:02/08/2019
Index Terms:Crimes, Security, Complete streets, Highway design, Low income groups, Quality of life,
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Safety and Human Factors
Security and Emergencies

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