How refurbishment schemes can cut crime

  • Evidence suggests some fairly simple design steps can reduce the risk of crime and disorder affecting your housing stock
  • Upgrading doors and windows, for example, has been shown to lead to significant reductions in burglary rates
  • We discuss design measures that registered providers of social housing can take when upgrading buildings as part of a refurbishment programme

Refurbishment programmes offer registered providers (RPs) of social housing an opportunity to do more than just ensure homes are maintained.

By following certain design principles, RPs can also help reduce local crime and disorder.

Designing out crime represents one of the most common-sense approaches to crime reduction.”
Rachel Armitage, author of Crime Prevention through Housing Design

We examine the principles of ‘designing out’ crime, and discuss how your organisation can make the most of a refurbishment programme.

Designing out crime and disruption

In a previous article, 10 ways social housing can tackle crime by design, we discussed some of the strategies your organisation should consider to reduce crime levels.

Incorporating crime prevention measures into the design stage of any new housing project can not only make tenants feel safer, but can also prove cost-effective in the long-run.

Any additional costs involved are likely to be offset by the longer-term financial savings that result from reduced crime and anti-social behaviour.

Research by Secured by Design (SBD), a national police-led initiative that gives organisations guidance on how to design out crime, backs this up. It has found that housing projects that include SBD principles make back the extra investment within two years, through reductions in crime.

However, according to Rachel Armitage, author of Crime Prevention through Housing Design, efforts to design out crime can only work if everybody involved buys into the process.

She says: “Designing out crime requires the collaboration of partners as diverse as police, planners, architects, developers and community groups.”

Designing practical solutions to crime

Some of the key principles that RPs can employ include:

  • High standards of physical security, such as window locks, double-pane glass and deadbolt locks on doors
  • Limiting the number of access/exit points for potential criminals
  • Increasing formal surveillance using electronic alarms, CCTV or private security
  • Maximising natural surveillance, such as windows overlooking gardens and clear sightlines with no high walls or big trees
  • Good management and maintenance policies

Research has shown that implementing some of the above measures can make a real difference. For example, in terms of natural surveillance, studies have shown that properties that are overlooked experience 38% fewer crimes than those that aren’t.

The benefits of limiting access/exit points can be demonstrated in the same research, showing how properties on through-roads experience more crime and disruption than those in a cul-de-sac.

Cities leading the way

In Nottingham and Glasgow, significant improvements have been achieved through the use of Secured by Design principles.

As part of Nottingham’s Secure, Warm, Modern scheme, improved double glazing windows and new doors were installed. Burglaries dropped by 42% in two estates where crime levels had previously been high.

Surveys also found that tenants felt significantly safer in their homes. The work also reduced tenants’ fuel bills by up to £223 a year.

In Glasgow, there was a reported 61% drop in house break-ins and an 18% reduction in thefts, following a housing modernisation programme.

These examples back up national trends. Research shows that across the UK, properties following Secured by Design principles suffer 50% fewer burglaries, and that simply upgrading the doors in social housing can reduce burglaries by as much as 20%.