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Program Profile: Secured by Design, West Yorkshire (England)

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on June 10, 2011

Program Summary

A program that encourages housing developers to design out crime at the planning or concept stages. The program is rated Promising. The findings revealed in the intervention areas that burglary rates experienced a downward trend there were improved feelings of safety and better visual disorder scores. However, repeat victimization rates were higher in the treatment areas.

Program Description

Program Goals

Secured by Design (SBD) is a program that encourages housing developers to design out crime at the planning stage or concept stage. The concepts and standards can also be used to refurbish estates to bring them up to SBD standards. SBD was started by police forces in England to counter growing burglary rates. Housing developments must meet stated standards to be awarded SBD status.


Program Components

The key principles of SBD concern physical security, surveillance, access/egress, territoriality, and management and maintenance.


Physical security. Standards are set for the physical security of each property and its boundaries. Often, this takes the form of target hardening (e.g., installing better locks or security lighting).


Surveillance. While SBD encourages enhancing natural surveillance (e.g., removing shrubbery or high walls), it tries to balance surveillance with the need for privacy. Informal social control is encouraged through a blend of dwellings that will attract a mix of residents (families, retirees, young couples), which can increase the chance that someone will be at home throughout the day and night.


Access/egress. Entrances/exits to the development are minimized to deter the entry of non-resident, potential offenders.


Territoriality. The purposes and ownership of spaces are clearly defined so that those who do not belong can be more easily identified by residents.


Management and maintenance. Properties are maintained to certain standards (e.g., litter and graffiti are removed), which can help reduce visual disorder.


SBD standards have evolved over time. For example, many changes were introduced in 1999, with the introduction of performance-led requirements. These changes were made to ensure that a consistent level of security was being offered by manufacturers. One other important evolution in SBD has been the move toward influencing the preplanning stages, rather than involvement in the planning or postplanning stages.


Program Theory

Armitage (2004) suggests that Newman’s theory of defensible space and new opportunities theories (such as rational choice theory and routine activity theory) may best underpin the foundations of SBD. Newman’s theory states that people’s latent sense of control over spaces in which they live can be affected by the physical design of the environment. By changing elements in the built environment, social control can be encouraged.


New opportunities theories center on the opportunity to commit a criminal offense rather than on the individual criminal. For instance, rational choice theory posits that the decisions of potential offenders can be shaped by increasing the perceived costs of committing the crime (e.g., the probability of being apprehended and punished) and decreasing perceived benefits of offending (e.g., through property marking).


Key Personnel

SBD is managed by the Association of Chief Police Officers Crime Reduction Initiatives. However, Architectural Liaison Officers (ALOs) or Crime Prevention Design Advisors (CPDAs) are the people that work with individual police forces. ALO/CPDAs ensure that developments are designed and built to certain specifications. There are currently more than 300 ALO/CPDAs in England and Wales.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

Crime Rates

Armitage (2000) found that there were 26 percent fewer crime events per dwelling in the Secured by Design (SBD) sample, a statistically significant finding. Also, the prevalence of crime was lower in SBD estates (44 percent of non–SBD estates experienced an offense, versus 37 percent of SBD estates); this finding verged on statistical significance. While the difference between the number of burglary offenses for the two samples was not statistically significant, the prevalence for burglary offenses was statistically significant, being twice as high within the non–SBD sample.


Overall, burglary rates experienced a downward trend between 1994 and 1998 in SBD estates relative to rates in non–SBD estates. Whereas in 1994, the rate of SBD burglary was more than 100 percent that of non–SBD estates, by 1998, the rate was less than 50 percent. This may suggest that changes in SBD standards had an effect over time.


Repeat Victimization

Rates of repeat victimization were higher within SBD estates compared to non-SBD estates.


Feelings of Safety

The resident survey indicated that there were lower rates of feeling “very unsafe” among SBD respondents.


Study 2

Crime Rates

Armitage and Monchuk (in press) found a statistically significant difference in burglary rates between the Secured by Design (SBD) estates and the rest of West Yorkshire. SBD estates had a rate of 5.8 burglaries per 1,000 properties, compared to West Yorkshire’s rate of 22.7 burglaries per 1,000 properties.


In the same-street analysis, a statistically significant difference was found for crime rates. SBD properties experienced118.8 crimes per 1,000 properties, compared to 262.7 crimes per 1,000 properties for non–SBD residences. Five burglaries occurred in non–SBD properties; zero in SBD properties. Only criminal damage was higher in the SBD sample; all other crime categories were lower. The researchers found a strong, statistically significant negative correlation between number of SBD properties and rates of dwelling burglary, assault, and criminal damage (i.e., the fewer the proportion of SBDs, the higher the crime rate).


In the matched pair analysis, crime was slightly lower in the SBD sample (128.7 crimes per 1,000 properties, versus 166.0 crimes per 1,000 properties), but the difference was not statistically significant. It was unclear why these findings diverged from those of the same-street analysis. For the matched pairs, levels of crime 10 years later (1990 to 2000) had dropped in both SBD and non–SBD estates; both experienced very low levels of crime.


For closer analysis of the two matched pairs from the 2000 study, there were mixed findings, which raised some concern about the sustainability of crime reduction within one of the matched pairs.


Repeat Victimization

This analysis was based on the matched pairs sample. As with the 2000 study, higher rates of repeat victimization were found in SBD estates compared to non–SBD estates (35.7 percent of crimes were repeat offenses, versus 27.3 percent of non–SBD crimes being a reoffense). The main type of crime impacting these results was assault. When assault was removed, only 11.9 percent of offenses were repeat offenses in the SBD estates. The victim survey was only suggestive, given the small sample size; it indicated a slight decrease in the percentage of SBD victims.


Visual Disorder

Based on a visual audit, scores were lower (that is, better) for the SBD sample. This finding suggests that SBD properties had lower visual disorder. For 12 of the 16 matched pairs, the SBD developments scored lower than the non–SBD developments.

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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1

Armitage (2000) used a quasi-experimental design with a comparison group to evaluate the effectiveness of Secured by Design in 25 newly built SBD estates (660 dwellings) and 25 non–SBD estates (522 dwellings). The original period for data collection was April through October 1999, but was later expanded to include data from the following 11 months, to March 2000. The evaluation assessed whether crime was lower in SBD estates, if residents felt safer, and to what extent crime may have been displaced.


The 50 estates were matched according to location, age, housing tenure, and physical/environmental characteristics.


Study 2

Armitage and Monchuk (in press) used a quasi-experimental design with a comparison group to assess whether Secured by Design (SBD) developments experience less crime, less fear of crime, and fewer visual signs of crime/disorder. They also considered whether SBD developments can sustain crime rate reductions over a 10-year period. This evaluation updated the work of Armitage (2000) to include new properties that had been built to slightly different SBD standards, due to the program’s evolving standards.


The researchers selected the most recently built developments, which included 16 SBD developments built in 2006 or 2007 (342 properties). Crime rates for these 16 estates were compared to rates of the whole of West Yorkshire, England. The period of analysis was from Auguse 2007 to July 2008. A second analysis compared crime rates of SBD and non–SBD properties on the same street. Eleven streets were assessed in this analysis, which included a total of 455 properties (101 SBD properties, 354 non–SBD properties). A third analysis looked at 16 matched pairs of development; the only matching criterion used was location (the nearest non–SBD property was selected as the match).


This third analysis also considered levels of repeat victimization, which included 342 SBD residents and 253 non–SBD residents. Since the survey had a response rate of only 11 percent, the researchers note that the findings can only be considered suggestive. Finally, this third analysis included visual audits of the matched pairs. Each development was independently visited and scored for signs of visual disorder by two researchers.


The study also considered 2 of the original 25 matched pairs from the Armitage (2000) study to see if crime reductions were sustained in the SBD developments.


The study used data from police recorded crime, self-reported crime (through residents’ survey), and visual audits.

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
Armitage, Rachel. 2000. “An Evaluation of Secured by Design Housing Within West Yorkshire. Home Office Briefing Note 7/00.” London, England: The Policing and Reducing Crime Unit, Home Office Research, Development and Statistics Directorate.

Study 2
Armitage, Rachel, and Leanne Monchuk. 2010. “Sustaining the Crime Reduction Impact of Designing Out Crime: Reevaluating the Secured by Design Scheme 10 Years On.” Security Journal. doi:10.1057/sj.2010.6.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Armitage, Rachel. 2004. “Secured by Design: An Investigation of Its History, Development and Future Role in Crime Reduction.” Dissertation. Huddersfield, England: University of Huddersfield.
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Program Snapshot

Gender: Both

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Home, Other Community Setting

Program Type: Community Awareness/Mobilization, Community Crime Prevention , Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design/Design Against Crime, Situational Crime Prevention

Current Program Status: Active