Creating Safer Spaces — Insight

Insight by Sally Timmins

Within cities and suburbs there are inherently dark alleys, parks and public space hidden from the street that tend to attract crime and antisocial behaviour.

It leaves those (particularly women) walking at night vulnerable to assaults and abuse. To minimise this and create safer places to live and work there are some basic design tools that we can employ and incorporate in our individual houses that come together to create safer streets.  This is achieved by designing for passive surveillance.  An early architectural implementation of passive surveillance into buildings is the panopticon.

This is a prison building that was designed as a central observation tower placed within a circle of prison cells, where often the cells were in light and the tower was in shadow.
From the tower, a guard can see every cell and inmate but the inmates can’t see into the tower. Prisoners will never know whether or not they are being watched and therefore it was found they were more likely to behave appropriately. When we have implemented passive surveillance into our hospitality projects we found damage to chairs and tables were occurring less often in the areas where staff could easily see patrons.

We can all help achieve passive surveillance in our streets and projects by simply allowing passers-by to see into our front yards, with no fences, lower fences and/ or more transparent fencing.  By lighting up the yards and the footpath beyond.  By opening our houses up with large windows or direct access to the street or a laneway rather than fence it off.  By creating a place to sit, rest and pause, we encourage interaction with our neighbours and (like neighbour-hood watch) in turn build safer communities.