Incorporating safety into planning offers potential for crime prevention

  • 01 Jun 2023 | by Ryan Hoffmann (GIZ)

Incorporating safety into planning offers potential for crime prevention – Blog

A capacity building programme on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) offers a glimpse of what can be achieved through intentionally incorporating safety into municipal-wide-planning and development

It is commonly acknowledged that the application of sound planning, design and management principles in spatial development processes can reduce opportunities for criminal activity. It is also widely recognised that the physical environment could play a significant role in influencing the perception of safety in specific locations. CPTED strategies aim to reduce victimisation, deter offender decisions that precede criminal acts and build a sense of community among inhabitants so they can gain territorial control of areas and reduce crime.

The City of uMhlathuze is the site of an intervention orientating municipal officials on the application of CPTED principles and providing officials with guidance on how to incorporate these principles into their planning, budgeting and implementation processes.

A capacity building programme was designed as part of the intervention, which entailed  a series of workshops with officials from different departments including Public Safety and Security, Spatial and Environmental Planning, Waste Management, Electricity Services, Local Economic Development and Public Parks on  understanding CPTED and their role in community safety The workshops looked at overall urban design and development, using the ongoing revitalisation of the Empangeni central business district to emphasise the need for integrated, cross-departmental approaches and strengthened community engagement. The final workshop in the intervention took place in Richards Bay in April 2023.

The capacity building included officials responsible for various disciplines in the municipality. 

In addition to the capacity building workshops, comprehensive city-wide guidelines will be developed to support the City of uMhlathuze on how to integrate CPTED principles into existing planning instruments, addressing safety planning, built environment functions such as spatial development and land use as well as integrated development planning. These two processes will culminate in the development of a user-friendly guide on CPTED application in Cities, and also reflect on how other cities, such as those in the Urban Safety Reference Group are using, or not using CPTED in their city-wide planning processes.

“We want to get everyone involved in running the City to think of things through the safety lens. Safety planning and considerations must be institutionalised.”

Brenda Strachan, the Manager of Spatial and Environmental planning in the municipality’s City Development department, said: “We want to get everyone involved in running the City to think of things through the safety lens. Safety planning and considerations must be institutionalised. CPTED principles can be implemented in two ways in the city. Firstly, the aesthetics committee, that considers the aesthetics of buildings, can further develop their Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to further emphasize safety elements.

Also, we also have instituted a planning symposium for planners in the municipality. We all sit together from the junior to most senior and share thoughts and information on planning best practice.  It allows for the exchange of ideas which is important.”

For Strachan, it is important that planners are on the ground and experience the space they are planning for, so they are better able to understand how users are interacting with space.

“Through this process we have also realized the importance of having key safety priorities incorporated into the city’s IDP. All departments should understand how their work contributes to safety, even if it’s not immediately obvious or directly related,” she added.

Frank Mayisela, a professional in the Development Administration department in the City who supports with the processing and assessing of development applications from external applicants and from the municipality His role requires that he engage with the safety planning aspects of development proposals.

Frank Mayisela has been involved in the CPTED intervention in the city since it kicked off in November 2023 and has seen benefits from the capacity building.

“The CPTED training was an eye opener in terms of what to look at when accessing different spaces and regarding the overall importance of safety planning in the processes of the municipality. Safety is not seen as a priority in planning as a whole and is not integrated into our standard operating procedures (SOP), so this presents a challenge for implementation and this should be addressed,” explained Mayisela.

The CPTED intervention in the city started in November 2023

City of uMhlathuze has been part of the Safer Places: Resilient Institutions and Neighbourhoods Together (SPRINT) Project since 2021, where a situational analyses of the state of safety in the inner city was completed with the support of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) programme. The situational analysis highlighted the importance of institutionalising safety across the municipality and ensuring that it is recognised by every function. It is from the findings of the situational analysis, the that CPTED support to the City of uMhlathuze was conceptualised.

The process kicked off in November 2022, and has placed the revitalisation of the Empangeni CBD as a focal point for incorporating safety.

The revitalisation of Empangeni’s CBD will be rolled out in phases and includes the upgrading of the A Taxi Rank, additional public transport facilities, creation of an internal circulation system, the development of recreational areas within the CBD, the creation of a market and Civic Square with a main Public Square and the introduction of a main boulevard.


Crime Prevention through Environmental Design

CPTED is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behaviour through environmental design. CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts by affecting the built, social and administrative environment. You can read more about CPTED here.


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