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New Zealand perspective: Why safe cities?

NZ Security, Dec 2015 / Jan 2016

Safe cities: CPTED and community, council and law enforcement partnerships have led to crime prevention.Safe cities: CPTED and community, council and law enforcement partnerships have led to crime prevention.


In this final of three articles by Chris Lawton of C4 Group we will look at how CPTED and other community programmes have reduced crime in three important cities of New Zealand. Hutt City, Christchurch and Henderson Auckland.


CPTED in Christchurch

The Institute for Economics and Peace, 2012 stated that Christchurch New Zealand as one of the safest cities in one of the most peaceful countries on earth. This title was of course destroyed as was a large part of the city and environment.

In rebuilding the city, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) has made a remarkable contribution to ensuring that the ‘new’ city is as crime free as it can be.

There has been a significant effort put into incorporating CPTED into the rebuild of Christchurch The Design, methodology, approach is detailed in a paper written by Sue Ramsay, a Crime Prevention Team Leader, based in the Community Support Unit, Christchurch City Council, Christchurch, New Zealand. This is available online and should be read by all upcoming CPTED enthusiasts.

The paper is a case study and discusses the author’s experience of working within Christchurch before the earthquake and describes her involvement in the rebuild of Christchurch post- earthquake.

The paper identifies the principal establishments:

  • There has been significant process made in incorporating CPTED into all projects

  • A formal mandate to consider CPTED is included in the Central Christchurch Recovery Plan

  • CPTED is used throughout public and commercial rebuild projects

  • The need to increase practitioner capacity

  • CPTED is being included earlier in planning and design

  • The Christchurch rebuild may be the most extensive application of CPTED yet.

  • It is hoped that Christchurch’s experience can be used as a model for other cities to increase their use of CPTED.

  • Funding is required to widen the uptake of CPTED and create a positive and informed understanding within the community


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Benefits of the CPTED programme were:

  • The provision of a formal “home” for CPTED in community safety
  • Access to expert advice
  • Building local capacity through training
  • The Design Out Crime Advisory Service was formed
  • Information Seminars are provided to professional and community groups to introduce the concept of CPTED and its benefits.
  • Building capacity through the CPTED Practitioners Group
  • CPTED Clinics are run monthly and are open to anyone who would like CPTED Advice
  • Funding from the Crime Prevention Unit of the Ministry of Justice: this funding has been essential to the growth of CPTED in Christchurch

CPTED principals in Crime Prevention considers the Context, Connection and the Spatial analysis. The principal of a ‘little, early and often’ ensured CPTED practices were incorporated from inception to post-construction. In this way, CPTED can be involved in a project at appropriate junctures and those involved can be offered input from brief conversations to written plan reviews.

‘Involving CPTED early and often is the most cost effective way of including CPTED. It is much less expensive to make changes on a plan than to make the same changes in a physical environment’. 

The CPTED approach taken in Christchurch consisted of a CPTED programme lead by the Crime Prevention Team, acting in conjunction with the community as well as partner organisations, acting early in the design and management of development projects, carrying out appropriate interventions whether a conversation or a full CPTED assessment by experienced practitioners.

The use of CPTED in the Christchurch rebuild identified some issues with it. Firstly that the perception of CPTED was that it less complex than it really is. The need for a sustainable pool of competent practitioners as well as the strengthening of policy framework in which CPTED and crime prevention operates.

The gains of a CPTED programme were a greater awareness of the benefits of CPTED, providing a focal point for Crime prevention; CPTED was ingrained in more projects, multiagency collaboration; IPTED (Injury Prevention Through Environmental design) development and of course a safer and more liveable city.


Henderson City Crime Prevention Project

After a spate of murders and the recognition of an ongoing reign of petty crime Henderson City is now the subject of a crime prevention project lead by Auckland Council and Police.

Unlike a city rebuild such as Christchurch Henderson is an established and functioning city. The development of ‘designing out crime’ is not just a matter of rebuilding. The importance is also to build community confidence and a feeling of safety.

This project requires a lot more involvement of people. The police have increased both foot and mobile patrols in three city area. More than that there is now a consistent approach in the use of Community based security groups. These include Maori and Pacifica wardens, as well as Neighbourhood support and in particular Community Patrols of New Zealand. Of particular importance is that Henderson City area does not have a patrol itself. The patrols are conducted by neighbouring areas such as Te Atatu - Glendene, Swanson-Ranui. Patroller show at the call from the Police patrol certain areas at night and day to decrease opportunities of crime.

And the response is not only in front line policing. Police youth experts are seeking to work with youth and prevent them offending. Groups such as Waitakere Anti-Violence Essential Services work behind the scenes with social deprivation issues. Foundation for Youth development work with siblings of youth offenders in attempts to stop the cycle.

The Henderson Lincoln Business Association works with the local business community as well as key stakeholders and community groups to be a strong voice to leverage and influence change that will reduce crime and feelings of insecurity and be of economic benefit to the Henderson-Lincoln Road area.

The Association’s key aims are: Provide a safe and secure environment for economic activity; Increase visitor numbers to the area; Create a sense of business community – bring the heart back into the community!; Create a brand awareness for the area through events and project management.

In a recent media release Vanessa Neeson, Henderson Massey Local Board stated that the West had come together in response to what has happened in Henderson.

This is the most important aspect. The community comes together under leadership of Police and Council to assist people living in other areas of their city. We are likely to see more of this over the coming years.


Hutt Safe City

The Hutt Safe City Group is administered by a Charitable Trust acts as an umbrella organization that provides administrative, financial and other relevant co-ordination support to various safety focussed groups throughout the Hutt Valley.

The Trust has a seven-member Board that deals with governance, financial and policy matters and meets bi-monthly. Management Committee meetings are also held monthly to discuss co-operative, operational and information matters. These are attended by representatives of the following:

  • Community Patrols of New Zealand (6 patrols throughout the Hutt Valley , 100 volunteers)
  • Neighbourhood Support (259 groups)
  • CCTV Camera operators (32 volunteers monitoring cameras located across the Hutt Valley)
  • Hutt Valley Police
  • Hutt City and Upper Hutt City Councils

They also work closely with other groups in the safe community’s area such as the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office, Safe City Ambassadors etc. have an open welcome to approaches from other like-minded organizations. Hutt Safe City and its constituent groups are all volunteers, with the exception of three staff.

Civic minded volunteers that care about their community are crucial to achieving our objectives and are always very welcome. There are differing roles in the various groups (such as Camera volunteers, Community patrols, Neighbourhood Support etc) that would suit most people and after a security vetting process, full training is provided. Contact the Hutt Safe City Manager (see details on our contacts page) for further information.

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