Washington D.C. Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier is embedding police commanders with developers in the belief that the way things are built can influence the behaviors of criminals and potential victims, reported the Washington Post.
The concept of police working with developers is not unique to Washington, but experts say Lanier’s department is ahead of many of its peers. While some offer a stock list of design recommendations, D.C. police make specific suggestions about safety measures as blueprints are being drawn, well before the first buckets of concrete are poured.
Bernard Melekian, director of the Justice Department’s Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, said such efforts take “community policing to the next level.”
“It’s not going on everywhere, and it should,” Melekian, former police chief of Pasadena, California told the Post. “Once these projects are done, the police are purely reactionary.”
Police have long sought to promote public safety through design, encouraging such common-sense features as bright streetlights, discouraging secluded footpaths and laying out roads to make it difficult to circle a block.
Today, however, police across the country offer even more detailed ideas.
In Los Angeles, police encourage gardeners to plant blackberry bushes because the spiny branches are hard for burglars to crawl through. Seattle police urge bank managers to trim hedges so that the front door is visible from the street. And in San Diego, police warn against street planters that, while visually appealing, might clog sidewalks if used as stools.
The idea, Melekian says, is to merge the goals of developers, who want to know, for example, how many people can fit onto a sidewalk, and police, who want to know whether a building’s doors swing in or out and how that will affect the flow of pedestrians, reported the Post.
Washington D.C. goes a step further, putting officers at the table with developers as projects are being designed. The process is informal, with the department reaching out to developers of major initiatives to request a seat at the table. When developers agree, Lanier says, police can contribute while changes can still be made with the stroke of a pen instead of the rumble of a bulldozer.
“The meetings are critical,” Lanier told the Post in an e-mail. “Having discussions with those who are leading the development allows us to identify issues on both sides before they arise. That is our best chance for success.”
To read more: http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/district-police-embrace-concept-of-preventing-crime-through-design/2012/09/03/ebe49518-e621-11e1-8741-940e3f6dbf48_print.html
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Police believe such efforts are particularly important as neighborhoods transform, presenting shifting demographics, drastically altered landscapes, changing crowd dynamics and, in some cases, entirely new mini-cities to protect.
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