Last June, 18-year-old Kelsey Smith was forcibly abducted from the public parking lot of an Overland Park, Kansas, Target store.
When it comes to the issue of safety in schools, it is important to remember that long before the students walk the halls, a design team creates the building and its grounds, envisioning the subsequent relationships with its occupants.1 Consequently, the success or failure of a school is in many ways predisposed to the quality of its design and budget limitations.
Since the threat of unwanted intruders and inappropriate/illegal student behavior are major concerns for school boards, new ways of designing security features have come to the forefront. One is crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), which refers to reducing the opportunity and fear of crime through the effective use and design of the built environment.
School administrators and architects cannot select appropriate countermeasures unless clear objectives are identified. To be comprehensive and effective, integrated school security strategies should look at prevention, control, detection, and intervention. Threats to a school are either external (i.e. from outside influences and persons) or internal (i.e. from students, faculty, or staff, or workplace violence that can be primarily deterred through policy and procedure strategies, and management techniques).2
CPTED can make a direct impact on reducing external threats through the use of natural access control, surveillance, territoriality boundary definition, management, and maintenance strategies.
Safe school design involves four key areas that should include security layering/defensible space planning practices. These are:
Randall Atlas, Ph.D., AIA, CPP' is a registered architect, NCARB certified, and he practices criminal justice architecture and environmental security design. Atlas is a certified protection professional (CPP) with the American Society of Industrial Security (ASIS), and is an appointed member of the ASIS Security Architecture and Engineering Committee.
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BETWEEN LATE 2009 AND MARCH OF THIS YEAR, a national baked goods chain with franchises in Broward County, Florida, experienced a series of nighttime burglaries that resulted in thousands of dollars in stolen cash and damaged property.