Proper Design Can Improve Surveillance, Safety

Here’s a good example of a well designed office.

The office window layout shown to the right is a good example of how a campus can incorporate good building design to improve safety and security.

While it is very common to see office windows that allow staff to view the pool area, the office pictured here was designed with very large windows that allow excellent viewing for staff who are either seated or standing in the office. While there are lifeguards assigned when the pool is in use, additional supervision is obviously a big plus in a high risk area such as this one. 

During a recent tour of this facility, we did discuss the possibility of raising the marking flags to improve the visibility from the life guard chairs, but overall, the natural surveillance in this area is excellent. This example demonstrates how valuable natural surveillance can be for many campus settings, not only for crime-related problems but for a range of other safety concerns.

Another important aspect of natural surveillance involves staff awareness. Most campus employees do not know how powerful the benefits of good natural surveillance can be unless they are provided with training.

For example, it is quite common to see a campus building where there are dozens of windows overlooking a key area with all of the sun shades completely closed. This sacrifices a great deal of free natural deterrent, but simply tipping the window shades makes a violator feel that he or she could be observed by others. 

Employees should be informed how to tailor the concept of natural surveillance to fit different circumstances. For example, if the sun coming in through an office or classroom window is a problem, the shades can be tipped to an angle that negates its effect while still allowing people from inside the room to view suspicious activities. Employees should also be informed that they do not need to stand watch by their windows for this to have a deterrent effect.

Of course, there are those situations where natural surveillance can work against security, and employees need some guidance on when it may be more appropriate to limit the ability of people to see into an area. 

I have found most campus employees to be receptive to the concepts of natural surveillance once someone takes the time to explain to them the basic concepts and the benefits.

Natural surveillance is a powerful, often inexpensive and effective tool to make our campuses safer.

Tagged with: CPTED Training

About the Author

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Michael Dorn serves as the Executive Director of Safe Havens International, a global non profit campus safety center. During his 30 year campus safety career, Michael has served as a university police officer, corporal, sergeant and lieutenant. He served as a school system police chief for ten years before being appointed the lead expert for the nation's largest state government K-20 school safety center. The author of 25 books on school safety, his work has taken him to Central America, Mexico, Canada, Europe, Asia, South Africa and the Middle East. Michael welcomes comments, questions or requests for clarification at mike@weakfish.org. Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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