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Do our homes need high security protection?

A new report suggests that face-to-face solutions are more effective than increased use of technology

According to Anna Minton and Jody Aked, authors of Fortress Britain for the New Economic Foundation independent think tank, a mixture of various factors, including the rising fear of crime and the impact of the anti-terrorism agenda, has led to high security being a pre-requisite of planning permission for all new developments including schools and hospitals as well as housing. They argue that this is transforming the nature of the environment around us.

In particular, they point to the effects of a government-backed design initiative called Secured by Design, owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and now a private company. While they admit that it includes sensible recommendations including the importance of adequate locks on doors and windows, they argue that Secured by Design’s approach can create very high security environments which can appear threatening. Moreover, they add that there is “scant evidence” that gating, CCTV and other “ defensible space” strategies produce safer and happier communities.

“Greater concentrations of social housing, built to Secured by Design standards, tend to cluster in deprived areas,” say Minton and Aked. “The unintended consequence is that fortress levels of security are now a visual marker for poor parts of Britain and a contemporary feature throughout the landscape.”

The report examines the Peabody Avenue social housing estate in Pimlico, London, where 55 new homes have recently been built incorporating Secured by Design guidelines. Following interviews with residents, the authors conclude that ‘knowing people’, such as caretakers, was more important than technological solutions such as CCTV when it came to feeling safer.

In response to the report, Secured by Design say that their work is about reducing crime - and the fear of it - through “design and realistic physical security”, pointing to studies that indicated SBD properties are burgled significantly less frequently.