There are challenges in Northern Ireland that don’t exist elsewhere

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For the first time, we put the spotlight on how the Police Service of Northern Ireland is working in partnership with local communities and organisations to incorporate proven crime prevention measures and techniques into new developments and refurbished buildings.

This work is being carried out today amid hopes that regeneration will prove to be an important route to help achieve safer and stronger communities.

Thousands of buildings in Belfast and other cities and towns across Northern Ireland have had crime prevention measures and techniques built in at the initial concept and design stage to deter and reduce crime. These buildings include houses, apartments, hospitals, schools, universities and other places, such as parks.

This work is being carried out by District and Headquarters-based Designing Out Crime Officers (DOCOs) led by Chris Sloan, who is the Strategic Lead for Crime Prevention with the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

The role of Designing Out Crime Officers

It is the role of these civilian DOCO staff to work with architects, landscape designers, builders and registered housing associations to ensure that levels of security meet the requirements set by Secured by Design (SBD), the national police crime prevention initiative, which works alongside Police Services around the UK.

Their reference is SBD’s range of authoritative Design Guides for the design, building and construction industry as well as police forces. The Guides cover a range of building sectors such as residential, education, health, transport and commercial. For example, SBD’s residential Guide is called Homes 2019.

Regularly updated to keep pace with changing patterns of criminal behaviour and advances in design and new technology, the Guides detail police recommendations on the standards of physical security, such as robust doors, windows and locks as well as guidance on development layout and landscaping, such as maximising natural surveillance, creating defensible space and minimising excessive through movement. The purpose of the guidance is to create a built environment where crime is reduced and people feel safe.

DOCOs Nicola Geddis and Shireen Fisher from PSNI Crime Prevention Headquarters Unit, have agreed to share their projects and experiences of working in a crime prevention role in Northern Ireland. Three different views of Belfast are shown in this feature.

How SBD works in NI

Since April 2008, Registered Housing Associations seeking to undertake new build, major rehabilitation and re-improvement schemes – using Housing Association Grant (HAG) funding – are required to achieve SBD’s Award for physical security and layout and landscaping. HAG funding is when a payment is made to acquire land or buildings and to build, convert or improve housing for rent.

Achieving the SBD standard is a requirement of the Department for Communities (DfC), which took over the roles and responsibilities of the former Department for Social Development (DSD) in May 2016.

The DfC says the purpose is to reduce the opportunity for crime and fear of crime, and to create a safer and more secure environment. “Designing to Secured by Design standards will be the norm unless it can be demonstrated that full compliance with these standards would not be commercially viable.”

DfC adds: “All schemes should be designed to be sensitive to their environment and contribute to good quality of life by ensuring they are safe and inclusive, well planned, constructed and maintained, and offer equality of opportunity and services to all.”

The DOCOs will not sign off on SBD developments until they have been inspected and assessed as meeting the standards in accordance with SBD guidelines. This means that DfC funding to housing associations could be withheld until the SBD standard has been met – at a time when tenants are likely to be ready to move in. That’s a massive incentive for housing associations to achieve the SBD Award and for builders to comply with SBD requirements – a situation that doesn’t happen elsewhere in the UK.

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