The use of crime prevention initiatives on American college campuses has rapidly increased in the past three decades as high profile crime incidents continue to erode the public’s perception of universities as sanctuaries —isolated from criminal activity. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an environmental approach to crime prevention that refers to strategies that focus on reducing crime opportunities by manipulating the physical and social qualities of the environment. Although empirical research on CPTED is growing, little is known about the impact of this method on educational settings. The main argument of the present study is that CPTED has the potential to foster campus safety by reducing crime and increasing the perception of safety. Based on findings from previous studies, it is expected that universities with higher level of CPTED are more likely to have lower crime rates, and students residing in high CPTED campus facilities are more likely to have higher perception of safety.
To test the hypothesized effect, a content analysis of the annual safety reports of 100 postsecondary institutions in the United States was conducted. In addition, the residents of two dormitories of a university were surveyed to assess their safety perceptions. Furthermore, a case study was conducted in a college campus with a systematic deployment of the CPTED approach. In-depth interviews, one focus group, in-site observations, and analysis of secondary data were performed to contextualize the study findings.
Although the quantitative analysis of the national review of the annual safety reports did not provide evidence in support of the hypothesized effect, it uncovered a reverse relationship between crime rate and use of environmental crime prevention measures. The results of the survey of students’ perception of safety, on the other hand, revealed evidence in support of the second hypothesis of the dissertation. Furthermore, the qualitative case study analysis provided insight into the implementation procedures, strengths, and challenges of the systematic CPTED program. The main findings show how CPTED works in the academic context and what alterations are needed to advance the program.