Safe, Healthy & Positive Environmental Design (SHAPED), & 

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

A safer school doesn’t have to look foreboding. In this illustration, an uncontrolled access point has been remodeled to protect kids on the playground without making it look like a prison yard.

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S.H.A.P.E.D. Overview

I.                   Safe schools incorporate three fundamental concepts of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED): (1) natural surveillance (the ability to see what’s going on), (2) natural access control (the ability to control who gets in or out of a facility) and (3) territoriality/maintenance (the ability to establish and send a message of turf ownership) (see Ensuring Quality School Facilities and Security Technologies, ). The school entry area applies CPTED very effectively: the front desk staff can see anyone approaching the building as well as once they enter the building; electronic controls make it easy to control access; and the resulting vigilance goes a long way in demonstrating territoriality.


In addition to meeting CPTED standards, schools must meet building and fire codes, designed to anticipate and prevent a number of potential disasters. For a comprehensive school safety checklist, visit the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities at

Electronic technology now offers a wide variety of tools for supplementing safe structural design. (see briefing papers at the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities,  &


II.                Healthy schools provide clean water, air and food, and exposure to natural light; are free of mold, toxins, vermin, disruptive noise or unpleasant odors; use non-toxic building materials; are well maintained and use equipment and designs that avoid creating trip, fall, cut or other health hazards; encourage environmental awareness and responsibility; and promote healthy student behavior.


Seven Oaks Middle School, in Lebanon, Oregon maintains a large, student-tended garden that provides fresh food for cafeteria meals as well as an opportunity for hands-on project-based learning that keeps students engaged.  (Also see . Also:  Safe and Healthy School Environments, H. Frumkin et al, Oxford University Press 2006)



III.             Positive schools provide extensive reinforcement for a pro-social, affective environment, with an emphasis on (1) an effective, relevant academic program, and (2) a positive school climate in which mutual respect, support, cooperation and connectivity between students, staff, the school and the community are the norm. (see Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports ) These positive qualities should be reinforced with (a) direct and indirect positive messages displayed throughout the school, and (b) functional facilities, meaning space, furnishings and equipment are a good match for the intended use. This is also known as 2nd Generation CPTED.

waterfountains copy2



Alienation is a common root attribute in antisocial behaviors. Alienation and connectivity are polar opposites. Building connectivity heals alienation.Enhance positive connectivity between all aspects of the student’s world.Every relationship should reinforce PBIS concepts and positive connectivity.All visuals should reinforce empathy, mutual respect and support, connectivity and validation for the overall school experience.What do you see on display in your school, on your ceilings, walls, windows, doors, floors, or courtyards?  Is it mindless or mindful?  What do students see on the way to and from school? What’s on display in the school bus?What display space opportunities have you overlooked?Who is celebrated, and who is not?Are all types of intelligence and ability valued equally?

Is there room for individuality? Are all the chairs identical? Are all parts of the school accessible? What convinces a student that somebody’s paying attention; that someone believes in them?

How are your hopes and dreams reflected – or contradicted — by your school logo, fight song, handbook, yearbook, web site, postings, warnings or guidelines?

Tools to consider: Humor, Storytelling, Music, Literature, Art (mobile galleries?), Board games, Active games, Role models, Visitors, Parents, Volunteers, Pets, Field Trips, Libraries, Museums, Gardening, Farming, Camping, Movement, Competition, Cooperation, Building transparency, Government transparency, educational and interactive websites, Penpals, sister-schools and electronic technology are all possibilities.

Restoring Other Built Environments

In addition to my work on schools, I provide inspections, consulting and training on enhancing almost any other environment, including homeless camps, shelters, parks, bike paths, city centers, government buildings, private businesses and non-profits, within a context of Safe, Healthy and Positive Environmental Design (S.H.A.P.E.D.) This work draws on a variety of skill sets, including Fundamental and Second Generation Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (C.P.T.E.D.), Safe, Healthy and Positive Environmental Design (S.H.A.P.E.D.), SafeGrowth, Policing and Crime Prevention in general.In many cases, urban spaces have been under-utilized for a period of time, and a narrow population of users has moved in. These new users may be perfectly legitimate users, but in most cases I am brought in when the group is so intimidating that no one else feels comfortable using the park or city square. Word quickly spreads that the area is unsafe. Government agencies or neighborhood groups may be slow to respond. While concerns simmer on the back burner, the new user-group has plenty of time to take root and expand ownership.The appropriate intervention depends in large part on determining who the current users are. They may simply be area kids who have found a spot to socialize, and have no place better to go. In that case, building a recreation center or program may be part of the solution. On the other hand, users could be  homeless or jobless individuals of all ages, runaway or throwaway youth, people suffering from mental illness, alcoholism or drug addiction. In those cases, social services will be key to problem solving. Park users can also be predators targeting other user groups, drug dealers selling their wares or gangs claiming turf. In those cases, an aggressive policing response will make more sense.


In any case, when these varied behaviors drive other legitimate users away from public space, neighborhoods and municipalities must take action if they want a revitalized park or square that all citizens can use without fear. Very commonly, this will have to include at least five components: (1) organizing stakeholder groups to come up with a joint plan, (2) policing the area to extinguish criminal behavior, along with social service intervention to steer clients to more appropriate spaces or services, (3) safety planning (4) application of basic cpted principles to make the physical space less conducive to criminality and more conducive to legitimate uses, and (5) connectivity measures that will draw legitimate users back into the park, through basic amenities, such as water fountains, attractive features, such as play structures, and programming, that lure users into the park for special classes or events.  Unless legitimate users reclaim the space, illegitimate users will most likely return.



I am a 30-year veteran police department crime prevention specialist (retired) and a nationally recognized authority on Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), Safe Healthy and Positive Environmental Design (S.H.A.P.E.D.) safe school design, personal safety, violence prevention, confrontation management, and related topics. Over the past two decades I have consulted regularly to schools, educational groups, government and private organizations,  such as the National Clearinghouse for Educational Facilities within the National Institute of Buildings in Washington, D.C. where I have served as a writer and consultant on safe, healthy and positive school design,  and the application of security technologies. I have served groups in California, Oregon, Indiana, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Haiti over the past decade, working with the Oregon Safe Schools Summit, the Indianapolis Schools, the Rollins School of Public Health, the Northwest Regional Education Lab,the Hamilton Fish Institute, Safe Havens International, School Planning and Management, College Planning and Management, the California Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Education Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools.