Policy direction identified from the analysis of the diffusion process of Life Safety (Crime Prevention) Design

Speaker: Kang Yong-gil (Police Science Institute)

Seoul City Life Safety (Crime Prevention) Design project 

“The anonymous cities that we have been building allowed us to have maximum freedom and make various choices, however, inappropriately, the cities have mercilessly reduced many alternative choices such as collective community action that were available in the past. Only for the limited purpose of reviving the collective environment, physical design of living environment must be used.”” 

“The government’s most important function is to keep people safe and free. To create a perfect society, freedom is essential for the development of intellectual and moral faculties given to us. When there is no more freedom, it ends the development of individuals, however, when there is no more safety, it will destroy the society, as such, freedom is not as great as safety.”

Oscar Newman, a renowned scholar in the field of CPTED and an author of a book Defense Space published in 1972 argued that using physical design in everyday life will help establish an environment that ensures the genuine freedom and safety of the people, and John Caldwell. Calhoun, the 7th vice president of the U.S., stressed that the state and city should keep citizens’ safe and free, and put more attention and weight on safety. These arguments justify the Life Safety Design Project that Seoul City has been implementing for 10 years and provides a good reason to continue the project.

Life Safety Design aims to ensure criminals have no chance to commit a crime and citizens worry less about potential crimes in their environment. This project employs five major strategies of crime prevention, regeneration of the old city center, residents’ participation, restoration of deconstructed community, and improvement of citizens’ quality of lives by means of safety and functionality of design. As such, the project’s goals include all aspects of security, safety, and freedom of citizens as in the earlier quotes.


Meaning and achievement of Life Safety (Crime Prevention) Design Project 

1. Attempt for change in the implementation process 

Seoul City’s Life Safety Design Project engaged various members of society including experts, citizens in Seoul, constructors, local governments, police, etc. and put in various forms of efforts for increased safety of citizens, and various changes were made over the course of project implementation.


First, the project has broadened its participants. Life Safety Design Project consists of various fields of crime and environment and therefore cannot be managed by a single department alone. In this regard, the project invited local governments, police, and residents in the target district to discuss the effective solution for better safety of the district, and as the discussion led to more effective practical solutions, the scope of participants was expanded gradually.


There has been a significant change in the role of police. In particular, as a dual police system of national police and municipal police was put in place in 2022, parts of Life Safety Design Project which were led by each local government were put under joint leadership with the municipal police council. At first, the role of the policemen was limited to the search of the number of crimes in certain areas, but they took broader roles including problem analysis and solution proposal and even took part in site selection in accordance with the project plan.    

As the implementation process became more mature, residents and communities took on bigger roles as well. During early projects, the opinions of the residents were heard at a public hearing and later residents presented their opinions at resident’s council. Also, residents participated in project evaluation and were interviewed at status investigation stage. In my opinion, the role and participation of the residents should expand going forward.

2. Provision of customized solution 

Each project district of Life Safety Design Project has its own characteristics, so the project focused on coming up with tailored solutions to address different problems each district faces. From a socio-demographic perspective, the project paid special attention on minor groups including women, children, elderlies, foreigners, single-person households, etc. and selected residential areas, parks, schools, marketplaces, pedestrian streets, etc. as project sites from spatial perspective, to ensure there is less risk of crime and people are worried less about crime. These efforts to provide tailored solutions expanded the scope of project target sites to include various spaces that cover peoples’ living environment, in addition to the existing residential areas vulnerable to crimes.

3. Assessment and record 

The outcome of Seoul City Life Safety Design Project was shared with other local governments in the nation and triggered many other projects in different regions. As there are similar projects taking place, the Life Safety Design Project of Seoul City employs a policy that is differentiated from other projects in the local governments in project assessment and record-keeping processes. After a project ended, its effectiveness was evaluated by an independent research institution and the city published Life Safety Design Comprehensive Guideline (2020) that introduced the project outcome. These evaluation and record-keeping activities of Seoul City helps ensure that the project is justified and needs to continue and will serve as a precondition for the expansion of the project.      



Future task of Life Safety (Crime Prevention) Design Project 

The future task of Life Safety Design Project is to strengthen the role of project members. During the initial stage of the project, most of the processes were led by Seoul City, then the leadership was shared with the local governments through public recruitment process, and recently, the role has expanded and changed to include the municipal police council to be a joint leadership. Going forward, I believe the role of each project member will be strengthened through more sophisticated discussion and consultation.

For instance, Seoul City can take in charge of overall management, assessment and record-keeping including establishing overall project plan, selecting project execution agency, etc. and municipal police can actively participate in crime analysis, crime environment investigation, and project monitoring. Local governments can take charge of project announcement, design development and consent collection through a resident public hearing and the council, as a responsible organization of the body can revise CPTED ordinance, review and settle the budget and provide legal support. Also, the resident council can provide opinions during the preliminary investigation and safety map creation processes and can also monitor the progress to check project status. Also, constructors can investigate the environment and residents in the project target site to establish a basic plan and perform design development and implementation. Experts from academia can take part in the project monitoring and assessment and provide advice to the CPTED basic plan. The discussion about roles and responsibilities of each member of project is essential for the continuation and sustainability of the project in the future.


Second is the need to implement the strategy more widely in terms of project site scope and connection with space. So far, the selection of project sites has revolved around residential areas, parks, schools, traditional marketplaces, pedestrian streets, etc., however considering the rapid changes in the city environment, the scope can be expanded to include aged apartment complex, areas near the subway stations with populated small stores, public transportation facilities, etc. which take up large portion of urban space. Also, the scope and unit of facility installation can be expanded from a spot to a space to connect spaces. 


Lastly, the guideline that provides details of project process and achievements should be applied more broadly. As mentioned earlier, Seoul City’s Life Safety Design Comprehensive Guideline provides good project practices and achievements in the past 10 years in detail. As the guideline is promoted well and widely adopted by police and local governments, it could result in legislation, institutional support, and standardization at a national level.

As I conclude my presentation, I would like to mention that the concept of Life Safety Design should consider harmony with the project site, put emphasis on usability and create sustainability and unity. Also, I would like to propose that the project strengthens communication and partnership with the local governments and police and the communities to select project site and actively utilize the Crime Prevention Officer program of the police to discover and analyze the regional crimes and safety problems and come up with solutions. Most importantly, I hope that the design project advances to center around residents by identifying the actual needs of the residents regarding crime, fear, status of disorder and improvement requests, and expanding the participation of the residents through various programs.

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