Design alliance to focus on key crime areas

The Government’s Design and Technology Alliance is to concentrate on five key areas where design can be used to help stamp out crime.

The alliance, set up by the Home Office to focus on the role that design can play in tackling crime, had its first meeting last week. It is led by designer Sebastian Conran, Design Council chief executive David Kester and co-founder of the Sorrell Foundation John Sorrell, as well as several other leading figures.

Schools, alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour, hot products (such as mobile phones and laptops), business crime and new homes have been named as the top five issues that will be discussed. However, Conran says that others will be considered as and when they arise.

Practical design thinking will be used to tackle crime. ‘A lot of crime starts at a young age,’ Conran says. ‘Youth crime, including vandalism and bullying, is a major problem. We need to deal with it from an early age.’

In schools, suggestions include building toilets between classrooms rather than in communal areas and creating separate spaces where students can interact. Subtle changes to layout and flow are advocated over and above radical moves such as introducing CCTV.

‘Design can discourage crime – although perhaps not prevent it, because if you have a perpetrator intent on carrying out crime it is going to be difficult to stop them,’ Conran continues. ‘There is something we can do with the environment, but there is still a lot to be done with attitudes and culture. We are not going to solve everything, but at least we can make places less crimefriendly. A huge amount of money is being spent on schools and we are putting crime on the agenda. Just creating a place where kids can congregate and interact makes a difference – bringing back the school playground, as it were.’

The action group has discussed crime prevention ideas, such as mobile phones and laptops being fitted with coded charges so that the battery runs out within a day, making them worthless, or tattooing the owner’s mobile number on to the phone.

‘There is a lot of glassing going on in pubs at the moment, so it should be illegal to serve alcohol in glass bottles if you own a club or pub that has a high level of incidences of alcohol-related crime,’ says Conran. ‘PET bottles are much better than green beer bottles, and they are easily recyclable.

‘This [alliance] is verypositive, I feel this is really possible’, Conran concludes. ‘I feel incredibly confident that it is practical and good for design to be used to solve crime.’ The alliance will report back to the Government next year with a report and suggestions, which may later be implemented.

• Other alliance personnel – Professor of design studies at the Royal College of Art Jeremy Myerson; director of the Design Against Crime Research Centre at Central St Martins College of Art and Design Lorraine Gamman; designer Michael Wolff; Visiting Professor at University College London Ken Pease; and Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson
• Focus areas – schools, alcohol-related crime, antisocial behaviour, hot products, business crime and homes

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