The Risk Assessment Matrix Categories (R/A CAT)

The SafeGrowth Instruction Manual from class has a section on the SafeGrowth Risk Assessment process. Review that section, particularly the R/A CAT chart with the various highlighted areas, as you read through this material.

In SafeGrowth our methods of analysis are more extensive than traditional criminology or social science methods for a number of reasons. For example, crime analysis requires a crime in order to conduct an analysis, at least in the majority of cases. Crime analysts might analyze crime hotspots where crime is rampant, but they rarely analyze crime coolspots where crime is absent. In SafeGrowth we consider both hot and coolspots important. We often learn as much from where crime is absent (and why it is absent) than we do from the high crime areas. We are interested in all the elements of safe and healthy neighborhoods, not just crime.

Therefore the SafeGrowth Risk Assessment Matrix provides planning methods (like design charrettes) and ethnographic methods (like search conferences, and asset mapping) unknown in traditional crime analysis. 

The Risk Assessment Guide helps practitioners and designers determine the type of data and research they will require on each project. The Guide is classified into six Risk Assessment Categories:

Category 1: Small Scale before construction
Category 2: Small Scale on existing developments
Category 3: Medium Scale before construction
Category 4: Medium Scale on existing developments
Category 5: Large Scale before construction
Category 6: Large Scale on existing developments

In describing how to use this guide Gamman and Pascoe note that since, “context is key, methods can be picked and mixed for each individual location. Evaluation afterwards is also necessary to model building and judging success.” (2004: 44).

Each category contains a series of research steps and data that are suggested for that level of development. The data from this matrix allow the SafeGrowth practitioner to not only determine which strategy best applies, but also to revisit the project after to evaluate success. 

The sizing of small, medium and large is essentially a subjective decision. However, here is a guideline: Small Scale represents an area of 50 square meters (yards) which is building foyers, walkways, skateboard parks; Medium Scale represents areas larger than Small Scale, up to approximately 500 square meters (yards) but less than an entire street block or a large shopping mall. Examples include a whole building, a park less than a street block in size, an underground parking lot, a street with a half dozen homes or a townhome development. Large scale represents areas larger than Medium Scale. Examples include whole town center redevelopments, new subdivision projects, or large shopping malls. If uncertain, the general rule is to default to the higher category, for example if you began assuming a Small Scale category but are unsure, default up and conduct all the analytical steps in Medium Scale.

Category 1 and 2 (RA/CAT 1-2)

SafeGrowth practitioners, designers, and architects are often called upon to assess the potential impact of crime on a relatively small-scale project. New walkways, redesigned building foyers, and ATM machine placements are a few examples.

This level of SafeGrowth is typically fairly straightforward, however there is often a tendency for the practitioner to walk onto the site and begin making recommendations without conducting any analysis whatsoever. Many practitioners bring a simple CPTED checklist that they fill out on site. That is insufficient. That approach cannot possibly capture the information needed for formulate sensible recommendations. At minimum there are a series of analytical steps and data that must precede any recommendations. 

Category 1 and 2 methods include:
  • Plan Review: Review proposed design plans or the concept drawings if the project is in conceptual stages, such as landscaping plans
  • Site Visits: Conduct site visits (both daytime and nighttime) to examine the area for lighting patterns, mobility patterns of site users, entrapment areas, adjacent land uses that might cause   conflicts, territoriality, access control, and natural surveillance
  • Demographics: Collect local demographic data to identify population characteristics that impact crime. Data should be gathered on the gender, socio economic status, age, population density, ethnicity, mobility, and other relevant information on the potential users, victims, and predators of an environment.
  • Crime Stats: Examine the existing crime data to look at the types of crime (property crime, crimes to person, drug related) and sort by date, location, and time.
  • Site Interviews: Interview local residents and employees to determine the travel routines, how the site is typically used, and whether the design fits the actual designated use.  Interview the designers and property owners to determine the intended use, and future plans, for the site.

Category 3 and 4 (RA/CAT 3-4)

At the Category 3 and 4 levels, the time and resources spent on analysis should increase. That is because the size and scale of the project is larger. Projects at this level include a townhouse complex, a new urban park, or a large parking lot.

The analytical sophistication also increases in this category. This can be achieved by enlisting the support of police crime analysts, local university or college researchers, or professional consultants. There are now semi-professional, non-profit associations of crime analysts who provide advice, and skills that a qualified crime analyst brings to the table, for example the International Association of Crime Analysts.

One useful method for looking at the geography of crime is GIS (geographic information system) mapping. Several software companies make GIS mapping software that can plot crime spots. Part of the crime analysis looks at the site during many different times and conditions. The site analysis will evaluate and track activity pathways and nodes of activities (legitimate and illegitimate).  The site analysis will also look at maintenance features, lighting, upkeep, graffiti patterns, and levels of decay or renovation. Use analysis looks at what activities create, promote, or allow crime to take place. Data would be gathered on the number of available housing units, liquor stores, schools, abandoned storefronts, code violations, fast food outlets, strip shopping centers, auto repair shops, adult entertainment stores, parks, bus stations, etc. (Rondeau, 2005). This is a fairly basic level of crime mapping and it should accompany Category 3 and 4 analyses.

Another data collection method in these categories is taking pictures or video, and keeping good logs of the data over time. If the facility is going on undeveloped land, then the process of visioning is needed to imagine what can and will be the possible futures in one year, five years, or twenty years from now.

Category 3 and 4 methods include:
  • Surveys: Mail-out questionnaires, including victimization surveys and perception data about the community
  • GIS: GIS crime mapping and pattern analysis, such as examining crime hot spot trends
  • Time Series: Crime trends over various timeframes and historical patterns
  • Social Analysis: Demographic trends and social patterns, such as speaking to difficult-to-reach groups like the homeless. Marketing studies also help analyze shopping patterns in malls and the potential targets that may be on site.

Category 5 and 6 (RA/CAT 5-6)

The most advanced level of analysis is applied to large-scale developments, or very high-risk developments. Projects included at this level include the construction of new towns, rebuilding downtown areas, large infill housing redevelopments, and development of new suburbs. They may also include highly vulnerable developments, such as new buildings in a skid row area or in an area with open air, illegal drug markets.

Data collection and analytical techniques in these categories build upon those of previous categories, but some are new. For example, the basic crime mapping conducted for early analysis of medium scale development analyze where there are any hotspots or geographic concentrations of a high level of crime. At this more advanced level, sophisticated GIS mapping analysis allows more in depth analysis of the nuances of crime patterns. Density mapping may be needed to address the problem of stacked overlaid points and crowding, and provide smooth and regular transitions over a study area. (Iseki, 2006) Issues of crime displacement can be observed and addressed since crime is not a constant but an ever-evolving factor.

In addition, advanced analytical methods capitalize on collaborative research and planning. Planning meetings, design charrettes, and safety audits are also part of the analyst’s toolbox.
Category 5 and 6 methods include:

  • Co-planning meetings: Numerous stakeholders, with the various data from the analysis steps, working alongside designers to interpret the data and co-design the site plan.
  • Search conferences: Community planning and visioning workshops facilitated with small groups over a few days. Facilitators help local residents, property owners, city council members, police, SafeGrowth and CPTED specialists, and designers to create a vision, and a set of design guidelines, for new developments.
  • Safety audits: Property owners, residents, local police, and SafeGrowth and CPTED practitioners conduct nighttime audits and collect perception data about problems and solutions at a specific site, including fear of crime areas. The safety audit is the most effective method to collect fear of crime information.
  • Crime forecasts: Crime data should be gathered for time series analysis. This includes at least three years prior to the existing start of the analysis in order to see if the trends are changing in the present. Future projections can be made with different statistical models.
  • Design charrettes: In a design charrette architects, property owners, SafeGrowth and CPTED practitioners, and other key stakeholders conduct a desktop exercise together on a site plan and brainstorm design ideas with the actual drawings.
This Risk Assessment Matrix provides a comprehensive process for any given site. It also provides the baseline data that will allow measurements afterward to determine the effectiveness of strategies. It will help determine whether crime has been displaced, or whether crime has increased, or still persists.