FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) —  Police officers and the judicial system are what people tend to think of when talking about crime prevention, but a pilot program in Fort Wayne is taking a different approach.

“CPTED is basically this idea that you can change the built environment and decrease crime,” said Megan Grable, a neighborhood planner with the City of Fort Wayne.

CPTED, or Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, is the thought that design philosophy can dramatically alter crime and safety in a given location.

A light post added by the pilot program on High Street

Fort Wayne is trying out the philosophy on High Street with their CPTED pilot program.

“We wanted to focus on how do we make environmental design improvements to a neighborhood that’s going to help prevent crime in the long term,” said Dan Baisden, Fort Wayne’s neighborhood planning and activation administrator.

The lights, which were first installed in January 2022, have yielded results that the City of Fort Wayne is happy with so far.

“Last year, we made a significant investment and brand new lighting on High Street using a national study conducted on a few other studies about the impacts lighting have on improving safety in the neighborhood,” Baisden said.

The study is encouraging officials to explore more CPTED principles on High Street.

“We’re going to install crosswalks in the neighborhood, we paid for 20 trees, and forestry because of our investment is putting in another 70 in the area,” Grable said. “We’re going to be pressure washing a lot of sidewalks, we’re putting up neighborhood banners, wrapping utility boxes, there’s a mural that folks might have seen over on the intersection of High Street and Sherman Boulevard.”

According to the City of Fort Wayne, the result thus far is a 45% crime rate reduction on High Street, compared with the average over the last 5 years.

“So far, we’ve seen about a 45% decrease in crime on High Street over the first year,” Baisden said.

Community Investment

Besides putting up light posts and pointing to studies, city officials said the important thing throughout CPTED is that it causes the community to buy in.

“Crime has shown through statistics it’ll go down in those areas where people know that people care about what’s going on,” said FWPD Officer Adam Hartman. “It’s really great to see homeowners and the neighborhood come together and buy into this and see the benefit in the end.”

Part of the philosophy behind CPTED is that when neighbors care about the community they spend time in and actively spend time outside in that community, the crime rate will drop.

It’s also why the program designed logos for the surrounding neighborhoods (Nebraska, Hamilton and Bloomingdale), in order to create a greater neighborhood identity and pride for the residents who live in those areas.

Part of that has been a mural commemorating the Bloomingdale Neighborhood.

The Bloomingdale Neighborhood mural

“It’s sort of creating this sense of identity,” Grable said.

And that belonging and sense of community is what CPTED looks to harness in individual neighbors, in order to impact the whole neighborhood.

“To see it actually working here in Fort Wayne in what used to be one of the higher crime rates in the city and is no longer so, it’s very exciting,” Grable said. “I hope that this sort of is a proof that these measures work and maybe we can use them further in other locations in the future.”

The CPTED program in Fort Wayne is based on a number of studies performed in other markets. Below is a list of some of the studies the city has used to formulate its plans to improve the city.