Simulating CPTED: Computational agent-based models of crime and environmental design

Daniel Birks, Joseph Clare

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


The synthetic society is a recent addition to the social scientist’s toolkit. Computational agent-based models (ABM) allow researchers to create artificial environments and inhabit them with virtual populations of heterogeneous, autonomous decision makers who perceive, reason, and act according to empirical observation and theoretical proposition. Using these models, social scientists are able to explore causal links between individual behavior, environmental context, and aggregate societal outcomes. Importantly, such models provide the means to carry out systematic simulation experiments that explore the potential downstream impacts of manipulations to individual and environmental characteristics in ways that would be ethically or logistically impossible through traditional experimental means. This chapter considers how such computational laboratories might support, extend, and integrate CPTED and the theoretical platform underpinning it– environmental criminology. We begin by providing a brief description of the ABM methodology and discussing the role these models have played in progressing the understanding of complex social systems. Subsequently, several key propositions of environmental criminology are discussed, along with their proposed relationship with core concepts of CPTED. Subsequently, we highlight recent applications of ABM within the field of environmental criminology and discuss the circumstances that have made these advances possible. We conclude by setting out two distinct streams of computational research that seek to support both theoretical and applied CPTED practices.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRebuilding crime prevention through environmental design
Subtitle of host publicationStrengthening the links with crime science
EditorsRachel Armitage, Paul Ekblom
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9781317419150, 9781315687773
ISBN (Print)9781138919631
Publication statusPublished - 11 Feb 2019

Publication series

NameCrime Science Series


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