“There are green fields everywhere, as far as the eye can see.” One must have read these types of lines describing natural beauty in many stories and novels and revelled in the picture it painted in front of one’s eyes. We humans have the inherent curiosity to see beyond the power of our eyesight. We love to find new things, explore new places and that is why, one part of us is always sending machines into space to find if there is something akin to our earth or someone who is living out there as we do. When we strive to achieve these sight lines in the universe, we conveniently forget that we do require them here on Earth, where we live and prosper.

Vertical expansion, increase in traffic, and lack of open spaces are a safety hazard

Rapid urbanisation of places important for commercial activities has not only caused a severe shortage of space to accommodate the influx of people from the hinterlands, but also has made accommodation expand vertically towards the sky. Controlling these masses of people effectively within a particular zone of a city has led to the creation of high-rise buildings and self-contained housing societies with small commercial hubs on its properties.

As people start living at increasing heights in buildings, they cannot see from those heights what is going on below at the ground level nearby their properties. Their line of sight is constricted horizontally also to angular routes etched out by the rooms designed in their flats, offices or shopping marts.

The increase of vehicular traffic due to increased standard of living has lessened pedestrian traffic to a great extent. Where at one time there would be people using the sidewalks to hurry to go to work, home or market, now the quantum of people actually using the whole length of a given sidewalk has lessened considerably as people park in the vicinity of their place of work and use sidewalks only to go from their car to the desired place which is a short walking distance away.

Open spaces are diminishing at a rapid rate and the lessened use of sidewalks to move about has led to desolation in parts of many neighbourhoods which allows criminals to move about at odd hours during the day and at night too without being noticed or questioned. The acute angles of observation from above and the narrow field of view caused due to the design of high-rise buildings allows unwanted elements to loiter very close to the property.

The design of such buildings literally opens up their car parks, pedestrian entry and exit points onto the sidewalk and at times onto the main road giving no depth of defensible space to the property which is essential to segregate regular visitors from strangers and loiterers. A lingering look from the sidewalk can show an observant person exactly from where does a resident of that building park his car to where does he take the lift from and which side is his flat located in the building.

The lack of open spaces denies a big advantage to the residents of these buildings from observing undesirable elements. 

Open spaces may include:

- Long and Wide approach roads.

- A broad parking bay for residents’ and visitor’s parking.

- An aesthetically designed garden or lawn space with hedge lines which impede the line of sight of people looking in from the street.

- Ramps and slopes which disrupt the angular field of view of an onlooker.

- Sharp turns or sloping curves with increasing height which abruptly or gradually deny the onlooker to follow the movement of a person or a vehicle which enters or exits the premises. 

- Carefully planted trees which create shadows at appropriate places which hinder an onlooker from focussing at a particular person or object. 

The designing of open spaces should be such that a person living at a height in a high-rise building should be able to see from various rooms of his flat, places which are:

- In the immediate vicinity of their main entrance/exit of their building.

- Areas leading from the main entrance gate to their building entrance/exit routes.

- Areas and roads leading away from the main entrance gate of their boundary wall and connecting to the main road.

- Areas which are meant for public use for the residents of the building only.

- Drying areas and storage areas which should be able to see the entrances of the locations where utilities like electric meter boxes, water supply pipes, fire emergency hose pipe boxes are kept.

- Sit-outs in the public space of these building grounds which should be so built and located that any person wanting to wait or sit outside the building premises should have only that option available for resting and that place can be easily seen by the residents of that building.

This denies the places around the building being left desolate or unnoticed which does not allow criminal elements to make it their hang-outs or observation points. These open spaces allow freedom to the residents of that building to move about alone or congregate in groups as they are aware that some or the other resident from the building can see their location from up there. 

Why are open spaces important for security?

  • Open spaces allow most of the people living in the building a wide view of the public places in their immediate vicinity and in the middle distance thus empowering them with the ability of seeing a threat or a criminal activity from afar and yet being secure in their own homes and being able to call out for assistance when required.
  • Criminals like blind turns, sharp corners and dark places as they are temporary refuge spots where they can carry out their heinous activities without being disturbed and spotted by an outsider. Open spaces remove this perceived sense of security from the criminal’s mind thereby making him think harder before trying to commit a crime in a place where he can be seen from afar, which does not afford shadows or can clearly help pursuers to out-manoeuvre him in his flight from the scene of crime. 
  • Open spaces help witnesses to look longer at the activity thereby giving more chances of recognising the criminal. They help the residents in determining whether the criminal is moving towards or away from the property or to the likely escape route which helps in pursuit and capture. 
  • Open spaces help in mobilising security guards and alert residents to cordon of probable escape routes and allow the pursuers to organise and execute a quick search of the premises in event of an alarm being raised about possible crime happening on the premises.   
  • The distance between a person and a moving object allows him to see the object clearly, track its movements and see it’s intended route of movement allowing the person to make quick decisions of pursuing it or trapping it without the moving object causing any harm to the pursuer. Hunters have effectively followed this technique before the advent of long-range rifles. Incorporating these security designs as well as behavioural nuances in your everyday life helps you observe, track and intercept suspicious people and activities in and around the premises where they reside.      

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