Safety / Crime - 25 'vital and viable' priorities

Research from the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has identified the Top 25 priorities that can influence high street vitality and viability. This resource introduces the 'Safety / Crime' priority - why it matters, and what you can do about it.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

What are the 25 vital and viable priorities?

Research from the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has identified the Top 25 priorities that can influence high street vitality and viability.

The framework was created by experts from a range of disciplines and other stakeholders to foster cross-disciplinary knowledge and broadening real-world understanding of the changing nature of the high street.

The 25 priorities are practically orientated and, given their ability to be controlled or influenced at a town level, are fairly internally focussed. For each of the priorities you will find an introduction to evidence that describes the priority, suggests what it covers, discusses how it might be implemented and the level of control associated with it.

Additionally, you will find suggestions of what the priority could mean for implementation during the COVID-19 recovery stage.


Factors included in Safety/Crime

A centre KPI measuring perceptions or actual crime including shoplifting







14th out of 25

4.00 out of 5

Highly Influential


20th out of 25

3.15 out of 4

Potentially controllable

25 Priorities

20th out of 25


High priority



Safety/crime refers to the levels of street crime and shop theft, and perceptions of safety within a centre by day and night. It also includes levels of personal vulnerability and anti-social behaviour. Perceptions of crime are usually higher than actual crime rates and it therefore becomes important to monitor these and communicate results to stakeholders (Parker et al., 2017).

Why does it matter? (Influence)

Perceptions of safety and crime rates significantly influence the vitality and viability of a centre. For example, high crime rates can not only impact on public health and admissions to A&E, but lack of safety can also affect the economic health of a centre as shoppers may refrain from staying late or venturing to the centre at all (Wrigley and Lambiri, 2015). This in turn influences store retention as lack of customers or high number of thefts can lead to closures. More abstract factors such as litter and empty retail units also impact on how safe a place is perceived to be. Additionally, pickpocketing, illegal street trading and other anti-social behaviour all have implications of town/city centre safety, but can potentially be influenced by a good relationship and continuous communication between place managers and police authorities (Jones, 1990).

What can you do about it? (Control)

To reduce crime, you may wish to form retail crime initiatives and other local crime reduction partnerships. BIDs and other initiatives can work with retailers and the police to reduce crime and share details. It is also recommended to encourage anti-crime partnerships and night-time partnerships to enhance communication between pubs/clubs, and emergency services. Also maintaining access for emergency service vehicles is essential (Jones, 1990).

Safety perceptions can also be improved through urban design features such as lighting (Wrigley and Lambiri, 2015) or improved signage and legibility. Removal of litter and street clutter to improve lines of sights can also improve people’s perception of safety. Perceptions of the place as a high crime area are less likely if it is clean and there is a high level of local civic pride. Greater social connection/cohesion reduces crime and antisocial behaviour. Operated taxi-ranks and increased public transport management can also increase activity in centres as it acts as natural surveillance in addition to CCTV. It is also recommended that place leaders support structures to protect vulnerable social groups. Communication strategies such as drink-aware can also help people feel safer.

Knowledge about patterns of crime is driven by data, enabling the centre to respond to crime trends with an action plan. Detection of shoplifters is more likely as a result of local networks, radio schemes and training. Therefore, monitoring crime rates is significantly important.

Safety/Crime and COVID-19

Crimes associated with town centres, the night-time economy and transport has dropped, both internationally (McKelvey, 2020) and in the UK (Farrell and Tilley, 2020). However, the threat of commercial break-ins has led some BIDs to retain wardens and night security staff to monitor premises. Wardens services can be used to monitor ground floor premises to deter theft of stock whilst they are shut due to the pandemic. BIDs and Local Authorities that have retained staff in the public realm may also incorporate ‘malicious coughing’ (Casciani, 2020) – which is now illegal - into risk assessments.

Government guidance on public areas encourages signage to remind people with symptoms not to enter areas, to maintain social distancing, and to offer opportunities for hand washing and sanitising. Consistency of messaging on this will be important.

You should make plans for enhanced cleaning in busy areas and wherever possible reduce the need for people to touch things.

Retail-orientated crime may rise with footfall and developing a plan with police and other local security staff is important. Plan for the rise in recovery stage of public disorder and antisocial behaviour in sections of your place associated with the night-time economy. Problem drinking has risen dramatically under lockdown and may continue in the coming phases as lockdown is eased.

See also

Attractiveness; Appearance; Experience; Place Management


Casciani, D. (2020). ‘Coronavirus cough attacks a crime, says prosecution chief’. BBC News. [Online] 26th March. [Accessed on 9th July 2020]

Farrell, G. and Tilley, N. (2020). ‘Coronavirus: how crime changes during a lockdown’. The Conversation. [Online] 2nd April. [Accessed on 9th July 2020]

McKelvey, T. (2020). ‘Coronavirus lockdown: How has it affected crime?’ BBC News. [Online] 24th April. [Accessed on 9th July 2020]

Parker, C., Ntounis, N., Millington, S., Quin, S., & Castillo-Villar, F. R. (2017). ‘Improving the vitality and viability of the UK High Street by 2020’. Journal of Place Management and Development, 10(4), pp. 310 – 348.

Jones, P. (1990), ‘Town centre management schemes in the UK’, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 18(3), pp. 15-17.

Wrigley, N.& Lambiri, D. (2015). British High Streets: from Crisis to Recovery? A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Southampton; 2015. Available from: