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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 13:29 GMT 14:29 UK
Designs for taking on criminals
Self-locking bike
Designers hope the self-locking bike will prove harder to steal
The government has unveiled its latest weapon in the fight against crime - designers.

Police are confident that innovative design can help reduce the risk of theft and burglary.

Britain's trendy creative industries and its hard-nosed law enforcement officers might appear unlikely bedfellows.

But the government believes that a link-up between the two is vital to cutting crime figures.

'Lateral thinking'

The Design and Technology Alliance is an independent group of designers committed to raising the profile of crime prevention within the industry.

Members hope they can ensure that technology and innovation keeps pace with the ever-adapting techniques employed by criminals.

Anti-theft chair
If someone puts their hand down there, you notice
Professor Lorraine Gamman

There is evidence to suggest that they are onto something. The Home Office says that vehicle crime has been cut in half in a decade as a result of the introduction of immobilisers and toughened glass.

One member of the alliance is Professor Lorraine Gamman, director of the Design Against Crime Research Centre at Central St Martins School of Art and Design.

The Centre has pioneered a number of ideas, including a self-locking bicycle and a chair with two slots at the front for hanging bags in bars and cafes.

"With the chair, we noticed that the genital region is the most defended part of the body," she says. "If someone puts their hand down there, you notice.

"We're up for the challenge - designers are great generalists who depend on lateral thinking."

Prof Gamman admits that many companies - such as mobile phone manufacturers - profit from theft, as consumers have to replace their products after they are stolen.

But David Kester, chief executive of the Design Council - who has also joined the alliance - says that it is in the interests of business to protect customers from crime.

"The public want industry to be responsible, as with the environment, and they will put more trust in firms who they believe are interested in protecting them," he says.

"If we can raise awareness within the industry I really believe we can make a difference."

'Safe and secure'

Consumer goods are not the only area where designers believe their skills can make a positive impact.

One of the founders of the Alliance is John Sorrell, chair of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment.

He says that planners and architects also have a role to play.

"Often designers react to crime after the event by putting up barriers and CCTV cameras, but I think it's better to think about how the environment makes people feel," he says.

"What's important is to make people feel safe and secure, while giving groups like young people a sense of ownership over their communities."

Victims of muggings, burglary and theft across the country will all hope he is right.

Bid to cut crime with new design
10 Aug 07 |  UK Politics

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