Working with the environment to improve safety of a public toilet block
A public toilet block in south-east East Melbourne is our focus for this case study – part of a series of case studies across the industries we specialise in – looking at what the security challenge was, and how we solved it.
Unwanted behaviours with a public toilet block in south-east Melbourne needed to be resolved for the local Council. Discouraging these behaviours was particularly crucial due to nearby youth activities. Here’s a snapshot of what we found.
We were engaged to undertake a risk assessment of the property and to formulate a strategy to make the toilet block safer.
The review took into account the building’s construction and general layout, its location and the immediate neighbourhood, recent incidents, the possible exposure levels to future incidents, and the consequences associated with these incidents.
We determined that the toilet block could be significantly improved from a safety and security perspective, with little impact to the amenity of the area and without great capital expense.
Interestingly, we did not recommend that additional lighting be installed or that surveillance technologies such as CCTV be used, which are traditionally considered necessary.
The strategy we developed was based on making the facilities far more appealing to the local community, while making inappropriate behaviour less so. Due to the prevalence of foliage and the abundance of paths around the building, the plan was to better define the structure and the pathways to it.
The toilet block featured on a public website attracting seekers of casual sexual activity. The immediate local environment also faced a number of challenges. Being heavily treed, natural surveillance was difficult. And local restrictions disallowed the removal or heavy trimming of the trees.
New pathways to the toilet block were recommended, so that people moving around the area could be easily observed. We also recommended optimising natural surveillance wherever possible to make it safe to enter and leave the toilets.
Fencing to restrict movements around the pathways was included in the strategy – a type used extensively in the area so as not to detract from the local amenity. Importantly, sightlines or natural surveillance would not be impacted by the fencing.
Closing the toilet blocks at dusk each day was also recommended, and not opened again until daylight. This meant that signage needed to be displayed at the approaches to the toilet block so that people are aware of when the toilets are accessible. The signage needed to be overt and easily read under low-light conditions.