How to not get robbed: Examining passive surveillance in inner-city Perth

Recently my family was robbed. We had just moved to a new house, relocating from a 10,000sqm property in the hills to a 400sqm block in inner-city Perth. This was a drastic change for everyone, but one that we have all embraced.

Photo 1. Front facade of my family’s home on Hope Street

One Saturday afternoon, my mum was in the garden and my brother was in the house when an intruder jumped our back fence and stole a bike and my mums’ handbag from the kitchen. Luckily no-one was hurt, but the inconvenient process of calling the police, cancelling credit cards and replacing lost items began. We were also forced to reconsider the current security of our property, as it had left us feeling quite unsafe and vulnerable.

I discussed the incident with family friends, with many suggesting building a high wall around the front and back of our block to ensure that no-one could get in. This approach seemed a bit extreme and similar to Donald Trump’s obsession with building a wall along the Mexican border. Their responses, however, made me question how design strategies could be introduced to make our home safe without severing ourselves from the surrounding community.

When I think of the average Perth suburb, I picture a typical double brick home surrounded by a large wall with every window sealed shut with security shutters. Although effective, it seems quite utilitarian and slightly overkill. This design response to security screams ‘nothing in or out’ and likens itself to Fort Knox. Implementing this strategy would greatly disconnect my family from the streetscape and the community lifestyle we desire.

As I was talking to my neighbours the other day, the topic of home security came up. I asked what strategies they had in place for their own home, as they are both retirees’ they are at home most of the time but have CCTV cameras set up for when they are away. However, it wasn’t until after this neighbourly chat that I realised it was our presence within the street that was the best security. Passive surveillance is the “casual surveillance by members of the community as they go about their everyday lives” (1). This interaction acts at providing security to the surrounding houses, by contributing surveillance to the public realm for the good of the community (2).

Therefore, I believe a key component of passive surveillance is instigating these relationships with your neighbours. The reason why this strategy is ideal to implement within the inner-city is due to the location. As a large proportion of the residents walk or ride their bikes to work or cafes and bars the public realm has a much larger degree of foot traffic (3). Due to the walkability of the inner-city, there is a larger number of people walking and mingling through the streets which creates a greater sense of community and visibility.

This experience has made me realise that perhaps the best home security is the community of people living in your street.

Photo 2. Walking along William Street after grocery shopping this afternoon





(1) Queensland Government. 2007. “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design: Guidelines for Queensland.” Accessed June 19, 2020.

(2) Queensland Government. 2007. “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design: Guidelines for Queensland.” Accessed June 19, 2020.

(3) Walters, Peter. 2019. “Why outer suburbs lack inner city’s ‘third places’: a partial defence of the hipster”, The Conversation. Accessed June 19, 2020.


Partington, Hayley. 2020.

Hayley Partington

The sustainable lifestyle has gained prominence in recent years as people strive to live with greater awareness. This lifestyle is something I am embracing through my personal life but also my architectural studies.

I also love to travel and am a self-confessed crazy plant lady, with around 62 plants in my home.