Incidences of drive-offs and failure to pay are unfortunately becoming a common occurrence in service stations around Australia, and are often linked to other related crimes, such as number plate and vehicle theft. The industry is fed up and, as such, in September 2012, ACAPMA, with partner MotorMouth, launched the National Drive-off Register . With the aim to combat incidences of drive-off and failure to pay in service stations. By service station owners reporting incidences of crime in the register, the scheme assists police in taking targeted action against crime by providing them with the right criminal information.
The Designing Out Crime (DOC) research centre in Sydney Australia has also recognised this issue as a major problem and has come up with a plan to prevent these crimes through the interesting concept of service station design.
Lucy Klippan, a consultant from DOC explains to ACAPMAg about the scope of the project, how it came to fruition, the stages involved and the objectives.
From the desk of Lucy Klippan, Designing Out Crime
In May 2012, the NSW Department of Attorney-General and Justice (DAGJ), in conjunction with a mixture of government and industry bodies, developed the Preventing Stealing from Motor Vehicles in NSW Action Plan. This extensive plan outlines various strategies that will be implemented to address motor vehicle-related theft over the next year. Petrol and number plate theft are included in this plan as specific focus areas alongside a review of service station design.
Enter Designing Out Crime research centre (DOC). DOC is internationally recognised as a leader in innovative, creative and socially responsive design. DOC is a design research centre based at and operating out of the University of Technology (UTS), Sydney, in a funded partnership with DAGJ. Employing a ‘Design Thinking’ approach and design research methods, we explore problems to obtain an in-depth understanding of factors contributing to crime in specific problem situations. This understanding helps DOC to broaden the context around an issue and reach a new point of view – this process is called ‘frame creation’ and allows DOC to find innovative solutions to complex problems. These solutions can be tangible – in the form of products or architecture – or intangible – in the form of systems or policies.
DOC’s ability to integrate crime risk, Safer by Design principles and crime research into the exploration and identification of crime problems and the subsequent creation of design recommendations is a unique attribute of DOC.
DOC is undertaking a new project to review service station design in relation to drive-off and failure to pay. The end goal for this project is the formation of recommendations for best practices of service station design. While DOC and this project are based in New South Wales, the approach and design research methods have wider application and therefore the outcomes will be beneficial to the service station industry on a national level.
DOC’s methodology for this project, aligned with the specific objectives of identifying crime risks and opportunities for design improvements and crime prevention, is outlined below:
The initial stages of the project are focused on building an understanding of the current context. This involves a review and analysis of existing literature on the areas of petrol theft, number plate theft and service station design. This will assist in identifying existing crime issues and trends and will also provide a basis to evaluate any previous attempts to address or solve these issues.
Any available and current crime maps and statistics of identified hot spot areas will be examined to provide key contextual information about service station theft (e.g. theft of petrol, number plates and/or from service station shops). Consultation with local police and business owners will also be undertaken to enrich our understanding of the problem areas and all the stakeholders involved to ensure the wider issues are addressed when examining the problem context.
A selection of service stations will be visited with the purpose of making an assessment of current service station forecourt and retail store layout. The sites visited will be selected based on their rate of drive-offs/failure to pay incidents, and on their branding (to compare small- to medium-sized businesses with larger companies). Various features will be considered during these site visits, such as physical layout, sight lines and distance between the store and petrol bowsers as well as existing crime prevention measures, for example CCTV and number plate recognition technologies.
In addition, each site will be considered in terms of its unique environment, in order to ascertain how much the physical location of a service station as well as the types of customers it attracts increases or decreases the risk of theft.
User profiling and scripting
Using observational techniques the range of users will be identified and profiled – providing valuable information on their respective behaviours and motivations. Analysis from interviews and review of any CCTV footage made available will enable the development of scripting. The scripting will inform later stages of the project.
Design Assessment Focus Group
After these initial stages of research and preliminary stakeholder mapping, DOC will conduct a Design Assessment Focus Group with representatives from service stations, and other core stakeholders. The workshops will provide a structured analysis of the service station design to identify areas of crime risk and prevention opportunity. Prevention opportunities will be expressed as desired value outcomes. For example, ‘increased sightlines’, ‘improved lighting’, ‘enhanced activity generation’, ‘access control’.
Develop initial design concepts
From this point, DOC designers will generate initial service station design recommendations, based on the crime risks identified in the Design Assessment Focus Group.
Develop Recommendations Workshop
In this workshop, initial concepts generated by DOC designers will be shown to participants from the Design Assessment Focus Group. Participants will be invited and encouraged to contribute to or modify concepts. The objective of this workshop is to arrive at a mutually agreed set of solutions to address the previously prioritised set of risks. DOC and stakeholders may need to jointly determine further courses of action on any remaining risks not able to be covered within the workshop.
The final stage of this project is to prepare a final report, that lays out the findings and recommendations that resulted from the research project. The design recommendations agreed upon in the second workshop will be used in conjunction with the contextual research gathered earlier in the project.
The intention for this report is that it will inform government and industry policies in the future with regards to service station design and operation, which will lead to a reduction in the occurrence of drive-offs and failure to pay in service stations. Additionally, it is hoped that this report may provide reason for a nation-wide dialogue about crime in service stations, so that solutions can be developed that will not only reduce this crime, but result in an overall improved customer and vendor experience.
Originally published in ACAPMAg issue 17 (February 2013)
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