Sometimes crime prevention is at its best when it’s least noticeable to members of the public – that’s certainly the case with Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool, which opened its doors for the first time in 2015.
The hospital authorities were focused on providing a building that was relaxed, friendly, open and welcoming. This approach, which is entirely appropriate and befits a children’s hospital, could be considered contrary to what is traditionally thought of from a policing perspective as the makings of a secure building.
Therefore it presented huge challenges for the specialist Designing Out Crime Officers from Merseyside Police who were keen to work with the hospital, and its architects and developers, to make the building safe and secure.
One of the biggest examples of how these two very different requirements came together successfully was in the meandering approach to the hospital’s front entrance.
It was agreed that strategically placed featured art, planters and trees would help to create a pleasant environment for patients, parents, visitors and staff. But these were also measures that would help prevent the hospital from becoming a ‘soft target’ from what police call hostile vehicle mitigation – vehicles deliberately being driven off-road at buildings or pedestrians for criminal or terrorist purposes.
As well as building in security to the layout and landscaping, Merseyside Police also worked to ensure the physical security of the hospital’s buildings with the use of CCTV, lighting to increase visibility, access control systems, and robust doors, windows and locks that would be difficult for casual or opportunistic criminals to gain easy access.
In the three years since the £237m hospital, officially called Alder Hey in the Park, opened, there have been a total of 187 recorded offences – that’s just over one a week on average, according to figures released by Merseyside Police.
The majority of these offences are sneak thefts at the retail outlets inside the hospital and other thefts, such as mobile phones being taken from handbags. Other offences include assaults on staff and pedal cycle thefts.
Sgt Frank Stott, of Merseyside Police, said that whilst the main focus of the build team was to provide the best possible patient care and for people visiting and working in the hospital, this presented unique challenges for the police.
“This was a brand new building so could effectively be designed from the outset. We were able to identify and introduce measures and techniques to provide a safe and low crime environment.
“We were really pleased that there was a willingness to engage with us about crime prevention and listen to our advice to help make their building safer. The crime figures are amazingly low in comparison to similar buildings. It shows what can be achieved when organisations are prepared to come together at the right time to work for the common good.”
Secured by Design, the national police crime prevention initiative, has a network of SBD trained police officers and staff attached to police forces and local authorities around the UK. Known as Designing Out Crime Officers, they work with architects, developers and local authority planners and the pre-planning and planning stages through to construction to design out crime.
Alder Hey opened with 270 beds, including 48 critical care beds for patients in intensive care, high dependency and burns units. There are 16 operating theatres, four for day-case surgery and 12 inpatient theatres.
It cares for more than 275,000 children, young people and their families every year providing a range of treatments from common illnesses to highly complex and specialist conditions.
The hospital is part of a complex that includes a brand new research, innovation and education centre.
Alder Hey is one of only four stand-alone paediatric trusts in the country, is one of Europe’s biggest and busiest children’s hospitals, and is becoming recognised as one of the world’s leaders in children’s healthcare and research into children’s medicines, infection, inflammation and oncology.