Diane Zahm is fighting crime with design
Diane Zahm has helped improve public safety in Virginia and the nation by applying her expertise in crime prevention through environmental design, a growing field based on the principle that effective design and use of buildings and public spaces can help reduce crime and improve the quality of life.
Now an associate professor of Urban Affairs and Planning and in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies and head of the college’s Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) team, Zahm began her academic career by earning a master of planning degree from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in land use planning from the State University of New York, Syracuse.
In 1986 Zahm joined the faculty of the University of Louisville in Kentucky, where she taught in both the College of Urban and Public Affairs and the National Crime Prevention Institute. In 1988 she joined the Florida Office of Attorney General’s CPTED Program.
Zahm later worked for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as director of the Statistical Analysis Center and helped found the state’s CPTED Network. In 1993 she received a U.S. Department of Justice award for outstanding achievement in advancing criminal justice statistics. She also served as an adjunct lecturer and associate in research in Florida State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.
Since joining the Virginia Tech faculty in 1995, Zahm has examined local policies on factors such as land use and facility design and their impact on crime and neighborhood quality of life. She and her CPTED team offer crime prevention training and technical assistance services to local communities and organizations throughout Virginia. They have focused on safety at Virginia’s hospitals and schools, as well as crime prevention in single- and multi-family housing.
Among Zahm’s widely used publications are “Designing Safer Communities: A Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Handbook,” and “Using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design for Problem Solving.”
She has worked with the National Crime Prevention Council, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the American Institute of Architects, the Council of Educational Facility Planners, and other state and national organizations.
Zahm recently served as the international chair of the International CPTED Association. In 2011 she traveled to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates to train the staff of the city’s Urban Planning Council in design and public safety.
In 2004 Zahm was invited by the University of Virginia Department of Urban and Environmental Planning to deliver the Robert DeVoursney Lecture on Crime and Violence Prevention.
Zahm has received the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Excellence in Teaching Award and has served her college as undergraduate programs coordinator. She also served as president of the Virginia Tech Faculty Senate in 2003-2004.
She has directed her students in several community projects over the years. In 2008, for example, her land-use planning studio worked with Cumberland County leaders and civic organizations to prepare a community land-use plan to guide development of a new reservoir.
In 2010 Zahm received the College of Architecture and Urban Studies Excellence in Outreach Award.