Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) focuses on the physical design of your neighborhood - fencing, lighting, plantings - to identify areas or elements that may have the potential to attract crime. It focuses in the areas of Natural Surveillance, Natural Access Control and Territoriality/Defensible Space.

CPTED promotes and prioritizes increased visibility in and around a property to deter burglars and thieves, who frequently target areas and residences with low visibility. This can be counteracted in the following ways:

Natural Surveillance

  • Lighting - lights should be well spaced and in working order, alleys and parking areas should also be lit. Motion-sensing lights perform the double duty of providing light when needed and letting trespassers know that "they have been seen."
  • Landscaping - Plants should follow the 3-8 rule of thumb; hedges no higher than 3 feet, and tree canopies starting no lower than 8 feet. This is especially important around entryways and windows.
  • Fencing - Fences should allow people to see in. Even if the fences are built for privacy, they should be of a design that is not too tall and has some visibility.
  • Windows - Windows that look out on streets and alleys are good natural surveillance, especially bay windows. The individuals who have a view from these windows can provide good surveillance for the neighborhood during the day.

Natural Access Control

Access Control refers to homes, businesses, parks and other public areas having distinct and legitimate points for entry and exits. Generally crime perpetrators will avoid areas that only allow them with one way to enter and exit, and that have high visibility and/or have a high volume of user traffic. This can be assured by:

  • Park designs with open, uninhibited access and a defined entry point. A good example is a park with transparent fencing around the perimeter, and one large opening in the gate for entry. Putting vendors or shared public facilities near this entrance creates more traffic and more surveillance.
  • Businesses with one legitimate entrance.
  • A natural inclination is to place public restrooms away from centers of activity, but they can become dangerous if placed in an uninhabited area. Restrooms that are down a long hallway, or foyer entrances with closed doors, are far away from the entrance of a park, or are not visible from the roadway can become problem areas.
  • Personal residences with front and back doors that are clearly visible and well lit.

Territoriality/Defensible Space

Territoriality means showing that your community "owns" your neighborhood. While this includes removing graffiti and keeping buildings and yards maintained, it also refers to small personal touches. Creating flower gardens or boxes, putting out seasonal decorations, or maintaining the plants in traffic circles seems simple, but sends a clear message that people in your neighborhood care and won't tolerate crime in their area. These kinds of personal touches work in business communities as well. More complex design efforts can also be undertaken for more dramatic changes.