Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)




Making Crooks Uncomfortable 

Although elements of CPTED are referred to individually in security applications, the complete CPTED is the right way it should be implemented. This theory, popular in modern crime prevention, promotes modifying existing environments in order to influence human behavior. CPTED objectives are to create a distinct sense of discomfort for any criminal element.  Usually applied to new developments as an initial component of the design process, principles of CPTED can be integrated into older communities and individual properties.

Using CPTED, architects, urban planners, community developers and even homeowners try to get inside a potential criminals head. The goal is to make an environment that is off-putting and discouraging to criminals while cultivating a sense of comfort, protection and security for residents and communities.

Properly applied, CPTED will result in properties that encourage natural surveillance while discouraging criminal activity. There are four fundamentals that make up CPTED.


Natural Surveillance

  •  Criminals usually don’t like to be observed, preferring locations where they can hide and easily slip away.
  • Windows should look out over walkways, driveways, parking areas, etc.
  • Window coverings should be left open.
  • Use passing traffic (cars, bicycles and pedestrians) as a surveillance advantage.
  • Have landscaping assist surveillance, especially in the vicinity of the entryway and places most likely to be targeted by dodgy characters.
  • Use the shortest, most open fencing suitable for your situation
  • Keep entrances like the front door and garage door well lit at all times with a clear line of sight from inside and out.
  • Get rid of hiding spots like hedges and remove trees, bushes and fences that offer concealment.
  • Be sure potential tricky spots are well lit: pathways, stairs, entrances, the mailbox, children’s play places and storage areas.


Natural access control

Natural access control restricts the chance of crime by clearly defining between public and private areas. By using the position of entryways, lighting, fencing and landscaping to limit entry or control flow, natural access control takes place.

  • Have one primary entrance to your home that is easy to identify.
  • Use buildings or landscaping to channel visitors to your designated entryway.
  • Use thorny shrubs as low hedges below ground level windows and discourage intruders by growing thorny climbers over fences.
  • Take away any structure or design feature that gives access to the roof or upper levels.
  • Use hip-height, picket-style fencing around the property to control access and encourage observation.
  • Have a locking gate between the front and backyards.
  • Put open-type fencing along the side boundaries to encourage communication between neighbors.


Territorial reinforcement

Territorial reinforcement produces an environment that clearly defines private space, creating a sense of ownership. Because an owner has a vested interest, they are likely to challenge intruders or turn them in. An environment where “strangers” or “prowlers” stick out makes them easily recognized. By using buildings, lighting, fences and landscaping to claim ownership, natural territorial reinforcement occurs.

  • Maintained premises and landscaping communicates an aware and dynamic presence occupying the space.
  • Plant trees. Research shows that outdoor residential spaces with more trees are perceived to be significantly more attractive, safer, and more used than similar areas with no trees.
  • Limit private activities to demarcated private areas.
  • Have an alarm system in place? Put up the security system signage at the entry points.
  • Bypass radical measures like razor-wire fence topping. By using extreme barriers you are signalling a lack of  physical presence and less chance of being spotted.



Maintenance is connected to territorial reinforcement. With a well -maintained area, a community is saying “people notice and care about what happens here.” This message discourages vandalism and other crimes.

Law enforcement agencies sometimes refer to the “Broken Windows Theory.”  This postulates that one broken window will tempt vandals to break another window and another, etc. The resulting vandalized area then becomes more appealing for higher levels of crime.

For safety and pride of ownership, communities should be well –maintained. Developing a strong sense of community and good-neighborliness makes a neighborhood more secure.

These measures make the legitimate visitor feel safe and give a potential criminal warning of possible observation or arrest. Crime is deterred from areas where residents take pride in what they own and go to the proper measures to protect their belongings. It becomes more of a challenge. Criminals don’t want difficult; the more difficult it is to commit a crime in a community, the less crime will occur. Put the theories behind CPTED into action to keep yourself, your family, and your community safe from crime.

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