Environmental Design can deter crime


As we anticipate warmer weather, we start thinking about getting out in the yard and doing some yard work. I would like to offer up some tips when doing yard work that might make your home or property safer from crime. This concept I am referring to is called CPTED, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.

CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts. Research into criminal behavior shows that the decision to offend or not to offend is more influenced by cues to the perceived risk of being caught than by cues to reward or ease of entry. Certainty of being caught is the main deterrence for criminals, not the severity of the punishment, so by raising the certainty of being captured criminal actions will decrease. Consistent with this research, CPTED-based strategies emphasize enhancing the perceived risk of detection and apprehension.

Natural surveillance is a key concept in the CPTED principle. Natural surveillance increases the perceived risk of attempting crimes by improving visibility of potential offenders to the public. Natural surveillance occurs by designing the placement of physical features, activities and people in such a way as to maximize visibility of the space and its users, fostering positive social interaction among legitimate users of private and public areas. Potential offenders feel increased scrutiny, and thus inherently perceive an increase in risk. This perceived increase in risk extends to the perceived lack of viable and covert escape routes.

  • Leave window shades open when you are out gives home lived in look.
  • Leave lights on when you are not at home same reason.
  • Always leave outdoor lighting on.
  • Plant hostile bushes or plants underneath windows making it less attractive of an entry point for the criminal.
  • Use passing vehicular traffic as a surveillance asset.
  • Create landscaping that provides surveillance, especially in proximity to designated points of entry and opportunistic points of entry.
  • Use the shortest, least sight-limiting fence appropriate for the situation.
  • Improve your outdoor lighting to avoid poorly placed lights that create blind-spots for potential observers and miss critical areas. Ensure potential problem areas are well lit: pathways, stairs, entrances/exits.
  • Avoid too-bright lights that creates blinding glare.
  • Use shielded or cut-off luminaires to control glare.
  • Place lighting along pathways and other pedestrian-use areas at proper heights.


  • Maintenance
    • Maintenance is another key concept within CPTED; it is an expression of ownership of property. Deterioration indicates less control by the intended users of a site and indicates a greater tolerance of disorder.
    • The Broken Windows Theory is a valuable tool in understanding the importance of maintenance in deterring crime. Broken Windows theory proponents support a zero tolerance approach to property maintenance, observing that the presence of a broken window will entice vandals to break more windows in the vicinity. The sooner broken windows are fixed, the less likely it is that such vandalism will occur in the future. Vandalism falls into the broken windows category as well. The faster the graffiti is painted over, the less likely one is to repeat because no one saw what has been done. Having a positive image in the community shows a sense of pride and self-worth that no one can take away from the owner of the property.