Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Why would you wait for a crime to occur if you have the means to prevent it from happening? One form of proactive strategy is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED (pronounced sep-ted). CPTED is a philosophy that uses specific design principles to work toward deterring criminal behavior while positively impacting the image and usage of an area or facility. Instead of focusing efforts after the crime has occurred, CPTED focuses on potential criminal behavior and preventing the crime from happening in the first place.

We constantly respond to our environment, whether we are aware of it or not. Effective design of our environment helps us to feel safer and reduces opportunities for criminal acts to occur. CPTED is based on the premise that the design of our environment directly affects our behavior. It influences both the opportunities for crime to take place and our fear of crime. CPTED enhances safety by altering physical design and encouraging positive social interaction. CPTED offers an alternative to creating fortress-like communities where we have to lock ourselves away to feel safe and also complements police and security strategies.

How CPTED Works:

CPTED promotes design strategies in planned environments that encourage safe behavior and reduce the opportunities for crime to occur through three inter-related basic principles:

Natural Access Control (limits access)

Guides people entering and leaving a space through the placement of entrances, exits, fences, landscaping, and lighting.  Access control can decrease opportunities for criminal activity by denying criminals access to potential targets and creating a perception of risk for would-be offenders.

Natural Surveillance (increases visibility)

The placement of physical features, activities and people in a way that maximizes visibility.  A potential criminal is less likely to attempt a crime if he or she is at risk of being observed.  Avoid landscaping that creates “blind spots” or hiding places and make sure there is effective lighting for pedestrians.

Territoriality (promotes a sense of ownership)

The use of physical attributes that express ownership such as fences, signage, landscaping, pavement designs, defined property lines and clear distinctions between private and public spaces are examples of the application of territoriality. Territoriality can be seen in entrances into a community or development, and in the use of borders and texture.

In addition to the three main principles described, two other elements support CPTED: Maintenance and Activity Support:

Maintenance (deters offenders)

A well-maintained home, building, or community creates a sense of pride. A well-kept area tends to make someone feel like they will be observed by neighbors or business owners who care about the area.  Maintenance allows for the continued use of a space for its intended purpose. It also serves as an additional expression of ownership, which helps deter criminals. If a property becomes overgrown and not cared for it encourages more crime or vandalism to occur. Without proper care, “grime leads to crime”.

Activity Support (fosters community interaction)

Encouraging activities, such as community events and social gatherings, in public spaces that are intended for use by residents and other legitimate users discourages criminal acts. The objective is to increase the number of people using a space, thereby enhancing visibility, social comfort, and control.

If you are interested in making your home or business less appealing to criminals, then start practicing CPTED strategies today.

The concepts listed here are from Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) ideology. CPTED focuses on preventing crime by designing your physical environment to positively influence human behavior. These are only recommendations based on the CPTED philosophy and if implemented cannot guarantee that your home or business is impervious to crime. Through proper lighting, well maintained landscaping, proper locks, and barriers, you are creating an environment that is less desirable to criminal activity.  

*This information was prepared using various sources from the internet, jurisdictional and industry materials, and CPTED training information and is considered general knowledge of the Basic Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles.

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