In my urban planning practice, I find that most people know very little about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). While this is not shocking news, since CPTED is an abstract approach to property safety and security, a simplified version should be in every homeowner’s proverbial toolbox.
Since the introduction of the “Eyes on the Street” philosophy by Jane Jacobs nearly half a century ago, the notion of a safer community through environmental design has significantly grown in popularity. This notion has matured into a set of review tools known as CPTED.
By using a few simple CPTED principles, you can significantly decrease the likelihood of crime occurring to and around your home.
CPTED is a multi-disciplinary, scientifically proven approach to deterring criminal behaviour. It relies on the physical environment to influence an offender’s choices prior to them committing the criminal act.
This approach can be used on any size building or property; from a small home to a large commercial or office building. Given the current terrorist climate around the world, most governments now require a CPTED audit of all new and existing government buildings.
There are four main principles:
1. Natural surveillance
Maximizing visibility and the opportunity for observation through the placement and design of physical and social features. This refers to the placement of gathering spaces/points of interest, building orientation, lighting, windows, entrances/exits, parking lots, walkways, security stations, fencing, landscaping, vegetation, signage and any other physical obstructions. This principle helps create the perception of risk to an offender, making them feel as though they are noticeable and even being watched.
2. Natural access control
A logical and organized design to restrict, encourage and safely channel movement of people and vehicles into, out of, and within a site in a controlled manner. This principle helps create the perception of control over the offender and easily identifies those who venture into areas not intended for their use, such as physically creating a landscaped pathway or sidewalk to a main doorway. If people venture off this natural path, they will stand out and become noticeable to others.
3. Territorial reinforcement
Defined property lines and clear distinctions between public, semi-private and private spaces. These distinctions can be achieved through physical or visual designs such as a change of pavement material, subtle landscaping or as obvious as privacy fencing. This principle helps create a perceived sense of permission for the rightful user and helps more easily identify those who venture into areas not intended for their use.
Maintaining a property’s image and cleanliness. Well-maintained buildings and grounds inform potential offenders that “someone is home”. This principle helps create a perceived sense of occupancy to the offender; making them think twice before committing a crime.
By using these principles at the design stage, an increase in safety and security will result. Furthermore, by conducting a CPTED audit of an existing building or property, key improvements will be identified that will significantly decrease the likelihood of crime occurring and may even lower your property’s insurance rates.
Another positive result of CPTED is the reduction a person’s “fear of crime”. This is the emotional anxiety that a crime is going to occur to or around a person. It is the primary reason why we no longer hitch-hike or allow children to walk to school on their own. If you are in a well-designed, well lit, physically maintained and highly visible space, your fear of crime significantly diminishes; hence the space is much more pleasant and inviting.
Given these positive aspects of CPTED and the simplicity of their application, I am continuously surprised that more of my clients aren’t already aware of the concept.
It is in everyone’s interest to have a basic understanding of CPTED so that they can apply these principles in and around their own home or workplace to create a safer, happier and more secure environment for everyone to enjoy.