The National Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) intensively works with stakeholders from cities across the country to inform and teach them key strategies to make their communities safer – by design.  The strategy is crime prevention through environmental design or CPTED. 

CPTED brings together law enforcement, architects, city planners, landscape and interior designers, and residents to provide them with a clear approach that helps to create a climate of safety in a community right from the start. CPTED’s goal is to prevent crime by designing a physical environment that positively influences human behavior.

Although CPTED principles are not new ideas, the process for implementing them is new. NCPC’s approach is a three-pronged interactive approach for getting the entire community working together. NCPC begins with teaching stakeholders the CPTED principles, touring key areas within the community (in the daytime and nighttime) to assess the challenges and how the principles can be applied and having the stakeholders discuss and write an action plan for addressing the challenges with dates of completion and responsible parties. Writing the action plan is key, because it gives the stakeholders ownership and investment in their community.

NCPC’s success has been well documented. In the recently published Best Practices for Using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Weed and Seed Sites (NCPC, 2009), NCPC chronicles its work with ten Weed and Seed communities, detailing successes with five of the sites in Dallas, TX, Manchester, NH, Montgomery, AL, North Charleston, SC, and Troy, NY.  

What are the results from CPTED implementation?  Just ask the residents living in these revitalized communities. While the number of calls for police service decreases and the overall look of the community is improved, that’s not the only measure of success. Most importantly, it’s the community’s perceptions or fears about crime that decreases that lead to a better quality of life and that connects with NCPC’s mission “to be the nation’s leader in helping people keep themselves, their families and their communities safe from crime.”

Fight Crime With Flower Power!

By Harry Erickson – CPTED Security Consultants

Sure, most parts of the U.S. may be headed for a long winter, but spring will be here soon. Think green and fight crime.    

What? Battle bad guys with Bougainvillea? Foil felons with Fuchsias, and chase criminals with Camellias? Can flowers actually help prevent crime at your property? The answer is “yes.” Flowers and landscape plants can not only beautify your property, but can be an effective crime fighting tool as well.

Today, many security professionals are turning to the softer side of crime prevention, and complimenting locks and deadbolts with landscape plants, flowers and other design features to provide an additional layer of safety and security.

The one aspect of CPTED, Natural Surveillance, is that criminals feel less comfortable in areas where they are being watched, or may be seen. Keeping shrubs and trees trimmed to maintain the feeling of openness and visibility makes the criminal element feel like they are at risk of getting caught. On the other hand, legitimate users of an area feel safer because they can see what is going on around them and can see potential threats and respond quicker. A property with overgrown and unkempt landscape is an invitation for criminals. 

Natural Access Control utilizes landscape plants and other natural design elements to channel people away from unauthorized areas. For instance, a paved walkway lined with flowers strongly suggests the approved route to a proper entrance. A thorny vine or rose bush can restrict access to windows or a graffiti-plagued wall, and add beauty to the property as well. The goal of using landscape plants is not necessarily to prevent, but to discourage trespassing into unauthorized areas. This is accomplished in a more subtle way rather than overwhelming the environment with the presence of “hard” security measures.

Territorial Reinforcement is based on the idea that criminals feel less comfortable operating in areas where they perceive someone is in control. Territorial Reinforcement utilizes “Pride in Ownership” to send a clear message that the people responsible for a property take pride in it and will challenge someone coming there to commit crimes. Utilizing decorative pavers or colored concrete and freshly planted flowers to identify private property gives residents a sense of territoriality and projects the image that someone is responsible for the property. Criminals are less likely to commit crimes where they feel that there are people who take an interest in the property and will protect it.

Take a look around your property and decide if it offers added opportunity for crime. Is it an attractive target for criminals due to the lack of a little TLC, or does it project the image that care has been taken to maintain it? Remember, an overgrown ficus tree can offer opportunity for a criminal to operate unnoticed. On the other hand, a delicate row of daisies can be a subtle but powerful guardian, protecting your property, while looking good doing it.