Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design – Natural Surveillance

By |2021-03-17T09:50:24-06:00March 17th, 2021|


Have you heard of the crime prevention theory, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)? Simply put, this approach focuses on how the physical environment and our own established norms change our behavior. There are four main components to CPTED, Natural Surveillance, Natural Access Controls, Natural Territorial Reinforcement, and Maintenance/Management. Today we will be discussing Natural Surveillance.

The easiest way to think about this component of CPTED is that criminals do not want to be seen when committing crimes, so we should take every step possible, to increase visibility. One of the best ways to increase visibility around your property is to create an activity generator. Something like a centralized mailbox accomplishes this perfectly. Every time someone goes to check the mail or the mail is being delivered they are essentially acting like a security guard on patrol, performing a “tour” across the property.

Something as simple as ensuring a person can see who is inside a room or space before entering can be a big improvement. Glass doors and additional windows in a laundry room are a great example of this. You can see inside and out, making residents feel more comfortable while leaving criminals feeling more exposed. Another example would be to utilize open staircases. The open design works just like having a glass door and additional windows in the laundry room, people are visible through the stairs.

The easiest and sometimes quickest way to increase visibility on your property is through lighting and landscaping. You could add visibility through windows, activity generators, or open staircases, but what help is it if there isn’t proper lighting? Increasing lighting throughout your property is important, but you should also focus on additional forms of lighting to help draw attention to access control points and potential hiding spots. Like poor lighting, poor or overgrown landscaping is an easy fix. Ensure all landscaping around windows or other vantage points are trimmed and maintained. This will keep all visibility unobstructed and limit potential hiding places.

Maybe you don’t have the budget right now to make improvements to your lighting or stairs but consider at the very least addressing your landscaping. Trimming hedges or trees cannot only help increase the chance of visibility but will also remove hiding places throughout. In deterring crime, it matters just as much if the offender thinks they will be observed, versus actually being seen.