Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is based on the principle that proper design and effective use of buildings and public spaces in neighborhoods can lead to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime, and an improvement in the quality of life for citizens.

Environmental design is based on the following principles that provide change and support problem solving approaches to crime prevention:

Natural Access Control

Includes elements like doors, shrubbery, fences and gates that deny admission to a crime target and creates a perception among criminals that there is a risk in selecting this area.

Natural Surveillance

Using the visibility of the property or building. How you design the windows, lighting and landscaping plays an important role in observing criminal behavior by stationary or passing individuals. Natural surveillance maximizes the potential to deter crime by making the criminal's behavior more noticeable.

Territorial Reinforcement

Designing the layout for sidewalks, landscaping and porches help distinguish the property between public and private use. Territory can be expressed with signs of ownership that send a "hands off" message to potential offenders.

Activity Support

Activity support is the presence of activity planned for the space. Activity support involves placing activity where the individuals engaged in an activity will become part of the natural surveillance system. Examples include:

  1. Place safe activities in areas that will discourage would be offenders, to increase the natural surveillance of these activities and the perception of safety for normal users, and the perception of risk for offenders.
  2. Place high risk activities in safer locations to overcome the vulnerability of these activities by using natural surveillance and access control of the safe area.
  3. Locate gathering areas in locations that provide for natural surveillance and access control or in locations away from the view of would-be offenders.
  4. Improve the scheduling of space to allow for effective use and appropriate intensity of accepted behaviors.


Proper maintenance of landscaping, lighting treatment and other features can facilitate the principles of CPTED, territorial reinforcement, natural surveillance and natural access control. Functions include:

  1. Proper maintenance of lighting fixtures to prescribed standards.
  2. Landscaping which is maintained at prescribed standards.
  3. Minimizing the conflicts between surveillance and landscaping as the ground cover, shrubs and trees mature.

Benefits of CPTED

CPTED should be a key element in any local comprehensive crime prevention and control strategy. It encourages the community to be more intentional in the fight against crime and influences two related phenomena - the probability that a crime will occur and the public's perception of community safety.

Other strategies to prevent physical crime have emphasized fortification of property: bars on windows and doors, alarm systems, cameras, and gates. These measures have a legitimate, even vital, role. However, hardening of potential crime targets can be expensive and disruptive. Alarms, cameras, and guards may never resolve the root of the problem if the building's location or its design provide criminals an opportunity.

CPTED makes efficient use of local resources, bringing together a wide range of community members - residents, business professionals, and government agencies - to define problems, identify solutions, carry out plans, and evaluate results. CPTED enlists the most appropriate local agency or community group to help resolve the problem rather than assuming that law enforcement will take on the task.

Municipal leadership will see

  • Less crime in neighborhoods and business areas
  • Increased collaboration among city agencies to improve public safety
  • Improved perception of safety and livability in public areas and neighborhoods
  • More revenue from safer and busier business districts
  • Efficient application of local laws, ordinances, and procedures
  • Enhanced consideration of public safety in planning, development, and redevelopment projects
  • Increased use of public parks and recreation facilities

Local law enforcement will benefit from

  • Increased opportunities to develop crime prevention partnerships with residents
  • Enhanced crime prevention and problem solving skills
  • Sustainable links with planning, development, code enforcement, and other local agencies
  • Identification of potential crime problems in the community before they become serious
  • Clarification and action on neighborhood priorities related to crime and quality of life
  • Assistance in gaining recognition that crime prevention is everyone's responsibility

Residents in the community will find

  • Opportunities to play meaningful roles in community crime prevention
  • Improved sense of security and quality of life through reduced fear of crime
  • Fewer crimes committed in their neighborhood
  • Increased interaction among neighbors
  • New crime prevention and problem solving skills
  • Better knowledge of city government agencies and resources

CPTED and Community Policing

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and community policing can be viewed as part of a comprehensive crime prevention strategy.

CPTED and community policing emphasize a problem-solving approach to crime prevention as well a close cooperation between police and residents in reducing both crime and fear of crime. Because CPTED emphasizes the systematic analysis of crime in a particular location, it directly supports community policing by providing crime prevention strategies tailored to solve specific problems.

Police, citizens, and government have a role to play in preventing crime under the CPTED/community policing approach:

  • Police involvement within neighborhoods can include both foot patrol and working with community groups to strengthen citizens' sense of security and solve neighborhood problems that contribute to crime and fear of crime.
  • Residents can work together to improve neighborhood appearance and deter criminals.
  • Government can use building codes and inspection power to increase environmental security and discourage drug use and other criminal activities.