Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Security depends a great deal upon environment, which can include architecture, landscaping, lighting, and many other elements. Carefully considering these features can result in a space that naturally discourages crimes simply by its design. That is the foundational theory of CPTED (pronounced Sep-ted), “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design”, which can be summarized in the following concepts.

Natural Surveillance

Criminal activity is often determined based on the inherent risk of being observed and apprehended. Targets that permit unobserved approach and retreat are preferable. To prevent this, exits, fences, landscaping, and lighting should all be designed to maximize visibility for legitimate users of a space, and increase the perceived levels of scrutiny on potential offenders. This alone can make a significant difference in reducing the potential for criminal activity.

Access Control

Entrances, exits, signage, fencing, and walkways should be laid out in ways that clearly guide people and vehicles to proper avenues of entry. This increases the subconscious perception of surveillance on potential offenders and makes it easier for legitimate users to spot traffic or activity that deviates from the established norms.

Territorial Reinforcement

Physical attributes that express ownership such as fencing, signage, and landscaping subliminally delineate between public, semi-public, and private areas. An area without these controls is more vulnerable and a more attractive target.


Neglected and poorly maintained properties often attract crime, since visible defects indicate a lack of commitment or care by the owner. Invested owners are much more likely to challenge an intruder, so properties that are well cared for are less likely to be targets.

Surveillance and Lighting

These are also important factors for effective design. In addition to natural surveillance, organized surveillance (police or hired security) and mechanical surveillance (conducted by CCTV cameras or other technology) can be effective deterrents to crime.

Lights should be arranged to avoid causing blinding glare or excessive shadows. The brightest lights might not always be the best, since human eyes have difficulty adjusting to severe lighting disparities. Lighting should also be uniform and situated in ways that reduce blind spots. Lights that flicker, are dim, or burned out should be replaced promptly.

When it comes to security, make sure you’ve taken the right steps to make your environment work for you!