3 April 2023

Crime Prevention: Everything You Need To Know About CPTED

Appropriate response is important, but the best situation for everyone is when a crime never happens in the first place! One of the ways to do this is by implementing an agenda of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.


Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is a multi-disciplinary approach to deter offenders, build community, and reduce victimization. It uses architecture, urban planning, and facility management to “Design Out Crime”.

However, a large part of the strategy is also community participation! Many measures can be taken even if the community was not designed with CPTED in mind.

Before we jump into how it’s implemented in practice, there’s something important to understand. While “prevention” is in the name, it’s near impossible for any prevention strategy to be 100% effective. These techniques are effective crime deterrents but are not a substitute for other measures, just a supplement to them.

Natural Surveillance

These are steps taken to increase the perceived risk of taking criminal action. It most often pertains to the physical placement of objects and access to viable or covert escape routes. It might include:

  • Designing streets to increase foot traffic.
  • Placing windows overlooking sidewalks and parking lots.
  • Leaving window blinds and shades open.
  • Installing proper lighting in problem areas.
    • Pathways.
    • Stairs.
    • ATMs.
    • Bus Stops.
    • Dumpsters.
    • Parking Areas.
  • Avoiding lighting that is too bright, creating glare or even darker areas around it.
  • Ensuring every area has multiple viewpoints.

Natural Access Control

Limit opportunities for crime by clearly differentiating between public and private spaces. This might include:

  • A single, clearly identifiable point of entry.
  • Structures to control the flow of pedestrians.
  • Maze entrances for public washrooms (to avoid isolation through doors).
  • Thorny bushes to discourage intrusion over fences.
  • Use waste-level fences in front yards to increase surveillance.
  • For backyards connected to other residences: Use high fences with little to no obstructions.
  • For backyards facing public spaces: Use higher walls to block views from all angles.

Natural Territory Reinforcement

This is basically giving private areas the appearance of being owned, cared for, and safe. This does a couple of things, firstly that it makes strangers stand out. It also shows that owners have a vested interest in the property, meaning they’re more likely to challenge an introducer. It might Include:

  • Maintaining premises and landscaping.
  • Displaying security system signage.
  • Avoid chain link or razor-wire fence topping. It can often communicate long psychical absences.
  • Placing seating, refreshments, and scheduling activities in common areas.
  • Installing motion sensor lighting in entry points.

Much of the research into criminal behaviour points towards crime being influenced more by perceived risk, than any cues to reward. With CPTED, those perceptions are higher, leading to a decrease in criminal activity. In fact, analysis has pointed to a drop anywhere from 30 to 84%.

To learn more about CPTED, head to The International Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Association’s website.