Does your apartment security plan focus on locks, surveillance cameras,
security screen doors and solid walls? If so, you may be contributing to
something nearly as bad as the crime you are trying to prevent. Perception is
the fear of crime can be as devastating as crime itself. Most
property owners want to do whatever they can to ensure a reasonable degree of
safety for their tenants and guests. Quite often, the only options owners are
aware of are "target-hardening" focused. While locks and other mechanical
devices are effective tools in crime prevention, an overwhelming presence of
security bars, black metal screen doors and other visible security devices gives
people an uneasy feeling because they perceive the area to be "high-risk." They
will ultimately spend little time there or avoid it all together. There are
other strategies you can incorporate, which will actually increase security
while reducing the visible presence of such. This is known as "Crime Prevention
Through Environmental Design, or "CPTED."
"sep-ted") is the proper design and effective use of a built environment which
leads to a reduction in the fear and incidence of crime. CPTED weighs heavily
the importance of reducing a person's fear of crime, through environmental
design. Not only does it reduce a person's fear of crime, but it also increases
a criminal's fear of being caught, therefore reducing crime itself. There are
four main CPTED design principles
which I will outline for you.
1. Natural Surveillance
"See and be seen" is the overall goal when it comes to natural surveillance. A
person is less likely to commit a crime if they think someone will see them do
it. Lighting and landscape play an important role in achieving this. Keep your
landscape trimmed so that it does not interfere with lighting or natural
sightlines from public areas and windows. Make sure that your property is
adequately and evenly lighted after dark. Utilize decorative wrought iron
fencing material whenever appropriate. This is especially important in areas
which are isolated such as patios, sideyards and backyards. The idea is to give
potential intruders the sense risk from the thought that they are being watched.
Another effective method of achieving this is by placing more "eyes on the
street." Encourage your tenants to spend time outside through creation of
"activity support areas." These include front porches, child-play areas and
benches placed in common areas where legitimate users will sit and observe what
is happening around them.
2. Natural Access
Access control is more than a high block wall topped with barbed wire. Remember,
you want to create a sense of risk to potential offenders, without contributing
to a legitimate user's fear of crime.
CPTED utilizes walkways, low fences,
lighting, signage and landscape to clearly guide people to and from the proper
entrances. The goal is not necessarily to keep intruders out, but to direct the
flow of people while decreasing the opportunity for crime. For instance, if you
want to control access to a row of 1st story windows, you might plant a row of
roses or other low-growing thorny plants immediately below those windows. Most
criminals will select "the path of least resistance" when targeting a victim.
The roses won't prevent someone from gaining access to the windows if they
really want it, but it might discourage them. Another example addresses the
narrow side areas at your property which are very vulnerable. Instead of
building a 6' high solid wall, which would interfere with natural surveillance,
use decorative wrought iron to control access. Take it one step further and
place gravel down so that when someone walks on it others will be alerted to
3. Territorial Reinforcement
You want to create and extend a "sphere of influence" over your property and
distinguish private areas from public ones. This can be achieved through
physical designs features such as tiled or textured pavement, landscaping and
signage. Replace the common concrete walkway leading up to your property with a
curved, textured path lined with a row of flowers on each side. Create an arched
entryway onto your property, with the name and address of your building above
it. This will not only send the message that "you have now stepped onto private
property," but will also enable your tenants or other legitimate users to
develop a sense of proprietorship over it. Potential trespassers will perceive
this control, and again, have an increased sense of risk thereby discouraging
All the effort you put into creating a well thought out CPTED-based security
plan for your property can be quickly lost unless you maintain it. The
Theory suggests that one "broken window" or nuisance, if allowed to exist,
will lead to others and ultimately to the decline of entire neighborhoods.
Neglected and poorly maintained properties are breeding grounds for criminal
activity. In addition to keeping your landscape neatly trimmed and checking your
lighting on a regular basis, you must project the image that people at the
property care and will not tolerate criminal behavior. Keep trash picked up and
dispose of large discarded items appropriately. Immediately report graffiti to
police and paint it out. Do not allow unregistered or non-operating vehicles to
be stored on your property and enforce tenant rules and regulations.
CPTED is not an exact science, but rather a set of
principles based on human behavior.
Many CPTED techniques can be
implemented for little or no cost. If you consider these principles when
analyzing the overall design of your property in regards to security, or before
remodeling, you can create a safer and more peaceful environment for your
tenants and other legitimate users.
By: Harry Erickson, a police officer for over 17 years and a security
consultant for CPTED Security. For
more information regarding Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, visit
CPTED Security Training and Consulting
at www.cptedsecurity.com. Published
in the Apartment Journal - August 2005. To re-publish this article, please keep
credits line intact and advise us via email.