Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is the ability to influence a criminal’s decision-making process before the criminal act. To impact the suspected criminal’s behavior, CPTED incorporates the physical designs of facilities, the inclusion of employees and citizens, as well as local law enforcement. CPTED is utilized in cities, neighborhoods, business organizations, schools, and even transportation systems. Its implemented through the combination of architectural, electronic and organizational strategies. The CPTED principles are deterring, delaying, detecting and denying an adversary entry into a facility and reducing their ability to cause harm.

Legitimate Activity Support

In keeping with the CPTED principles and implementing the strategies, CPTED can discourage illegal activity and protect property from chronic problem activity. To support legitimate activity in public, private and semi-private zones, the concept has several utilizations. A few examples are:

  • Adequate lighting is used to deter and detect any possible adversaries.
  • Using visually permeable fencing permits detection, denial and delay while supporting surveillance via CCTV, employees, pedestrians or security guards.
  • Along with the fencing, the landscape can be positioned in a manner to define zones and deter passage.

Picture your local mall, shopping center or large business; most have what appear to be large flower pots, a fountain or benches at their entrances. The additions are aesthetically pleasing and encourage the use of the area, but most also serve as bollards for vehicles, and their positioning clearly defines the space. The CPTED concepts can be implemented at any time but are cost-effective when developed during the construction process instead of afterward.

Improper Use

As the saying goes, ?too much of anything is bad.’ Implementing too many elements and designs of CPTED or inappropriate utilization can have the opposite desired effect. Over-hardening makes an area undesirable and leads to minimal pedestrian and employee usage. Reducing the number of people in an area increases its targetability and vulnerability. There are several improper uses of CPTED depicted in the picture below. First, the wall behind the parking area limits the movement of pedestrians and employees making the area undesirable. Portions of the parking area are tucked in behind the building make observation difficult. The CCTV camera placed to observe the parking lot does not seem to be day/night capable. The camera will only be useful during the day as there is no sign of lighting in or around the parking lot. Imagine leaving this building at night and walking behind the building to your car in a dark, poorly lit and partially enclosed area.


The purpose of CPTED concepts and strategies is the reduction of opportunities for crime to occur. The reductions achieved by employing physical design features that discourage crime while encouraging legitimate use of the environment. CPTED can work in housing, businesses, industries, public buildings, recreation areas, parks, and schools. When used correctly, it’s a concept that can be used effectively to secure one building or an entire city.

Up Next: IP Theft: Your Company's Worse Enemy