CPTED vegetation

CPTED – Security Design Beyond the Acronym

Dana Frentz, CHPA, PSPSecurity Program Development


CPTED vegetationAs progressive managers and owners of contemporary organizations search for ways to reduce company losses caused by criminal acts, they are beginning to examine more closely the actual environment in which these crimes take place. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) as part of a security design can reduce the fear of crime. It can also reduce the actual incidence of crime and the perception that the area is conducive to criminal acts.

This concept works in residential, commercial, and industrial applications. Security experts have successfully applied these concepts to areas as large as multiple building complexes or as small as individual rooms. In short, the root of the concept is that by managing the environment, employees and visitors will feel the presence and behavior-controlling influence of others. This, in turn, can stimulate territorial concern and pride in one’s surroundings which reinforces the environmental controls.

Because of COVID-19, our workplaces and business assets are more vulnerable than ever. Many businesses that were bustling, heavily-populated environments are closed or required to limit the number of employees and customers on site. Office buildings are vacant or have limited occupancy as employees work from home. Unemployment is at record levels. COVID-19 has strained our emotional well-being. All of this and so many other aspects of COVID-19 are putting our business and home assets at risk unlike anything we have ever experienced.

CPTED is a powerful security tool that uses the physical and psychological elements of landscape and architecture to improve security and quality of life by creating a space that feels safe. Simply put, it is designing the built environment to reduce the opportunity for – and the fear of – Crime and Disorder.

CPTED is a blend of disciplines and principles by which the physical environment can be manipulated to produce behavioral effects that will reduce the incidence of crime.

Remember that ecurity events are deliberate actions by people to cause harm.

The 6 D’s – Designation, Definition, Design, Deter, Detect, and Delay

The principles of CPTED allow us to change the physical environment so that it doesn’t lend support to criminal behavior. Good security design enhances the effective use of space and at the same time prevents crime. Subsequently, it makes the crime prevention program more effective. To be effective, users must be engaged in the legitimate activity for which the space was intended – the designated, defined, and designed function of the areas or building.

Likewise, deter, detect, and delay are well-known security objectives for target hardening. Firstly, the concept of “deter” focuses primarily on denying access to an area. It is equally critical to detect when a breach in security is being attempted. Finally, facilities should assure obstacles are in place to delay access until response can occur.

Four basic principles of CPTED include:

  • Natural Surveillance – Create an environment where people can see and be seen with adequate lighting. Manage vegetation to support well-being by taking away the feelings of stealth or anonymity. Create an environment where anomalies stand out.
  • Natural Access Control – Parking lots, directional signs, sidewalks, and landscaping all support how people travel within the space and support expectations we have of persons on site. Guide and reinforce expectations and control access to a minimum number of entry control points.
  • Territorial Reinforcement – Fences, landscaping, and signs support the establishment of boundaries and expectations. Let people know what is acceptable and what is not as they enter the environment. Take away the ability for someone to say “I didn’t know”.
  • Maintenance and Management – The psychology that supports our actions for good or bad is based on our perception of owner expectations. If the environment is manicured and well cared for, then people will be more protective of the space. The opposite is also true.
CPTED Security Design Process

CPTED allows us to use the natural environment to enhance or provide the same effects as mechanical hardening.

The CPTED security design process should be applied on several levels creating a layered defensible space. Site security design, the building perimeter, and the inner building areas are points of specific protection.

Security experts divide defensible space into four levels of territoriality: Public, Semi-Public, Semi-Private, and Private spaces. Security layering and territorial boundaries are like a pair of protective arms wrapping around your property or site.

In short, the effective use of the “built environment” will reduce the fear of crime, reduce the incidence of crime, and improve the quality of life.

You can read more about CPTED here.