Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) Approach

Security design and access control are more than bars on windows, a security guard booth, a camera, or a wall. Crime prevention involves the systematic integration of design, technology, and operation for the protection of three critical assets-people, information, and property. Protection of these assets is a concern and should be considered throughout the design and construction process.

The most efficient, least expensive way to provide security is during the design process. Designers who are called on to address security and crime concerns must be able to determine security requirements, must know security technology, and must understand the architectural implications of security needs.

Consider the following picture of an office campus below. What do you observe? Note down what all do you think represents this campus.

Here are some important points worth mentioning :
  • Well-Paved footpaths.
  • Proper guidance of people entering and leaving by giving them a designated path to walk upon.
  • Seating Arrangement
  • Proper Lighting arrangements
  • A clear line of sight.
While designing the physical security program, CPTED - crime prevention through environmental design is one of the most commonly used approaches. Let us understand this approach in detail.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a set of design principles used to discourage crime. The concept is simple: Buildings and properties are designed to prevent damage from the force of the elements and natural disasters; they should also be designed to prevent crime. The place needs to be designed to deter criminals so that crime does not take place.

CPTED anticipates and is based upon the premise that the physical environment can be manipulated to create behavior changes in the way people behave. If benches and tables are placed in a park, there is a high chance that people will use them and sit on them. Inadvertently, they will behave as security guards and keep a look at the activities of the people passing by. 

CPTED principles are based on anticipating the thought processes of a potential offender and creating an environment that discourages follow-through. CPTED has the added advantage of creating a sense of security and well-being among employees and tenants. When CPTED is put into practice, the resulting environment - including the building and its surroundings - will discourage or impede criminal behavior, and at the same time encourage honest citizens to keep a watchful eye.

CPTED provides three main strategies to implement the design principles of the physical environment to increase the overall protection.
  • Natural Access Control
  • Natural Surveillance 
  • Natural territorial Enforcement

Natural Access Control

This technique ensures that access is controlled in the most natural way. It ensures proper guidance of people entering and leaving the premises by proper landscaping, placement of doors, lighting, fences etc.

Think from the perspective of a thief. Will you be more comfortable robbing a place which is completely lit, under CCTV control, locked etc? Every criminal is more comfortable in a dark alley, unlocked doors, and windows etc.

Sidewalks, lighted bollards, and clear sight lines are used as natural access controls. They work together to give individuals a feeling of being in a safe environment and help dissuade criminals by working as deterrents.

Natural Surveillance

We have often seen movies where the good old nosy neighbor knows about all the moves of the person who gets murdered. The police nabs the perpetrator just by getting inputs from this form of unwanted surveillance. While natural surveillance is not about neighbor but it does borrow some of the good things from this.

Natural surveillance is the use and placement of physical environmental features, personnel walkways, and activity areas in ways that maximize visibility. Instead of CCTV and round the clock personnel monitoring the walkways, you make the physical environment in such a way that people around you act as security guards unknowingly and involuntarily. Benches in parks and organizations are kept so that you just don’t sit there, but observe around yourself.

Inadvertently, you will make the criminal uncomfortable in committing the crime as he may feel that he is being watched. Specially created walkways, cycle ways etc are other ways to help enforce natural surveillance.

Natural Territorial Enforcement

What will you do to defend your home? Anything? This is because you have a sense of ownership for the place. In a similar manner, natural territorial enforcement creates physical designs that create a sense of belonging. This ownership creates a feeling so that people ensure that they defend the place where they work or own. Territorial reinforcement can be implemented through the use of walls, fences, landscaping, light fixtures, flags, clearly marked addresses, and decorative sidewalks.

CPTED also encourages activity support, which is planned activities for the areas to be protected. These activities are designed to get people to work together to increase the overall awareness of acceptable and unacceptable activities in the area. The activities could be neighborhood watch groups, company barbeques, block parties, or civic meetings. This strategy is sometimes the reason for the particular placement of basketball courts, soccer fields, or baseball fields in open parks. The increased activity will hopefully keep the bad guys from milling around doing things the community does not welcome.

What is your take on the CPTED approach? Share in the comment(s) section below.


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