Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)

Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)


The external physical environment can wield a direct influence on crime situations by defining areas, cutting or enhancing accessibilityby creating or eliminating boundaries and circulation networks, and by enabling surveillance by the police and citizenry. The prevalence of crime is inversely correlated to the level of activity on the streets; less activity equals less surveillance which in turn equals more opportunity for criminal activity to go unseen. CPTED emphasizes on design features that support natural surveillance of an area by residents, the goal being to reduce or eliminate the occurrence of crime. The CPTED approach is a crime prevention program that is based on: a shift from a punishment or treatment model to a prevention model; an interdisciplinary theory of behavior which is psychobiological in nature; and an appreciation for the role of the physical environment in behavior, including criminal behavior. In related literature, CPTED has proved to be an effective and less costly approach to deterring crime.


Crime prevention through environmental design is an important concept in security planning. CPTED is the proper design and effective use of the built environment that can lead to a lessening of the fear and occurrence of criminal activity with an improvement of the quality of life.According to the International CPTED Association (ICA), CPTED has as its basic premise that the apposite design and effective use of the physical environment can lead to a reduction in the incidence and fear of crime, thereby improving the quality of life.It acknowledges the idea that the community residents can playan active part in crime prevention by recognizing theenvironmental conditions that make certain areas more attractive as targets to criminals. This essay presents a brief overview of the concept CPTED, arguing that CPTED as an approach to crime prevention through environmental design is effective in reducing crime, as well as in reducing fear of crime in the community.

Summary and Analysis

CPTED has been successfully applied for more than 40 years to address crime and enhance a community’s quality of life.The crime prevention principle of CPTED goes beyond the traditional target hardening techniques of locks on doors and bars on windows. It is a philosophy of preventing crime by designing a physical environment that positively influences human behavior. Crime prevention is a simple and direct approach that protects thetargeted victim from criminal attack by predicting the possibility of attack and eliminating or minimizing the prospect for it to occur. Thus, the conceptual force of the CPTED philosophy is that the physical environment can be manipulated to produce desired behavioral effects that will lead to a reduction of fear and incidence of crime.


Information and Examples of CPTED

The CPTED philosophy embodies several concepts. Firstly, the term environment includes people and their physical and social surroundings. Secondly, the term design includes the physical, social management, and law enforcement directives that seek to positively affect human behavior as people interact in and with their environment. Thus, CPTED programs aspire to prevent certain crimes within a defined environment by manipulating the variables that are closely related to the environment itself. They seek to develop solutions that involve the variables that can be evaluated and manipulated in the specified human/ environment relationship.In this regard, CPTED involves the designing of physical space that will support the intended use of the space, the needs of legitimate users, and the predictable behavior of both legitimate users and offenders. Therefore, proper CPTED design recognizes the designated use of the space, identifies the crime problem associated to the area, defines the solution compatible with the designated use, and incorporates the crime prevention strategies that enhance the effective use of the space. To achieve this approach, CPTED draws on physical and urban design strategies as well as on contemporary thinking in the behavioral and social sciences and law enforcement organizations.

CPTED builds on the four key strategies of Territoriality/Defensible space, maintenance, milieu, natural surveillance, activity support and access control(Schneider, 2005). Territoriality refers to people protecting territory that they feel is their own and have a certain respect for the territory of others. Fences, pavement treatment, art, good maintenance, and landscaping are some physical ways to express ownership. Identifying intruders is much easier in a well-defined space.Natural surveillance is a design concept intended to make intruders easily observable.It is promoted by features that maximize visibility of people, parking areas, and entrances. Lighting and landscaping can be schemed to allow for natural surveillance both from inside a building or home as well as from the outside by neighbors or people. For example, doors and windows which look onto streets and parking areas.

Activity support involves encouraging legitimate activity in public space to discourage crime.A basketball court in a public park or community center will provide recreation for youths whilst making unfamiliar person more conspicuous and allowing for active natural surveillance as well as the perception of ownership. Any endeavor that moves the community out and working collectively,such as, a neighborhood watch group, a block party, a civic meeting, or clean-up day, helps prevent crime.Natural Access controlon the other hand,involves decreasing opportunities for criminal activity by limiting entry to crime targets and creating a feeling of risk in offenders.  It is accomplished by designing entrances and neighborhood gateways to mark public routes, streets, sidewalks, and by using physical elements to prevent and deter entry to private areas. Access control can be as simple as simple as areceptionist in a front office, or a neighbor on the front porch. Other strategies include closing streets to through traffic or introducing neighborhood-based parking stickers.

There are three choices for situational crime prevention; increasing the difficulty to commit the crime by frequent patrols or environmental design or other security measures; increasing the risk of getting caught, either by surveillance, patrols, proactive and aggressive neighborhood involvement; and removing rewards such as instituting a graffiti management program. All these are measures inherent in CPTED.

The pros and cons of using CPTED in the inner city vs. using it in the suburban residential environment

The Prosof using CPTED in the inner city and in the suburban residential environment

The benefits of using CPTED are common to both the inner city environment and the suburban residential environment.The benefits of deploying the use of CPTED far outweigh its disadvantages. According to the National Crime Prevention Council (2015)CPTED has benefits to community residents, municipal leadership, law enforcement and business leaders as well as planners.The benefits of using CPTED to community residents in both the inner city and suburbanenvironments include:  fewer cases crimes committed and fewer victimization of residents; improved sense of security and quality of life through reduced fear of crime; increased interactions among residents and stronger neighborhood bonds; opportunities to communities members to play meaningful roles in community crime prevention and new crime prevention and problem-solving skills. Law enforcement agencies will benefit from opportunities to play meaningful roles in community crime prevention; sustainable links with planning, development, code enforcement and other local agencies; and new crime prevention and problem-solving initiatives.Business owners and leaders will gain safer locations that are more attractive to customers and employees and improved problem-solving partnerships with local government and community members.Intangible benefits of CPTED may also result. For example, the ties between public law enforcement, private security, city planners and area builders are strengthened.

The use of CPTED increases citizen’s surveillance, or “eyes on the streets” and this helps to maintain vitality and reduce crimes in inner-city neighborhoods. Increased visibility and separation of space into areas assigned to smaller groups of residents encourages resident’s sense of territoriality and improve their feeling of ability to control that space, as well as their willingness to do so.

The Cons of CPTED

While the use of CPTED has been proved to effective in crime prevention, it suffers from some shortcomings, albeit a few. Two key environmental factors have been identified as being associated with high levels of crime. These are low illumination and dormancy in public spaces after dark. This is especially the case in large areas of public space.  Extremely low-density settings with highly privatized spaces and lack of sense of public realm typically do not facilitate natural surveillance in public spaces. Therefore, in such contexts, typical in suburban residential environments, the use of CPTED will be ineffective in deterring crime.Thus, other approaches to deterring crime will need to be employed (Wenzel, 2007). However, it is worth noting that generally crime hotspots are more likely to be associated with clusters of public housing properties or housing concentrations more common in the inner city, diffusing outward into nearby private housing areas.

Some studies have stated that social interventions are more effective than physical/CPTED interventions in reducing crimes in both the inner city and the suburban residential environment. The authors further add that without supporting social strategies, CPTED interventions are limited in reducing crime.


Review of literature concludes that there is a growing body of studies that support the assertion that crime prevention through environmental design is effective in reducing crime, as well as fear of crime in the community. Individual components of CPTED such as territoriality, maintenance, surveillance, activity support, and accesscontrol, as well as target hardening, are being widely employed and this has resulted to lower levels of crime in such areas. It is therefore advisable that this approach to handling crime is employed by community residents, municipal leadership, law enforcement and business leaders as well as planners.



National Crime Prevention Council. (2015, April 12). Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Training Program. Retrieved from National Crime Prevention Council:

Peak, K. J. (2010). Justice Administration: Police, Courts, and Corrections Management. NY: Upper Saddle River.

Schneider, R. H. (2005). INTRODUCTION: CRIME PREVENTION THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (CPTED): THEMES, THEORIES, PRACTICE, AND CONFLICT. Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, 22(4), 271-283.

Wenzel, R. L. (2007). CPTED: Interpreting Contemporary Security Practices in the Era of Homeland Security. Michigan: ProQuest.

Do you need an Original High Quality Academic Custom Essay?