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Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

‘CPTED’ is an acronym that stands for ‘Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design’. It is a method of crime prevention that is closely linked with environmental criminology which is the concept of environmental design and environmental management put together.

“The nature of the built environment can affect the level of crime both by influencing potential offenders and by affecting the ability of the person to exercise control over their surroundings”. (J. Jacobs, O. Newman & C. R. Jeffery – An Introduction to Criminological Theory) “The main objective of CPTED is to reduce/remove the opportunity for crime to occur in an environment, and promote positive interaction with the space by legitimate users. CPTED is a preventative, pro-active model, and not a reactive one”. (Design for Security, 2018)

The theoretical foundations embodied by ‘defensible space’ were also apparent to Moffat (1983), who commented that `CPTED’ is divided into 6 areas:


Features put in place which clearly display whether a property is public or private. The idea behind this concept is for an individual to develop a sense of ownership. This is because by having a sense of ownership, it will make the individual want to defend his/her environment.


This includes features that enable the property to be more visible. By having more light on a property it enables people to see who is around the property vicinity and due to having more visible light, will hopefully deter someone away from causing trouble. In addition by having more visibility on a property, neighbourhood houses around the property are also able to see any suspicious activity. Examples of surveillance features include landscaping, windows, lights and building entrance and garage layouts.

Access control

Features put in place which clearly display whether a property is public or private. The hope is that by having these features put in pace, it will reduce the amount of crime that is committed by offenders. By making a property clearly displayed ‘private’ it would mean that the offender would have to take the risk in attempting to access it. Examples of access control features are exits and fences to control the traffic flow.

Target Hardening

This concept surrounds itself around mechanical devices such as locks, security systems and alarms. The idea behind these features is that by having these in place it will help to reduce the amount of crime committed. However, these features could also cause individuals to feel unsafe in their environment.

Image / Maintenance

This links to the ‘Broken window theory’. If a property is left looking deteriorated and unloved then this shows a lack of care and ownership for the property. To potential offenders, this gives them an opportunity to vandalise the property. The ‘Broken window theory’ explains that if a window is left broken and unfixed for a period of time, vandals will break more windows.

Activity support

The idea behind this subsection is that within every household, residents have different routines, whether that be families whose parents go to work and children go to school or when individuals go on holiday and leave their house unattended for a period of time. This, therefore, means that in some households, during the day their properties are left vacant. Criminals know their neighbourhood and tend to target the properties which they know are vacant at a given time. Offenders are more likely going to target a property when the house is vacant and when they believe they are not going to get apprehended.

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