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CPTED: The Science of Preventing Crime


Metal detectors. Razor wire. X-ray machines. Bars. Attack dogs. Tiger pits. This is the analysis you've been waiting for.

When you want to sound smart in Emergency Preparedness, you start spouting off acronyms like, “C.P.T.E.D”. Typically, folks who talk about crime prevention through environmental design have very grand ideas: large fences, razor wire, metal detectors, and x-ray machines. But are these expensive tools really what CPTED is all about? (one metal detector at your facility costs you the device plus two trained security personnel to man it- think in the range of $150,000 for just one)

Fortunately, good CPTED is much more realistic. Without any doubt fences, razor wire, metal detectors, and other expensive safety tools have their place (prison, anyone?). But they are not and should not be the primary topics of CPTED. At its core, CPTED is a mitigation approach that applies the best possible use of your current environment to reduce crime.

These are the main areas of CPTED:

Natural Surveillance: Arrange your building exterior and internal features to maximize visibility. This strategy should include a clear line of sight for internal staff (you can see individuals coming into/onto your property from a long way off) and clear visibility for external loiterers (there aren’t any places to hide behind and do… or plot… unwholesome activities). Building entrances, parking areas, and adequate lighting during dark hours are keys here.

Territorial Reinforcement: Pride and ownership are reflected by the appearance of your environment. We all know that a half-broken window in a beat-up house is more tempting to throw a rock at than a beautiful window in a beautiful neighborhood. Clearing delineating your space and beautifying your environment have been proved to seriously impact the likelihood of criminal activity happening on your site. At the same time, “good looking” measures like exterior art, landscaping, and architectural designs can help restrict access to an environment.

Natural Access Control: Guide people to one natural point of entry to your space through signage, landscaping, and symbolic barriers. This helps ensure authorized personnel (and non-authorized personnel) are obvious.

Management Effectiveness in Times of Crisis: Structure your facility for success. Don’t have your exit interview room located in a corner office with one way in and the same way out. Structure your office so that, if a violent individual entered, you would have a significant advantage in resources, routes, and options. Look at cost-effective options for window laminate on doors and lower windows, alerting and response systems, and site-wide communication systems. Build in ways to limit access into your building without restricting ways to get out.

Before CPTED


Maintenance: You go to this place, so you might as well make it look nice! Ensure your building facilities are working. Maintain the exterior and interior of the building in a timely manner. Clean up trash, litter, and graffiti. This will create the cultural expectation that ownership is valued and will create a community respect for your facility.

Harden your Target: This is simple. Make crime hard. Deny entrance after hours with gates and locks, use sensors and top-end security systems. Make them obvious. Let the bad guys know that if they come to your area to commit crime, they are going to get caught quickly. Train your team on awareness and action. Drill and exercise on early action to pre-attack indicators. Have on-site law enforcement or security staff patrol the area.

At the end of the day, organizations taking CPTED seriously can change the environmental climate of an entire community. And, of course, that is always the point of emergency management at its core: bring together the community in a way that promotes a full, happy life.


Ask the Experts

Q: Can people with disabilities still train in Krav or other self-defense tactics?

A: Absolutely. Krav is, when it's taught correctly at least, a martial art form that focuses on whatever you have available to you. Good krav instructors will formulate a plan for students that focus on their natural strengths and weaknesses. For example, an elderly woman may not have the ability to run fast so her training would focus on other tools she could use instead.

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