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How Environmental Design Can Reduce Crime

A few years ago, a tenant in an apartment complex sued the complex for $2 Million and won. This is how the situation unfolded — The apartment complex is located in a notoriously dangerous part of town known for crime, drug use, gang activity, and more. One night, one of the residents was assaulted by an armed robber while on the apartment complex’s property. The assault quickly escalated and the tennant was shot twice. (Fortunately, he lived!) The apartment complex was held responsible due to negligence. Why? Because, though they are located in a bad part of town, they did not have security! Ultimately, the apartment complex that is responsible for providing a safe property for their tenants, but chose not to have security at their location. This decision was negligent, and the court had reason to believe that the crime could have been prevented if they had a security company that uses environmental design!

Here at BPS Security, when we sign a new client, we immediately assess their property and implement all necessary changes to their location that could increase security. In the security industry, this is known as Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

How does CPTED Make a Difference?

Has a friend ever hidden behind a corner in efforts to scare you? These situations are harmless and ultimately a cruel joke! But it is important to note that by default, your physical surroundings obstruct your view. Thus making it easy for people to hide! If the wall that your friend was hiding behind were to come down, you would see them and not get scared. This is why environmental design is important!

Image of a walkway in between building with trees lining one side and lamps lining the other side. This image is use for the BPS Security Blog How Environmental Design Can Reduce Crime

As a security firm, our job is to protect our clients to the best of our ability. Therefore, we consider the following CPTED principles:

  • Natural surveillance. Strategically placing objects, people, and/or activities to help minimize obstructed view. This is important for both surveillance cameras or on-site security officers.
  • Natural Access Control – Strategically placing paths, walkways, and entry/exit locations to help guide people where you want them to go.
  • Territorial Reinforcement. Strategically placing barriers or markings (this can even be the change of color on a sidewalk in front of a building) around to designate what is and is not private property.

Psychological Improvements to a Location

Image of a rod iron gate that is open. You see a tree behind the gate with the sun peaking around the tree. This image is use for the BPS Security Blog How Environmental Design Can Reduce Crime
In addition to the three principles listed above, there is a fourth — maintenance, otherwise known as, “The Broken Window Theory.” If a building has one broken window (especially for a period of time), there will likely be more! Why is that? Well, criminals are always looking for clues to determine whether or not a building/property is maintained. More often than not, properties that do not seem “cared for” become a target and hub for crime.
  • Graffiti. When graffiti is left on a building for a longer period of time, then criminals will think the building is fair game! (Note that we are not talking about actual artwork created by a hired artist!)
  • Trash Receptacles. If there are multiple trash receptacles around a building, and they are well maintained, criminals will think the building is cared for.
  • Lawn. Is the lawn unruly? This could signal lack of care!

Final Thoughts

The lawsuit mentioned above is a prime example where environmental design could have prevented the crime. Though we do not know how the location was cared for, the fact that they did not use a security company to protect their property in a violent area, can lead us to believe they did not put effort into maintaining the property. Therefore, the property was an easy target for criminals!

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