CPTED and its Benefits

By Steve Wade Peace of Mind Systems Ltd.

I recently had a chance to go and take part in a five-day training on the concept of CPTED (pronounced SEP-TED) or Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design. This is the PUREST FORM OF CRIME PREVENTION. What an eye opener!  One of the first thing that gets asked when we talk about this is: What is that? Let me explain.

We all interact and send signals from our space whether we want to or not. These signals, or environmental cues can create positive things or negative, depending on how those around us perceive it.  Let me give you an example:

Take a look at this house. Look around for a few seconds and take notice of what you see.

You can see an open house sign, a small tree and a nicely kept house. But what are the environmental cues coming from it?

  • A roof that looks like it has been recently done.
  • Grass is in good shape
  • Blocked sightline from the room on the left behind a wall which would make it hard for someone to look out and see the sidewalk
  • A sign blocking the sightline on the other side
  • The yard is clean. It has been well kept
  • Display Home on sign- does anyone live there?


What does all that add up to?  The roof and the fact that the space around it is well kept indicates that the house has had some money spent on it. The “display home” sign says that no one may be living here and the blocked street view makes it hard for anyone who did reside there to see the street which means they could be getting “cased” and not even be aware of it. If there were vehicles in the driveway it would show if someone was home or not, and with the nicely kept area one may even perceive this as being a home owned by someone who had disposable income. All that in about 15 seconds.

Why am I telling you this?  Because education and an alternate viewpoint can be powerful in shifting how you see things around you, and for your business.  This is the first of the FOUR principles that CPTED is based on, that I will be sharing with you. The intent is to get you to see what your home or business is broadcasting without you being aware.


Natural surveillance means you consider the possibility that the space around you has “eyes” on it.

When an area isn’t designed or revitalized with the thought of natural surveillance, it becomes anonymous and blends into the background, making it easier for criminals to cope out and take advantage of. Anonymous space is more generally a space where things can happen and no one is aware of it. 

Take a moment and go to your business’ front door. How many others can you see the windows and doors of?

Ask yourself:

  • How many of them are well lit? How many aren’t?
  • How many have trees, hedges or bushes that block their view to the street?
  • How many have window signs or window clings which obstruct the view inside?

An argument I have experienced with this principal, is that it increases privacy by screening with shrubbery, fences or walls. While that is true, if you flip that around, you realize that customers, other businesses and police can’t see you if you cannot see them. Sight lines and configuration are critical to taking control of your spaces. Being aware of what cues your business emits enables you to be more “plugged in” to what is happening.

A residential equivalent to this is to look at properties where you are aware of vehicles getting broken into, belongings stolen or mischief occurring. What do the sightlines around these areas look like?  How many homes around the property have a sightline to the driveway? How many properties have their blinds shut? How many have large cedar bushes blocking the sightline? Are there a lot of people going for walks in the area? Joggers? Bikers? Is it on a transit route? All of these things are examples of natural surveillance. Have a look. You might get surprised by what you see or what you don’t see.