Crime Prevention
Through Environmental Design
(CPTED) Citizen Information

[ Overview | Start With | SARA Model | Basics | Now What | Check List | Summary ]


In simplest terms, CPTED says make your home, business or property the hardest target in your area for crime. What does "hard target" mean? Easy, since most criminals are lazy, they take the easiest path to what they want when they decide to rob, assault or vandalize. If your house or business is not the easiest to commit a crime at, they probably will not bother you. Does your being the hardest target imply that the criminal will simply go elsewhere? Possibly, but since the majority of criminal activity is from opportunity rather than long term planning, it could easily mitigate rather than just shift the location.

One factor that will make it easier for you to feel safer in your home is Community Policing. Community Policing is a philosophy and management approach that promotes community, government and police partnership, proactive problem-solving and community action to address causes and fear of crime.

Another factor that has been proven again and again is the concept called the broken window theory. The broken window theory states that if a window is broken and not repaired, there will soon be other windows broken. This is true in nice neighborhoods as well as rundown ones. The broken window implies that no one cares and so breaking more costs nothing.

There are many factors involved in crime mitigation via CPTED, but the principals are simple and the potential benefits large. Please read further to see what you can do to help yourself and your community reduce crimes of opportunity.

What do I start with?

The first thing you will need to do is an evaluation of your property to see what environmental factors, under your control, have a potential for crime mitigation. "But", you say, "I don't know how to do that!" Then contact your local Police Agency or Sheriff's Office for assistance. They can supply you with a list of the factors you need to look at. These include, but are not limited to:

At this point you probably have said "That's great, but what do I actually do?" The following description will help you understand CPTED principals from which you will see the specific tasks to be accomplished.

SARA Model

The acronym you will most likely hear is SARA, standing for:

  • Scanning - look for chronic problems and clusters of problems
  • Analysis - identify as many characteristics of the problems as possible
  • Response - make changes to correct these problems
  • Assessment - revisit the list and see if the corrections did enough to meet your mitigation goals

Please understand that CPTED is not

  • the way to end all crime
  • a replacement for police action
  • something the police should do for you
  • something only for architects or builders

CPTED is a tool to assist you and the law enforcement community in crime mitigation and it requires your help.

Basics of CPTED

The basic principals of CPTED are:

  1. Control Access
  2. Increase Surveillance
  3. Provide Territorial Reinforcement

      Control Access

      Control the "traffic" flow to your property. This may be by joining with your neighbors and community planners to reduce the flow of vehicle traffic on your street, which will enhance cohesion within your neighborhood and help you become a better neighbor. This will include installing or repairing fences, walkways, doorways and removing unwanted access paths. This will also include repairing windows, cleaning up trash, removing any obstacle that invites someone to approach your property in any way you dislike and making it easier for people to come on to your property where you want them to.

      Increase Surveillance

      Remove objects that block your ability to see unwanted "guests" before they take action. Some easy examples are:

      • Trim the lower branches of trees so you can easily see if anyone is attempting to hide under them.
      • Trim the shrubbery low enough that they do not provide a hiding place.
      • Remove all trash and unused items that may provide concealment.
      • Do not use rails on upper floors that allow someone to hide behind them. This does not imply remove the rail, it simply says use a railing that can be readily seen through.
      • Provide adequate lighting at night. This does not mean light it up like it was day time. Rather, light it to a point where if you look outside at night, you can see someone if they are on your property. This lighting may be on a motion sensor, light sensor or regular switch.

      Territorial Reinforcement

      Protect territory that you feel is yours. In simplest terms this means:

      • Provide adequate fencing
      • Use pavement treatments that say it is not public property
      • Use signs when appropriate
      • Use good maintenance on your property
      • Landscaping can help reinforce the separation of your property from public use
      • Have easily visible Street Address signs to help locate your property for others (Police and Fire, for example)
      • Maintain adequate space between sidewalks and individual property
      • Reduce the number of people using a common access point
      • Reduce the number of people using a common balcony

      Properly located entrances, exits, fencing, landscaping and lighting can direct both foot traffic and automobile traffic in ways that discourage crime. Proper maintenance will insure the effectiveness of natural controls and prevent obscured vision due to landscape overgrowth or obstructed / inoperable lighting.

Now What

There are several items that you need to understand. CPTED is a tool in a process, not a cure all. Nothing is fool proof. Your goal needs to be the prevention of opportunistic behavior on the part of criminals, not to turn your home into a fortress. Once you have completed the check list below you should have a formal review done on the completed building or house. This will insure you have not over-looked something. Then what? Simple, use the locks, use the lights, keep trees and shrubs properly trimmed, keep your property looking like someone cares. Reasonable diligence then is the final ongoing item on your list.

Check List

The following will provide you a good starting point for a CPTED evaluation. Please review each item and weigh the cost verses potential benefit. Many times it may seem too expensive to properly address each item on this list. The real question is how much loss to criminals are you willing to accept? If it is not far in excess of your potential mitigation costs then you owe it to yourself, your family and your community to take action. Remember, these items do not have to be completed today, you only need to start today, to help yourself and your family live more safely.

The items presented here are divided into six areas to help you concentrate your efforts. It will, however, be in your best interest to scan the entire list and begin your mitigation efforts with the item(s) that will provide you the maximum gain in security and safety for your house / business, dependent upon your individual situation.

- - - Exterior - - -

  1. Look at your house as if it was the first time you had ever seen it. Is it clean, neat and well maintained? If yes, go to number 2.
    1. Insure the lawn is mowed and weeds pulled.
    2. Insure all trimmings are picked up and disposed of properly
    3. Pick up all trash and dispose of it properly.
    4. If you work on your own vehicle, clean up everything after every maintenance session. If the maintenance on your vehicle will take more than a day, keep it in the garage so you can close the door to have it look like you care about your house and neighborhood.

  2. Are your house numbers easily visible from street regardless of the time of day? Remember, gold colored numbers on a dark background are good for daylight but are virtually invisible at night. If your house numbers are easily visible, go to number 3
    1. Repair old or install new numbers that are easy to see against the background they are mounted on.
    2. Consider adding lighting that comes on only at night to illuminate them.

  3. Do you have any trees with less than eight feet of open space beneath them? If no, go to number 4.
    1. Insure the lower tree limbs are trimmed off so you have at least six but preferably eight feet of clearance beneath them.
    2. Remove tree trimmings and dispose of properly.

  4. Do you have any shrubs more than three feet high? If no, go to number 5.
    1. Insure the shrubs are trimmed to no higher than three feet tall. Be particularly careful around windows so you do not block visibility to the outside and so they do not provide concealment for anyone.
    2. You may want to consider "hostile environment" shrubs - those with thorns - in areas under windows.
    3. Remove shrub trimmings and dispose of properly.

  5. Is the front door well lit? If yes, go to number 6
    1. You need front door lighting that will allow you to easily identify anyone that approaches. Remember an outside house light that remains on all night, every night, implies that there may not be anyone home.
    2. Consider installing motion sensor lighting that has a daylight sensor. This will turn on the light as anyone approaches during the night but turn it off when no one is out front.

  6. Is back door well lit? If yes, go to number 7
    1. You need sufficient light to identify the person at your back door. Some would say that you would want more light in back than is necessary in front.

  7. Are personal items kept inside? If yes, go to number 8
    1. Personal items left outside when you are not using them invite theft. Consider keeping them inside unless you are using them.

  8. Are high value items recorded /marked? If yes, go to number 9.
    1. It is a good idea to have all high dollar and sentimental items inventoried and identified for insurance purposes.

  9. Are motion sensor lights installed for the drive way and other areas? If yes, go to number 10
    1. Motion sensor lighting makes anyone that approaches your house think that someone may be watching, even when you are not. It also adds safety for welcome guests.

  10. Can neighbors see your building clearly?
    1. If not, give serious consideration to correcting that. A good neighbor that can watch is a great asset in crime mitigation.

- - - Doors - - -

  1. Do you have a Solid core door for your outside door? If yes, go to number 2.
    1. Replace exterior door(s) and door frames with solid core door(s). This will also help the energy efficiency of your home.
    2. Dispose of old material properly.

  2. Do you have doors that fit snugly in the opening? If yes, go to number 3.
    1. Repair or replace doors and door frames. This will also help the energy efficiency of your home.
    2. Dispose of old material properly.

  3. Does the striker plate on your external doors have mounting screws that are at least three inches long? This will minimize the likely hood that it can easily be forced in. If yes, go to number 4.
    1. Replace striker plate screws with three or more inch long screws. Verify that there is good backing between the door jamb and the house frame.
    2. Dispose of old material properly.

  4. Do you have dead bolt locks that engage the striker plate by at least 3/4 inch on each external door? If yes, go to number 5.
    1. Add or repair dead bold locks.
    2. Dispose of old material properly.

  5. Do you have a peep hole in your front door that allows you to see a 180 degree arc? If yes, go to number 6.
    1. Install or replace old with a unit that allows 180 degrees field of view.
    2. Clean up after the work.

  6. Do you have any door locks located less than 40 inches from a window? This would allow someone to break the window and let them selves in. If no, go to number 7.
    1. Replace window with non-breakable material, such as Lexan or add additional locks
    2. Clean up after the work

  7. Does your outside door open outward? If no, go to number 8
    1. Replace door with one that opens inward. A door that opens outward has the hinge pins located outside, where criminals can simply remove the hinge pins to remove (not just open) the door.
    2. Clean up after the work.

  8. Did you re-key the outside door locks after you moved in?
    1. Contact a bonded locksmith and have that done. There is no way to determine who has copies of your external door lock keys so the easiest, safest, is to re-key or replace.

- - - Windows - - -

  1. Do you have any windows with broken or missing screens? If no, go to number 2.
    1. Repair or replace screens.
    2. Dispose of old material properly.

  2. If you have double hung widows, have they been "pinned" (addition of a mechanical pin to double lock the window)? If yes, go to number 3.
    1. Visit your local hardware store and obtain some rod type material for use as pins.
    2. Drill the window casement so you can insert the pin(s) to double lock the window.

  3. Do metal windows have auxiliary locks? If yes, go to number 4.
    1. Your local hardware store will cary auxiliary locks. Obtain at least one per metal window.
    2. Use them.

  4. Can your window be secured while it is a few inches open? If yes, go to number 5.
    • Pinning or window clamps will allow you to lock the window with it partially open

  5. Do basement windows have auxiliary locks? If yes, go to number 6.
    • Normal basement locks can be defeated very easily. Auxiliary locks will better safeguard your house.

  6. Do curtains cover full windows? If yes, go to number 7.
    • It is a good idea to have curtains that provide good privacy. While you will want to be able to observe what is happening outside, your will also have times when privacy is important.

  7. Do you have a window Air Conditioner?
    • If so, do not rely on just the weight of the unit to secure your house. Make sure that it is firmly attached to the window frame or, better yet, the house.

- - - Garages - - -

  1. Does the garage door close tightly?
    • Repair or replace as necessary

  2. Does the overhead door have track padlock?
    • This is the best way to insure your garage door stays closed when you want it to.

  3. If you have a track padlock, is it high quality?
    • Any lock is better than none but a good quality lock is more than worth the cost.

  4. If you use a hasp to secure the door, did you use good quality screws and install it so that the screws are covered when it is locked?

  5. Is the garage door closed and locked when not in use?
    • As it seems, doors and locks only protect when properly used.

  6. Is the garage light used at night?

- - - Vacation Tips - - -

  1. Do you let your neighbors know when you will be away for more than a few hours?

  2. Do you have someone to take care of your yard when you are gone?

  3. Are deliveries picked up by your neighbors when you are gone?

  4. Are hand bills picked up?

  5. Do shades and blinds remain normal?

  6. Do you set light timers when you are out of town?

- - - Additional Crime Checks - - -

  1. Are cash and high value items secured?

  2. Do you have a list of high value items, with the list not located in the house?

  3. Are important numbers memorized?

  4. Do lights remain on all night?

  5. Are weapons secured?

  6. Do you display valuables to casual visitors?

The last item is not actually a CPTED item but since you are doing a full review of your house, this is a good time to think about these. Do you have a battery operated smoke detector and carbon monoxide detector? Have the batteries been changed in at least the last six months?


Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a method of minimizing the likelihood that criminals will find you the easiest target for their activities. It is not a "one time and I'm done" process. It is a way of thinking about the safety and well being of family and property. Once you complete the check list, it becomes easy to maintain the "hard target" image to criminals and that is how your safety and comfort are enhanced.