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What is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design?

Since the introduction of the “Eyes on the Street” philosophy by Jane nearly half a century ago, the notion of a safer community through design has significantly grown in popularity. This notion has matured into a set of review tools called ‘CPTED’ (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design).

CPTED is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behavior that relies upon the environment to influence an offender’s choices, prior to the criminal act. It is based on the notion that instead of a reactionary disjointed response to crime, that typically results in increased fortification and fear of crime, a set of scientifically proven principles can be employed to better develop a site, which will positively influence the likelihood of proper and appropriate behavior on that site.

CPTED has been proven to work and to this end, the application of these principles on new developments and/or re-developments will reduce the likelihood of crime and vandalism being committed. 

There are four (4) main principles to CPTED and one (1) Quasi-principle.  These principles are as follows:

1. Natural Surveillance

Maximizing visibility and the opportunity for observation through the placement and design of physical and social features. This includes the placement of gathering spaces/points of interest, building orientation, lighting, windows, entrances/exits, parking lots, walkways, security stations, fencing, landscaping, vegetation, signage, as well as any other physical obstructions. This principle helps

2. Natural Access Control

A logical and organized design to restrict, encourage and safely channel movement of people and vehicles into, out of, and within a site in a controlled manner. Natural Access control should be coupled with Natural Surveillance techniques. This principle helps create the perception of control over the possible offender as well as more easily identify those who venture into areas they should not be in.

3. Territorial Reinforcement

Defined property lines and clear distinctions between public, semi-private, and private spaces through physical or visual design, can create a sphere of territorial influence that can be perceived by, and may deter potential offenders. Territorial reinforcement can be created using among other things, landscaping, pavement designs, gateway treatments, signs and fences. This principle helps create a sense of proprietorship by the rightful user and helps more easily identify those who venture into areas they should not be in.

4. Maintenance

Well-maintained buildings and grounds inform potential offenders that ‘Someone is Home’. It also reinforces the space’s intended use and purpose. This principle helps create a sense of occupancy to the offender, as well as guardianship and proprietorship by the rightful user.

5. Logical Fortification (Quasi-Principle)

Fortifying buildings or property by the use of materials and/or equipment. The logical use of fortification should never conflict with any other CPTED principle. This quasi-principle although not widely held as a ‘base principle’ of CPTED, is nonetheless important to deter or even prosecute criminal activities. This quasi-principle helps create a sense of obstacle or inconvenience to the possible offender.


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