Principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Posted by Jarrett P. AmbeauFeb 24, 20210 Comments

ten principles of crime opportunity with cityscape through a fence

Improving Quality of Life for Citizens Through Safer Communities

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is a multi-disciplinary approach of crime prevention utilizing urban and architectural design to reduce opportunities for crime. The theories of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design, or CPTED, state that law enforcement officers, architects, city planners, landscape designers, and volunteers can collaborate to create a safer community. The purpose of CPTED is to prevent crime by designing a physical environment that changes human behavior in a positive way. The principles of CPTED include the following:

Natural access control

This is the physical guidance of individuals entering and exiting a space by the placement of entrances, fences, landscaping, and lighting. The goal of natural access control is to create a perception of risk in committing a crime for a potential offender.

Natural surveillance

Natural surveillance occurs by designing the placement of physical features, activities, and individuals in a way that creates the most potential for visibility and creates potential for healthy social interaction. The concept of natural surveillance can be implemented by positioning physical features and activities in a way that maximizes visibility in an area.


Territoriality is an individual's desire to protect territory they feel is their own. The concept of territoriality relies on an individual's natural tendency to respect property they feel ownership over. A strong sense of territoriality encourages an individual to take control of their environment and defend it from potential offenders. Enforcing territorial reinforcement strategies encourages individuals to have a sense of protection over the property. Examples of territorial reinforcement include landscaping, lighting, walkways, decorative fences, and signs.


If an area is well-maintained, it sends the message that authority figures are monitoring the area and would notice if something went awry. The “broken window theory” and maintenance principle go hand-in-hand. The broken window theory is a criminological theory which states that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder encourage even more crime. The theory is based in the idea that one broken window encourages even more disruption in an area, or can lead to more broken windows. 

How Does Situational Crime Prevention Serve to Deter Crime?

Similar to the concepts of CPTED, situational crime prevention is based on the theory that crime can be deterred by implementing strategic changes to an environment. The strategies focus on how and why crime occurs. It addresses the opportunities that specific situations have that facilitate the opportunity for crime. The ten principles of crime opportunity are as follows:

  • Opportunities play a role in causing all crime, not just property crime.
  • Crime opportunities are highly specific.
  • Crime opportunities are dependent on time and space.
  • Crime opportunities depend on daily movements of activity.
  • One crime produces the opportunity for another.
  • Some products facilitate more tempting crime opportunities.
  • Social and technological changes produce new crime opportunities.
  • Crime can be prevented by reducing opportunities.
  • Reducing opportunities does not usually displace crime.
  • Focused opportunity reduction can produce wider declines in crime.

If you are located in an area where CPTED strategies have not been implemented or opportunity reduction has not been a focus, you might be more likely to commit a crime yourself. Most of us don't imagine that we will end up in a crime-causing situation, but certain environmental factors make it more likely. For example, alcohol establishments are positively associated with crime.

According to a study from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota, alcohol establishment density is positively associated with violent crime, meaning that neighborhoods with more alcohol establishments tend to have greater levels of assault and overall violent crimes than those with fewer alcoholic establishments. If you find yourself in an area with more alcoholic establishments and fewer situational crime prevention strategies, you are more likely to end up in a sticky, crime-related situation and require the help of a criminal defense attorney.

Ambeau Law Firm is experienced in the realm of criminal defense, and we can provide legal support to those who need it. Give us a call at (225) 330-7009 or contact us online to learn how we can aggressively advocate on your behalf.

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