Seattle.gov Home Page
Seattle.gov This Department
Business in SeattleLiving in SeattleVisiting SeattleCity ServicesCity Departments
Contact Us at (206) 684-2489, TTY Dial 7 1 1
Seattle Police Department - Home Page
SPD Home / Safety & Prevention / CPTED

CRIME PREVENTION THROUGH ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN (CPTED)

CPTED Gate

An example of gate controlled access that still allows visibility.

IDENTIFY ENTRY POINTS

The physical design of your neighborhood, it’s layout, lighting, building and maintenance, can effect the levels of crime and fear in your neighborhood. The quick response to the small problems of broken windows, graffiti, trash, etc can stop the escalation toward bigger crime problems occurring. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design or CPTED, takes this one step further.

CPTED looks at the entire neighborhood to identify areas or elements that may have the potential to attract crime. Knowing simple CPTED design principals can lead to solutions that can be undertaken to reduce fear and prevent crime in these areas. CPTED can also help you plan ahead for future development in your neighborhood. There is much information about CPTED available online if you want more details than this booklet can provide. There are some basic strategies however that you can incorporate into discussions with your neighborhood or Block Watch group for shared areas such as parks or alleys. There are also strategies you should consider for your personal property.

NATURAL SURVEILLANCE

CPTED does not promote the “fortressing” of properties, quite the contrary. The ability to see what is going on in and around a property should be your first priority. Perpetrators of crime are attracted to areas and residences with low visibility. This can be counteracted in the following ways:

  • Lighting – street lights should be well spaced and in working order, alleys and parking areas should also be lit. Lighting should also reflect the intended hours of operation, i.e. lighting of playfields or structures in local parks may actually encourage after hour criminal activities. Motion-sensing lights perform the double duty of providing light when needed and letting trespasser know that “they have been seen.”
  • Landscaping – Generally uniformly shaped sites are safer than irregularly shaped sites because there are less hiding places. Plants should follow the 3-8 rule of thumb; hedges no higher than 3 feet, and tree canopies starting no lower than 8 feet. This should is especially important around entryways and windows.
  • Fencing – Fences should allow people to see in. Even if the fences are built for privacy, they should be of a design that is not too tall and has some visibility.
  • Windows – Windows that look out on streets and alleys are good natural survellience, especially bay windows. These should not be blocked. Retirees, stay at home parents, and people working from home offices can provide good survellience for the neighborhood during the day.

NATURAL ACCESS CONTROL

Access Control refers to homes, businesses, parks and other public areas having distinct and legitimate points for entry and exits. However, this should also be balanced to avoid “user entrapment,” or not allowing for easy escape or police response to an area. Generally crime perpetrators will avoid areas that only allow them with one way to enter and exit, and that have high visibility and/or have a high volume of user traffic. This can be assured by:

  • Park designs with open, uninhibited access and a defined entry point. A good example is a park with transparent fencing around the perimeter, and one large opening in the gate for entry. Putting vendors or shared public facilities near this entrance creates more traffic and more surveillance.
  • Businesses with one legitimate entrance. Avoid recessed doorways.
  • A natural inclination is to place public restrooms away from centers of activity, but they can become dangerous if placed in an uninhabited area. Restrooms that are down a long hallway, or foyer entrances with closed doors, are far away from the entrance of a park, or are not visible from the roadway can become problem areas.
  • Personal residences with front and back doors that are clearly visible and well lit.

TERRITORIALITY/DEFENSIBLE SPACE

Territoriality means showing that your community “owns” your neighborhood. While this includes removing graffiti and keeping buildings and yards maintained, it also refers to small personal touches. Creating flower gardens or boxes, putting out seasonal decorations, or maintaining the plants in traffic circles seems simple, but sends a clear message that people in your neighborhood care and won’t tolerate crime in their area. These kinds of personal touches work in business communities as well. More complex design efforts can also be undertaken for more dramatic changes. These are some things that should be considered when planning for future growth:

  • Front porches and apartment balconies add to street survelliance.
  • Traffic plans that consider the size of the neighborhood. People drive by “feel” more than speed limits, so a wide, two lane residential street can lead to speeding. Traffic circles, or increasing the size of curbs can help to calm traffic.
  • Institutional architecture that respects the neighborhood identity and does not dwarf the current scale of the neighborhood.
  • Clear transitions between private, semi-private and public areas.
 
SPD Badge
SEATTLE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Headquarters: 610 5th Avenue,
Seattle, WA 98124-4986
Site Disclaimer: The Seattle Police Department's website was developed to provide general information. Data contained at this location is generally not reviewed for legal sufficiency. SPD documents displayed are for reference purposes only. Their completeness or currency are not guaranteed. Links or references to other information or organizations are for reference only and do not constitute an endorsement.