Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)


Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Success will be measured by the presentation of the concept of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) while demonstrating knowledge of its precepts.  As crime and terrorist attacks have skyrocketed, guarding against criminal and terrorist attacks is imperative in designing and building a structure.  Protecting and saving lives is the […]

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Success will be measured by the presentation of the concept of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) while demonstrating knowledge of its precepts.  As crime and terrorist attacks have skyrocketed, guarding against criminal and terrorist attacks is imperative in designing and building a structure.  Protecting and saving lives is the ultimate goal of CPTED.  The CPTED is the application of designing safety and security into the natural setting of a specific site or property.


The primary goals in building a structure are to reduce building damages and to prevent the subsequent collapse of the structure.  Good anti-crime and anti-terrorism designs are “…a multidisciplinary effort requiring the concerted efforts of the architect, structural engineer, security professional, and other design team members” (Hinman, 2011, para. 30).  A research paper should show how that is accomplished.  For instance, explosive devices may be detonated within and exterior to a structure.  Protecting a structure against internal explosives is often times an easier task than protecting the structure from an external explosion since entry points for internal explosive devices may be controlled by making those points (lobby, loading docks, and mail rooms) connected to the main structure yet designed to allow the blast to exit away from the main structure (Atlas, 2008).  The concepts of site assessment, building design, risk as determined by threat and vulnerability assessments, target hardening, natural access control, natural surveillance, territorial reinforcement, and defensible space are examined.  The implementation of these concepts is a synergistic approach to the relationship between, and security of, users, information, and property.

Building Design

Building design takes into consideration structure set back, screening of goods coming into the building, constructing blast resistant exterior wall, and making the entire structure blast resistant.  Since building security against crime and terrorism is vital, it is less expensive to plan for it before and during construction, than to incur the expense of retrofitting (Parnaby, 2007).  Designing a structure to be blast-resistant requires the design of structural hardening that protects against “progressive structural collapse” (Atlas, 2008), shelter safety area, and safe routes to and within fire stairwells.  During design, the engineer must determine the thickness of materials for the exterior shell; the safe havens, routes to stairwells, and the stairwells themselves.  Designing to guard against floor collapse is important because additional weight from the floor(s) above will greatly contribute to the collapsibility of each subsequent floor.


Atlas (2008) argued the factor of foreseeability was” …crime analysis … to research the history of the property and one of the key elements in establishing security negligence is the history of prior crime on and around the property”. Probably the best and quickest way to obtain a Geographical Information Systems (GIS) computer-generated crime analysis from the local police department.  Another source for such information is the CAP Risk Index which surveys a neighborhood up to a five-mile radius of the site or structure.

Two reasons to use the foreseeability factor is the possibility of litigation and liability.  Therefore, CPTED concepts should be followed and managed properly.  Gordon (1996) said,

Victims of crime are seeking compensation from owners and managers of the properties on which crime takes place with increasing frequency. These cases, commonly known as premises liability cases, are based on allegations made by the victim that the property owner failed to provide adequate security and thereby contributed to the occurrence of the crime. Claims of inadequate security include systemic, organizational, human, and environmental design flaws. It is further alleged in these cases that the crime that occurred was foreseeable and that the defendant had a legal duty to provide adequate security.

A practical security plan is determined by the foreseeability of crime and terrorist acts.  Foreseeability is the anticipation of criminal and terroristic acts, including preparing for the unthinkable (Decker, 2010).

The concept of foreseeability can be better applied, for instance, in the use of proper exterior lighting including parking areas.  Lighting follows the concept of natural surveillance “…which is the ability to see one’s surroundings” (The Hospitality Law Conference, 2010, p. 10).  Foreseeability applies not only to the users in the lighted area but to those who can observe the lighted area from the street, another building, or other users in the same area.


The concept of territoriality or territorial reinforcement defines spaces as being public, semi-public or private which sends a message to potential bad or unintended users they should avoid those places.  Territoriality can be achieved through the use of landscaping, signage, and fencing deployed in such a manner as to allow for proper natural surveillance.  Landscaping should be kept low to allow less area for a dangerous or unintended user to hide, and trees trimmed high, so there is good visibility from the sidewalk and street.  Fencing should be open in design like chain-link or wrought iron in order to allow for good visibility of the fenced area (Atlas, 2008).

Emerging Issues

Defense Threat Reduction Agency

The Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) has its origins in the Manhattan Project which developed the atomic bomb in World War II.  Today DTRA’s mission is to neutralize dangers presented by the extensive gamut of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high-yield explosives.  The DTRA counteracts menaces created by the mounting, progression of classifications of improvised threats together with improvised explosive devices (IED), car bombs (VBIED), and weaponized consumer drones including strategies, capability, and groups that put them on the battlefield in the War on Terror.  The DTRA makes sure that the United States military sustains a prudent, protected, operational, and dependable nuclear weapons deterrent.  All of this technology is available to law enforcement and other state and local governmental agencies (WBDG, 2017).

Ingress to and Egress from Buildings by Firefighters

With the technology of blast-resistant windows could make it difficult for firefights to enter or leave buildings to address a bomb threat.  Therefore, the building must be designed with simple layouts which allow firefighters quick access to an area.  The buildings must provide easy access by firefighters to a fire pump room, fire department connections, elevators and stairs, and hose valves to name just a few.  It is imperative that the building is designed in such a manner as to allow fire department vehicles and equipment access to the perimeter of the building site (WBDG, 2017).




Crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) addresses the real-world purposes of designing for security and anti-terrorism for commercial retail sites, high-rise office buildings, mixed-use housing, and traditional neighborhood planning.  CPTED utilizes the stratagems of natural access control, natural surveillance, and defines ownership or territorial bolstering. CPTED provides city planners, law enforcement, firefighters, architects, and criminologists with the opportunity to increase public safety, protection, and general welfare by using CPTED to be proactive in designing security into the environment.




Atlas, R. (2008).  21st Century Security and CPTED.  Boca Raton, FL:  CRC Press.

Gordon, C. & Brill, W. (1996).  The Expanding Role of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design in Premises Liability.  National Institute of Justice. Retrieved from

Hinman, E. (2017).  Blast Safety of the Building Envelope.  Whole Building Design Guide. Retrieved from

The Hospitality Law Conference. (2010).  Parking Lot and Exterior Safety and Security.  Houston:  Decker, D.  Retrieved from

NIST. (2002).  World Trade Center Disaster Study. Retrieved from

Parnaby, P. (2007). Crime prevention through environmental design:  Financial hardship, the dynamics of power, and the prospects of governance. Crime, Law and Social Change, 48(3-5), 73-85. Retrieved from

WBDG. (2017). Fire protection. Whole Building Design Guide.  Retrieved from




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Dr. Robert D. Hughbank is Full-Time faculty at Columbia Southern University. He earned a Doctor of Psychology in Criminology and Justice Studies, and a Master of Arts in Homeland Security. He was the CEO of Extreme Terrorism Consulting, LLC, an Intelligence Analyst in the Army, and a veteran of the Vietnam War, with over 25 years’ experience in law enforcement. He has published peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter in the fields of security, psychology, terrorism, and homeland security.

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