The 5 Pillars of CPTED: Maintenance
Throughout our examination of crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED), we’ve looked at a lot of property crime statistics. We don’t need to repeat them all here.
Suffice it to say, property crime is getting better in the US, but you’re still much more likely to be the victim of a property crime—which includes larceny-theft, burglary, and motor vehicle theft—than you are of a violent crime. And while larceny-theft is still the most common type, burglaries still amount to over one million reported cases each year. Over the last 30 years, we’ve gone from a high of 3,157,200 cases in 1991 to a low of 1,035,314 in 2020.
Having two million fewer cases is great. But now is not the time for complacency when it comes to protecting your property or business.
We can thank a number of things for that reduction, from better-equipped police forces to the prevalence of affordable and efficient video surveillance systems. In fact, perhaps nothing has had as big an impact on crime rates as security systems in general. In fact, you’re 3x more likely to be robbed without one—whether at home or your place of business—than a comparable property with one installed. Many would-be criminals see them and choose to move on to the next place. It’s just not worth the increased risk.
But in addition to better technology, we’re also approaching crime prevention in a much more holistic and proactive way than we ever did before.
CPTED is intentional, deliberate, and cooperative.
The Pillars of CPTED
The International Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Association defines CPTED as:
“a multi-disciplinary approach of crime prevention that uses urban and architectural design and the management of built and natural environments. CPTED strategies aim to reduce victimization, deter offender decisions that precede criminal acts, and build a sense of community among inhabitants so they can gain territorial control of areas, reduce crime, and minimize fear of crime.”
There are a lot of moving parts, but each strategy complements the others to make our neighborhoods safer and our properties better protected.
Those strategies and tactics fall into one of the five main pillars:
The fifth pillar—maintenance—is perhaps slightly different from the others because it doesn’t involve physical design elements within a particular space.
But that doesn’t make it any less important.
Let’s back up a moment.
Social scientists James Wilson and George Kelling introduced the Broken Window Theory in 1982.
The theory suggests that visible signs of disorder, vandalism, and misbehavior—such as unrepaired broken windows—lead to more disorder, vandalism, and misbehavior. And an increase in those areas can lead to an increase in both property and violent crime.
The hypothesis gained a lot of popular support, although the execution of its ideas was flawed at best and the evidence to support it is hit and miss.
That said, it did influence and inspire the maintenance pillar in CPTED.
Maintenance in the Real World
At its most basic, the CPTED concept of maintenance means that property owners should care for their property.
You can follow all the recommended tactics under surveillance, access control, territorial reinforcement, and activity support, but a dilapidated property surrounded by an overgrown garden can negate them all.
If it looks like no one cares, then others will treat it that way. If it looks abandoned, then why shouldn’t someone break into it?
You want your property to broadcast to everyone who passes by that someone is present, actively cares for it, and will protect it from intruders.
- Keeping up with all repairs
- Removing graffiti quickly and completely
- Taking care of the lawn, garden, and any other landscaping
- Removing trash and other debris
- Replacing burnt-out light bulbs on exterior lights
- Taking pride in the overall appearance
Proper maintenance produces a sense of pride for not just the owner, but the community as a whole. It creates an image of a vibrant space that people love and respect. And everyone will defend that against all intruders.