Spring is around the corner and soon you’ll be dazzled by colorful displays at big box stores and garden centers of lush new plants for your landscape. You’re not alone. Gardening has long been ranked as America’s number one hobby. With millennials love of locally grown everything, interest in gardening and landscaping shows no sign of slowing down. But before you grab your trowel, have you considered the impact of your home’s landscaping on you and your family’s safety and security?
Both your home’s softscape and hardscape components can contribute to making your home safer or more vulnerable to a break-in. Softscape refers to the flowers, bushes and trees around your home. Herb gardens, fruit trees, ornamental grasses, topiaries are all beautiful but too much can make your home a jungle thicket to hide thieves. Hardscape is the built part of your home’s landscape. Examples of hardscape include walkways, retaining walls, paths, patios, outdoor water features, gazebos, decks and driveways. These also need to be designed with home security in mind.
Think Like a Burglar to Make Your Home Landscaping a Deterrent
Knowing how a typical burglar thinks and acts can help you in making decisions about designing the landscaping around your home. Keep in mind not only the front yard but also the backyard and sides of your home, especially if they are not visible from the street.
In a pivotal article The Anatomy of a Burglary, the Washington Post pinpointed telling details about most burglaries. On average, burglars take about 60 seconds to break into a home. Most burglaries happen from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and last eight to 10 minutes. Tactics for deterring break-ins should aim to make it more difficult to get into and out of the home and to do so undetected. That’s where strategic landscaping can help.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
Like insurers, police know a thing or two because they’ve seen a thing or two. Noting how burglars capitalize on elements in a home’s landscape, many police departments across the U.S. recommend a strategy called Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTE).
The Anchorage Police are among those who recommend CPTE. “Each year, Anchorage Police respond to 1500 to 2000 burglaries and well over 300 robberies. Don’t become a victim—use these recommendations to increase the safety and security of your home or business,” they say. They offer the full set of CPTE recommendations free on their website. We will highlight several key recommendations here.
6 Landscaping Tips to Reduce Your Break-in Risk
- No place to hide. Keep dense bushes and trees trimmed and at least six feet away from your doors and windows. You want neighbors to have a clear view of the perimeter of your home.
- A thorny problem. Remember how the witch surrounded Sleeping Beauty’s castle with thorns? It’ll take more than a magic wand, but plant thorny roses or berries under and around your windows. Cacti work well too if you’re in the Southwest.
- Stone free. Roll away that stone. Boulders too. Eliminate anything that could literally be used as a stepping stone for burglars to hoist themselves in through a window.
- Light it up. Install motion sensor lights. They’re effective and energy efficient.
- Keep it crunchy. Use gravel on your walkways. The loud crunch of footsteps on it will deter would-be thieves.
- Fence it in. Opt for open or low fencing. Avoid brick walls and other types of opaque fencing that can hide intruders from view.
Remember, you may see a house surrounded by a stone wall, thick hedges and dense trees as a private sanctuary. A criminal sees it as an easy target.