CPTED for Businesses

by | Jun 2, 2023

CPTED for Businesses - Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is an effective tool for countering crime and enhancing a community. And it’s not just for homeowners. Employing the pillars of CPTED for businesses is a strategic and proactive way to protect your commercial property. Let’s dive into the principles of CPTED and how they can benefit your business.

CPTED for Businesses: The Basics

CPTED ramps up property design from pure aesthetics and makes it multidisciplinary. This requires a collaborative approach between city planners, law enforcement, engineers, designers, code enforcers, and other stakeholders. The overall goal is to foster positive social interactions within an area and, in the process, deter criminal behavior. CPTED encourages people to be neighborly and keep each other’s best interests at heart.

There are five core pillars of CPTED:

CPTED sends a clear message on how a space is supposed to be used. This is rooted in the idea that all space has a designated purpose and is designed to support desired behaviors and control undesirable behaviors.

How to Apply the Pillars of CPTED for Businesses

How can you turn high-level goals and principles into design tactics? With a multi-faceted ecosystem of small design choices. Some tactics are specific to a particular setting or type of business, but the fundamentals apply across the board. You can incorporate safety features into a new building from the get-go or retrofit an existing location.

Here are some tactical ideas for implementing CPTED for businesses.

Natural Surveillance

With natural surveillance, your primary goal is to make sure that any crimes are in plain sight. Layout, lighting, building materials, and even landscaping are useful design tools for enhancing visibility.

First, consider how your property is arranged. Put checkout counters near the front where there are clear sightlines. Shelves and displays should be five feet tall or shorter. Try to limit posters, signage, and clings on windows for maximum visibility. Overcome unavoidable blind spots with convex security mirrors. Locate restrooms so they’re visible to both customers and employees. And consider using doorless baffle-type restroom entrances, as doors can hinder sightlines. A smart layout allows employees to see what’s going on at all times–and raises the likelihood that a passerby will see criminals inside after hours.

It’s impossible to see without illumination. You can enhance natural surveillance with lighting that runs all day, every day. The increased protection is worth the extra power costs. Don’t forget to light exterior doors, loading docks, and parking lots. Doing so also prevents accidents from tripping and slipping.

With landscaping, it’s a good idea to follow the “two-foot, six-foot rule.” For anything low to the ground, such as shrubs or bushes, trim foliage to two feet high or less. And for anything taller, such as trees, trim low-hanging branches to the six-foot mark. This leaves a four-foot gap that allows employees inside to see through any ground-floor windows. It also eliminates the temptation for criminals to hide in overgrown foliage.

And always, always, always, use business security cameras with an integrated live surveillance service. It’s not “natural” surveillance, per se, but using a reputable provider like Deep Sentinel ensures that someone is always watching.

Natural Access Control

Boundaries send a message: Someone belongs here. And someone else does not.

While your first inclination may be a tall barbed wire fence, this sets a tone for both the business and the neighborhood–and not a positive one. Instead, tap into the wide variety of safeguards that are easily incorporated into a business setting.

Reduce the number of public entry points. Make sure each is under constant observation, be it by receptionists, guards, and/or live security monitoring. Invest in solid locks. Periodically change locks and key codes, particularly after any staffing changes. Lock away expensive supplies and equipment when not in use. Decorative fencing reinforces your property’s boundaries in an aesthetically pleasing way. But, of course, make sure you still have clear sightlines to any important paths or areas.

Use bold, informative signage to guide people toward wherever they’re supposed to go. This includes clearly marking employee-only areas and making them difficult to enter. Draw attention to public entrances with landscaping, architecture, and signage. If your business requires the use of loading zones, separate loading zones from public parking.

Also, remind employees to never prop open exits, even for a short time. This isn’t really a design tip, but it bears repeating.

Territorial Reinforcement

This property belongs to your business. Make sure everyone knows that.

Mark the edge of your property with hedges, gates, or low fences. Identify your business with signage on both the front and back of the building. Guide visitors, guests, and customers to your business with a well-defined and marked entrance. Also, consider separating visitor parking from employee parking.

Whenever possible, have someone present at the property or at least make it look like someone is present. That’s another good reason to use continuous 24-hour lighting.

Activity Support

The heart of this pillar is encouraging the people who are using the property appropriately to continue doing so. And, in turn, discouraging activities you don’t want on your property.

Your typical business operations enact this pillar effectively. And, as a result, the tactics you’ll use will depend on your industry or style of business. For example, if you have big picture windows that reveal shoppers inside, it’s clear that the building is a store and that more shoppers are welcome to enter. Create a welcoming environment for customers and visitors. Provide signage to explain anything that’s unclear, such as the location of a waiting area or how to place an order. Visible employees in neat, recognizable uniforms also reinforce the idea that this is a business.

There are also some “outside of the box” strategies that might work in a pinch. For example, try hosting a community event on your property, like a food truck festival or farmer’s market. Anything you can do to generate foot traffic is good marketing and good security.

As for the flipside: how do you discourage unwanted behaviors? Hang signs about loitering, soliciting, smoking, or anything else that poses an issue. And take action when these activities occur by confronting the people involved or calling the police as necessary. If you like, Deep Sentinel can take care of this task for you. The system’s business security cameras are equipped with two-way audio and sirens that a live guard can use to send unwanted “visitors” scurrying.


If a property looks shabby, it stands to reason that no one will notice a broken window or a few missing items. But if a property looks loved and cared for, someone is bound to notice when trouble is afoot.

Assert your ownership of the property by fastidiously keeping up its appearance inside and out. Instill this same pride of ownership in your management team and employees. Remove or cover up any graffiti (see our guide for how to remove graffiti safely from all sorts of surfaces). Clean up the sidewalks around the building. Give the landscaping the attention it needs. Repair anything that’s visibly broken as soon as you notice it. Maintenance may be annoying to keep up with, but it can quickly get out of hand if you don’t give issues the attention they need right away.

Getting Started with CPTED for Businesses

Of course, every business is unique. The best approach is to evaluate both your business location and its surroundings to create just the right design for you. There are designers that specialize in CPTED for businesses. These professionals can help you create a custom security-first design.

If that’s not in the cards, start small. Every little CPTED-oriented change you make to your property is a step in the right direction.

And when you’re ready to up your business security game, give Deep Sentinel a call at 833.983.6006.

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