Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Preventing a crime at your place of business might be as simple as the shrubs in front of your window, the lights in your parking lot, or what’s in your window. These are the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).

The Melbourne Police Department, through its Business Watch program, which it holds at our Chamber office, knows all about how to make your business safer. They, and many other law enforcement agencies, will do a free safety evaluation of your business.

Design that Influences Behavior

The goal of CPTED (pronounced Sep-ted) is to prevent crime by designing a physical environment that positively influences human behavior. The term was first used by C. Ray Jeffery, a criminologist from Florida State University, in the 1970s. The theory is based on four principles: natural access control, natural surveillance, territoriality and maintenance.

Natural Access Control and Territoriality

Are there areas where you want to keep the public out? Fences, gates and entryways define your property lines, limit access and give a sense of ownership. Therefore you need to ask, “Are paths that you want your customers to use well maintained and clearly signed?” Also you want to use the shortest, least sight-limiting fence appropriate for the situation. Easier yet, plant low, thorny bushes beneath ground level windows.

Natural Surveillance

Start with the basics – are your windows so cluttered that your staff can’t see out to be alert to potential mischief? Or are there so many ads in the windows that the police could not see in if something was amiss? Leave yourself a clear, unobstructed view! Does your lighting leave areas of darkness where crime can lurk? Poorly placed lights can create blind-spots – you want space where a potential offender can easily be observed, identified and consequently apprehended.


Like the adage that if you allow a broken window to remain, you invite more crime to come (the “broken windows” theory, put forth by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982), a well-maintained property does deter crime. Does your municipality’s code enforcement staff get strict on property owners who send an invitation to vandals? The sooner broken windows are fixed, the less likely it is that such vandalism will occur in
the future.

CPTED may merely sound like common sense, and in many ways it is. With a few simple measures, business owners will see safer locations that are more attractive to both customers and employees.

More Crime Prevention Tips for Business Owners

  1. Keep doors locked during non-business hours
  2. Install surveillance cameras
  3. Hire a security service
  4. Greet everyone who enters your business
  5. If you have an alarm system, remember to turn it on
  6. Anchor your safe, and change the combination when an employee who had access to it leaves
  7. Join a local Business Watch program and encourage others to participate as well
  8. Know what to do in case of an emergency. Have policies and ensure all employees are trained in emergency procedures
  9. Learn how to be a good witness by noting gender, ethnicity, age, height, weight, hair color/length, clothing/shoes, and car driven of suspicious individuals
  10. If you are ever the victim of a robbery, comply. Give up your money or your merchandise – don’t risk your life.

Christine Michaels is president and CEO of the Melbourne Regional Chamber of East Central Florida