You might live in the safest neighborhood in the world, but that doesn’t mean criminals can’t victimize you.

Security GateCredit: tried and true techniques like security cameras, lighting, alarm systems, dead bolts and the like are certainly measures you can take to protect your home and property one often overlooked area is how you landscape your home, garden and surrounding areas.

A growing movement is taking crime prevention through environmental design to homeowners and businesses and is gaining traction among government and law enforcement officials.

Arnie Corlin, a businessman who frequently consults with and assists the Los Angeles Police Department, goes so far as to say that “75 percent of the security measures people traditionally undertake (like security camera systems) don’t work.” He says crime prevention through environmental design should be the first thing homeowners do to insure a greater degree of safety and security.

Security consultant Harry Erickson agrees and says, “There are reasons why crime occurs at a particular location. The environment likely contributes to the crime rate.”

Erickson says there are four basic principles for making your home safe through a design or re-design of its environment.

See and Be Seen

According to Erickson and other experts making the area around your home or business – front, back and sides – easily visible helps deter criminal activity. A would be robber, for example, is less likely to think of seeing your house as a target if they think someone will see them doing their dirty deed.

Access, or preventing it, is the next principal. Just building a wall or fence is not enough. Using walkways, lighting, signage and landscaping helps direct the flow of people to entrances and exits you want them to use. It also deters criminals because they don’t want to go where other people normally traverse your property. That increases their risk of an encounter – something they’d just as soon avoid.

Sphere of Influence

Experts suggest you maintain a “sphere of influence” around your home. This includes physical designs of the areas around your home or business that have the net effect of discouraging trespassers and other unwanted visitors. This could include treatments of walkways and paths, open areas with clear sight lines, signage, and other means that clearly show and distinguish private areas and public areas. Again, the idea here is to discourage anyone who sees your property as a likely place for them to operate unseen.

Maintenance(111009)Credit: opsecprofessionals.orgFormer Los Angeles Police Department Police Chief William Bratton often spoke of the “Broken Window Theory” of police work and crime prevention. Something at a home or business that needs repair but work goes undone sends a message that the property owner doesn’t really care. Neglected and poorly maintained yards and homes are easy signs that the homeowner isn’t taking action to prevent crime. That’s like putting a sign on your front yard saying, “Come in and take whatever you want.”

Taking seriously the four principles of natural access control, natural surveillance, territoriality, and maintenance can save you from having a post-crime crisis that leaves you asking ‘what could I have done?