Making a business, residence or neighborhood unattractive to those who might be interested in committing criminal activity is the concept behind CPTED, Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
By utilizing techniques such as improving lighting, controlling access to areas and making sure store windows aren’t blocked by posters, crime can be prevented by creating an environment less attractive to potential law-breakers.
“CPTED makes offenders feel not so safe,” said Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Patrol Sgt. Steve Barreira.
The program has been part of the sheriff’s office’s crime reduction initiatives for decades and more than 10 officers have been certified in the technology by the state attorney general’s office.
The certified officers, who have completed 64 hours of instruction from the Florida Crime Prevention Training Institute, have shared their skills with about 150 other officers, said Barreira.
While all of the officers aren’t certified by the state as program practitioners, the techniques are understood and applied on a regular basis.
“It’s not a standalone training, but it’s fully integrated into other duties,” Barreira said.
Much of the program could be considered common sense, like when a convenience store operator makes sure there is adequate lighting in the parking lot. Keeping windows free of fliers and poster-style advertising makes it easy for the store clerk to see who is entering the store and it makes it easier for people outside the store to see what’s going on inside the store. Surveillance cameras that record activities are another element of the program that makes a business less attractive for criminal activity.
Businesses that are open late hours are some of the best candidates for a program evaluation, said Barreira.
He cited one example where security was improved at a 24-hour health club by merely facing the treadmills toward the storefront windows, which allowed the patrons to monitor activity outside the facility.
“It put a lot of eyes on the parking lot,” Barreira said.
In public spaces, the program specifies installing low ground cover and trimming tree limbs to at least six feet off the ground to improve visibility and reduce places for hiding. JSO has worked for years with city parks personnel to make the program’s concepts part of the regular maintenance schedule.
Improving lighting and installing visible electronic security systems can change how potential criminals may evaluate a location.
“The perception of safety is just as important as the reality,” said Barreira. “CPTED provides long-term, sustainable safety and crime prevention.”
Another effect of the proram is that it involves a business owner, a resident or a neighborhood in helping reduce crime through improving their space. The program is a regular topic of discussion at Sheriff’s Advisory Council (ShAdCo) meetings, said Lauri-Ellen Smith, JSO spokeswoman.
“It’s a very important component of policing when neighbors have a concern,” she said.
Business owners and operators, residents and property managers may request a free evaluation by visiting jaxsheriff.org and clicking on Community Affairs and Special Events or by calling (904) 630-2160, Smith said.