Reducing Crime at Rental Properties


ImageThis article is about a concept called CPTED, pronounced “Sep Ted.” The letters stand for Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.  CPTED is a field of study devoted to crime prevention through simple property changes. Research shows that you can decrease criminal activity to property, and criminal activity on property, by making it an uncomfortable place for criminals.

The City of Portland has a Landlord’s Manual with an excellent discussion of this topic. It is SO good, I’m just going to cut and paste it below, rather than paraphrase.  If you are interested in reading the manual for other good advice, and easy ways to implement the ideas below, you can click HERE.

Here are the four basic elements:

  1. Natural Surveillance: The ability to look into and out of your property. Crime is less likely to happen if those considering committing a crime feel they will be observed. Examples: Keep shrubs trimmed so they don’t block the view of windows or porches. Install door viewers so residents can se who is at the door before they open it. Remove tree branches that hang below six feet. Install low-energy-usage outdoor lighting along paths. Install motion-activated lights in private areas such as driveways and back yards. Keep drapes or blinds open during the day. Leave porch lights on at night.
  2. Access Control: Controlling entry and exit.  Crime is less likely to happen if the criminal feels it will be hard to get in or escape routes are blocked. Examples range from something as simple as a locked door to a 24-hour guard station or remote-activated gate. This applies to individual apartments too: deadbolt locks and security pins in windows and sliding glass doors. In apartment buildings, the “buzzer” for opening the front door is an access control device.

  3. Territoriality: Making a psychological impression that someone cares about the property and will engage in its defense.  Conveying territoriality is accomplished by posted signs, general cleanliness, high maintenance standards, and residents who politely question strangers. Signs that tell visitors to “report to the manager,” define rules of conduct, warn against trespassing, or merely announce neighborhood boundaries are all part of asserting territoriality. In other examples, cleaning off graffiti within one hour of discovering it or painting a mural on a blank wall both send a message that minor crime won’t be overlooked.

  4. Activity support: Increasing the presence of better behaving residents can decrease the opportunities for illegal activity.  Neighborhood features that are not used for legitimate activity are magnets for illegal activity. Organizing events or improving public services in parks and school yards, holding outdoor gatherings on hot summer nights, and features that attract regular use by cyclists, runners, and pedestrians are all examples.