July 13, 2020

How to Prevent Crime in Your Neighbourhood [From the Windsor Police]

Our mission is to make our communities safer, not only in the products and services that we provide, but in the information and resources that we share. In this series, we speak with the top security experts in Windsor to get their best advice for local home and business owners.

We interviewed Barry Horrobin, the Director of Planning and Physical Resources for the Windsor Police Service. Horrobin has a background in Environmental Criminology, and his years of research and service make him an expert in how built space can be more susceptible to crime and disorder and how thoughtful adjustments to it can restore or improve safety and security.

These concepts will help you make your own property more resistant to crime and disorder.

Based on his insights, this article includes:

  • Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
  • CPTED and Home Security
  • 5 Tips to Keep Your Windsor Neighbourhood Safe


Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED - pronounced sep-ted) is an approach to crime prevention that manages built and natural environments. It looks at how spaces can be more susceptible to crime because of how they’re built and used, and also looks at ways to eliminate those potential problem areas. 

For example, a dark alley in the middle of downtown Windsor has a high potential for crime and disorder. By adding lights to it, we decrease the risk for crime in that location by exposing unobservable space at night when vulnerability is elevated. This makes the alley less prone to unlawful activity and reduces fear of crime for lawful users.

There are six core principles of CPTED, with some overlap between them. Horrobin explained each of the principles as being one spoke of a wheel: CPTED is most effective when multiple facets are considered and implemented.

CPTED Principles

Natural Surveillance

Increasing visibility of an area through “visual exposure” to decrease the opportunity for crime. 

Example: Keeping lights on in a store overnight so that criminals can be seen through windows, or keeping windsor free of too many posters that block valuable sight lines.

Territorial Reinforcement

Making clear distinctions between different properties - especially between public and private properties/spaces.

Example: Fences or hedges between neighbours’ backyards or between a home and an adjacent public park.

Access Control

Directing and defining the flow of movement into and out from an area. 

Example: Using pathways in a park to control where and how people will circulate, to anticipate how opportunities for crime could establish and occur.

Behaviour Engineering

Examining the unique specifications of a space and how they are used over a period of time, to identify activities or behaviour that is out of alignment in terms of safety.

Example: Over time, noticing the blind spots created in a park by all the benches facing in only one direction, thereby leaving gaps of “unaccountable space” where unlawful activity can thrive.

Target Hardening

The physical fortification and security-oriented improvement of space to increase its resistance to being unlawfully breached. 

Example: Adding a security system, high-quality locks and signals (ie. stickers) to your home to deter a would-be criminal.

Activity Management

Ensuring that spaces are used lawfully for the purposes they were intended. 

Example: Reducing the potential for spaces like playgrounds, which are intended for young kids and families during the day, to be misused for unlawful activities like loitering, public intoxication, or drug use at night.

CPTED and Home Security

Crime and Disorder Triangle and CPTED

The Crime and Disorder Triangle

The application of CPTED is directed at the three core components of the crime and disorder triangle: opportunities, offenders, and victims. CPTED strategies are employed to remove opportunities for crime or disorder that give offenders the capability to victimize a person or their property. 

While CPTED has an effect on all three components of the triangle, it has its greatest application on opportunities for crime and disorder created by safety and security deficiencies of the built environment.

CPTED is great, but how does it affect me?

Horrobin highlighted that target hardening and activity management are especially important to residential homeowners, because they align with the crime and disorder triangle.

Target hardening means strengthening the security of a building to reduce the risk of break-in. There are many things you can do to make it more difficult for criminals to act unlawfully.

One way is by adding a security system to your home. A security, or alarm system, notifies you when someone is entering your property, who shouldn’t be there. Signals around the property notify a criminal about the presence of counter-crime measures and up to 60% of burglars say that they would be deterred by an alarm system.

Security systems come with signals, such as stickers, to notify a criminal about the presence of counter-crime measures.

Other examples of target hardening for home owners include:

  • Cutting back shrubbery to increase visibility
  • Adding film to your windows to make them smash-resistant
  • Planting hostile vegetation beneath ground-floor windows to deter criminals who would try to climb in
  • Adding window and door reinforcements

Activity management, and specifically maintaining the lawful use of a space for as many hours of the day as possible is difficult when the homeowner is not present. An example of this would be snowbirds: people who spend large amounts of time down south during the Canadian winters. 

Snowbirds’ homes can become prime targets for criminals because they know that no one is around. However, with activity management in mind, snowbirds can ask neighbours to upkeep parts of their property to ensure safety. For example, shovelling snow or keeping up with their mail.

Similarly, if you’re going on vacation in the summer, it would be wise to ask a neighbour to mow your lawn for you while you’re gone. Community plays a big role in keeping an individual property safe.

5 Steps to Keep Your Neighbourhood Safe

Homeowners also play a big role in keeping their neighbours safe. Crime prevention is better approached as a community, united towards security. Consider sharing this article with your neighbours.

  1. Know your neighbours: This is one of the most common tips for community safety. Sadly, 64% of millennials feel disconnected from their local community and 1 in 5 don’t know anyone in their neighbourhood. Knowing your neighbours’ patterns can help you to identify when something isn’t right. It also makes everyone in the community more likely to step up for each other when there are close relationships. 
  1. Maintain your property well: To a criminal, a poorly maintained property is a sign of weakness and an easy target to exploit. Thieves will always take the easy route, and a poorly maintained property signals less resistance to break-in. Also, it doesn’t stop at your own property. The maintenance of the other houses in your neighbourhood also influences a criminal’s perspective. When many of all neighbours adopt better physical maintenance practices, a collective impact benefit is realized that strengthens overall safety and security.
  1. Be active in your neighbourhood: Being outside is good for many reasons. In addition to breathing in the fresh air, being outside is an easy way to deter criminals. Perpetrators often plan their crimes and scope out certain neighbourhoods and houses before an attempt. If there are people outside on their porches, or kids playing on the yard, they will see that as a deterrent because the neighbourhood is too “busy” from usage by lawful persons to warrant taking the risk to commit a crime.
  1. Report suspicious behaviour: The gut feeling you get when something feels out of place? That feeling is usually right. Call in and report any suspicious activity in your neighbourhood. People are often hesitant to report because they “aren’t sure”, but even a hunch is worth calling in.
  1. Have door numbers that are visible from the road: Small or dark numbers on a dark background make it virtually impossible for the police to see your address from the road. If they get a call about a break-in, but can’t see the house number, it slows their response to addressing the problem effectively.

If there’s one thing you should take away from this article it’s that “Well-maintained and active neighbourhoods are naturally more resistant to crime”. Community is always important. However, especially in the midst of COVID-19, community has become even more important! Remember to continue being active (while socially-distanced) in your neighbourhood, for the safety and well-being of everyone.

It was great to chat with Barry and we are thankful for his expertise and his faithful service with the Windsor Police over many years.

Contact us if you have any questions about home or community security in your Windsor neighbourhood.

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