Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Design the public and private realms to increase the sense of security near transit. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a multi-disciplinary approach that focuses on design choices that can be implemented to deter crime and reduce victimization. The concept builds on four (4) main principles; Natural Surveillance, Territorial Reinforcement, Natural Access Control, and Maintenance. Dynamic placemaking approaches to CPTED are generally more successful than providing barriers, cameras or other static security measures.


Provide clear boundaries between public and private space. Ensure defensible design of public-private transition areas through grade separation and landscape treatments.

Design Guidelines
Policy & Implementation
The Role of Local Government & Transit First Policies
Guiding Principles of Land Use
Flexible Zoning Strategies
Street Design Implementation
Revising Transportation Analysis Practices
Transportation Demand Management
Rethinking Vehicle Parking Requirements
Parking Management
Best Practices to Attract Successful Developers
Clarifying Design Expectations
Integrating Retail into Transit Oriented Development
Community Planning for Rail Transit
Additional Resources
A photo of a row of townhouses with a sidewalk, street trees, and parallel parking
Clear Boundary Between Public & Private - Laurel Grove, San José, CA (Source: Flickr - Sergio Ruiz)
A photo of a plaza in front of a high-rise building with large ground lights on the sidewalk and an emergency call button box.
Salesforce Plaza, San Francisco, CA (Source: Flickr - Sergio Ruiz)

Natural surveillance is key to neighborhood safety. Neighborhoods with higher walkability indices and/or businesses open longer hours are associated with lower crime. Ensure open sightlines to and from public and private spaces.








Locate pedestrian-oriented uses on the ground level to support pedestrian activity and promote safety and visibility. Uses should include retail and food services, social and community services, office space, and living or activity spaces of residential buildings. A diverse selection of consistently occupied space is preferable to unoccupied space waiting for a specific type of tenant. Occupied storefronts, regardless of occupancy type, offer eyes on the street, which provides increased community safety.

A graphic of a block with a wide sidewalk and ground floor retail.
Ground Floor Public Uses - Natural Surveillance
A photo of a plaza with seating near a mixed-use building with ground floor retail and apartments on top.
Plaza del Sol - Sunnyvale, CA

A photo of outdoor patio seating facing the street at a restaurant.
Sidewalk Cafe, San Francisco, CA (Source:Flickr - Sergio Ruiz)

Design public spaces, such as parklets or sidewalk cafes, that provide opportunities for social interaction between neighbors and neighboring communities. Neighborhoods that encourage social cohesion tend to problem solve and form official or unofficial neighborhood watch, promoting a sense of safety and security.








    A photo of a park with a walking trail.
    Chinatown Park, Boston, MA (Source: IBI Group)

    Ensure adequate human-scale lighting. Public space should be evenly illuminated to allow people to better observe their surroundings.

    • Consult an electrical engineer to select the lighting with the best color rendering for CPTED.
    • Ensure the tree canopy does not interfere with adequate lighting of pedestrian spaces.
    • Light trail underpasses, day and night for added security.  








    A photo of an open space between two buildings with trees and planter box seating.
    Maintain Public Spaces - Brussells, Belgium (Source: Flickr - La Citta Vita)

    Maintain public spaces to portray a sense of ownership and by extension a sense of safety. Well maintained spaces feel safer than unmaintained spaces.

    • Maintain landscape to avoid ambush areas or hiding spots near trails and walkways. Maintain low plants at two-feet high and prune tree branches below six-feet high to maintain clear sightlines for pedestrians and cyclists.








    A photo of a chain link fence with a pac man and hearts art made out of tape.
    Public Art in Underutilized Spaces such as Construction Fencing

     Incorporate public art into underutilized spaces. It creates a perception of ownership and improves the perception of the space.