How landscaping can assist crime prevention at home and in public

Ever heard of hostile vegetation? Planting it could help keep criminals away. We looked at how landscaping can keep people safe.

When a drunk driver damaged the gates of a Collier County community, it was a surveillance camera that caught the license plate and helped sheriff’s deputies track down the culprit.

HOA President Ericka Rohde says the cameras weren’t always there.

“We’re a little outdated,” Rohde said.

After a free visit with the Collier County Sheriff’s Office and a written plan, it was time for major upgrades.

“And safety is my number one concern,” Rohde said.

GulfShore Business first reported on this story.

Collier Sgt. Brian Sawyer is one of the sheriff’s deputies trained to provide safety assessments, and they’re all based on crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED) principles.

“It’s basically about setting your residence, your business, your neighborhood up to prevent criminals from wanting to make crime there,” Sawyer said.

But it’s not just about technology. CPTED also incorporates design and even landscaping to keep a home or business safe.

It includes trimming bushes to make sure nothing blocks windows, and there is nowhere for the crooks to hide. Implemented properly, it strengthens gates and limits the number of entry ways, improving landscape lighting and upgrading camera systems. Maintenance is crucial once it’s all installed.

“Addressing these particular tenets will help eliminate the possibility for crime to take place,” said Dr. Tyler Patak, an architect in Fort Myers. “You are actually building in the prevention.”

Patak has spent decades working CPTED into his designs, helping fortify local schools and businesses.

“You’ve got to think like the perpetrators, so that you are able then to make it less attractive for them,” Patak said. “So they’ll move on to the next place.”

Patak says the changes he makes can be subtle, but the payout is huge.

“You’re safer whether you notice it or not,” Patak said. “You’ll feel safer. You’ll be safer.”

Improvements to electronic surveillance can keep people and property safe. The best way to start is by calling local law enforcement. Experts will come out and do a free assessment to help get started.

As for Rohde , she said she’s pleased with the process of installing CPTEd measures in her community. Better lighting, better cameras and better landscaping has made for a better neighborhood.

“We still want our residents to feel safe and comfortable coming in at night,” Rohde said.

And the work continues.

“We wanted to make sure we were on top of our game,” Rohde said. “And that we continue to be on top of our game.”

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Reporter:Rich Kolko
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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