Can Landscaping Make Community Safer?

May 16, 2012
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Q: Landscaping is often overlooked as a security method. How exactly would landscaping deter crime?

A: Since criminals usually like to take their victims by surprise, they tend to commit crimes in places that offer them hiding spots. Dense hedges or bushes or trees with low-hanging foliage at a community can provide perfect cover for criminals. But trimming trees and shrubs and flattening berms—that is, mounds or walls of earth—can help reduce crime. That’s because doing so eliminates potential hiding spots and increases visibility from the street. If criminals have nowhere to hide, or if they think they can easily be spotted, they will be less likely to commit a crime.

Also, having a safe landscape design that discourages, rather than encourages, crime at a community will help an association convince a court that it took reasonable steps to keep the community safe, should a victim decide to sue the association for negligence. Safe landscaping can also reduce the perception that a community is unsafe. If people think a community is unsafe, they will be less likely to want to live there.

One landscaping option that managers should consider: Planting thorny shrub barriers. Criminals like to have multiple points of entry and exit. By limiting the number of entrances and exits at a community, criminals will be less inclined to come there. Installing thorny shrub barriers at the perimeter of a parking lot and between the community and neighboring properties is one way of doing that. Although grouping shrubs together will give criminals a place to hide, it is okay to do this with thorny shrubs. Criminals are not likely to use them as cover for attacks because they will find the shrubs difficult and painful to pass through to get at their intended victims.