Do you live in an area that has some criminal element? Would you like to shore up your home security in an affordable eye pleasing manner? Why not check out Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. CPTED is derived from research which shows that the design and management of natural environments can act as a significant deterrent to criminal activity. (1) (See reference below). This concept was originally developed in the 1970s as a means to reduce crime in public housing projects.
CPTED has several concepts involving start to finish security planning in new construction but the portion of the theory that is most applicable to our suburban communities is landscaping. A goal of a security oriented landscaping plan should be to discourage crime. This can be accomplished in a variety of ways.
Maintenance and upkeep — To act as a deterrent to crime the property should have a neat and clean appearance that is well maintained but also appears to be utilized on a regular basis. I have seen many properties in Westchester that are so magnificently maintained that the first impression that I get is that wow these people must always be at work.
Definite transitional barriers — Fencing is the first thing that comes to mind. But the theories of CPTED would indicate that we should structure our environment so that it tends to deter entry of an unwelcome individual rather than fencing us in and shielding us from the world. The structure and layout of the entry into your property should be such that it creates a sense of a private zone. It should be quite visibly clear that if anyone crosses a certain boundary they are in a private area. This private area should be openly visible to neighbors and from your windows but the structure of the landscaping should be such that it would make a potential perpetrator uncomfortable. An example of this would be a run of 3' high arborvitae, silver grass or a nice run of rounded boxwoods. If an unsavory fellow stepped through or over the plants, and onto your front lawn they could still be seen from a neighbor's window, a passing car or your own window and it would be clear that this person did not belong there. If you have 8' trees running the front of your property somebody could cross that boundary and not be seen from the street.
Visible psychological barriers — This could be an archway, a change in design at the end of your driveway so that it's not blacktop driveway into blacktop road. A run of stone at the edge of your front lawn where it connects to the street or some of those pavers would be another example.
Lighting — This is self explanatory but often underutilized method of crime deterrence. The type of lighting that one could use will vary from house to house but the goal remains the same. The level of light should be such that the property is well lit just inside its boundary lines and should portray a warm lived in environment.
1. C. Ray Jeffery, Crime Prevention through environmental design (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1977)