To hear phrases like "ambush points" and "target hardening," you might have thought you were at some kind of Navy Seals training course.
No, just another Wednesday at the Raleigh Urban Design Center.
Officer Kyle Kratzer gave a lunchtime lecture on how to use environmental design principles to keep criminals away from your home, business and neighborhood.
For his regular job, Kratzer works as a community policing specialist in the city's southeast district. But the veteran officer has also become a point man in Raleigh for an emerging field of study called CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design).
The field explores how to incorporate public safety techniques into the design or renovation of public buildings, housing developments and streets.
Raleigh is using the approach on New Bern Avenue, a heavily traveled link between downtown and WakeMed. They're interviewing business owners and looking at historical crime data for each address. The goal is to identify spots to improve sidewalks, pedestrian connections and sight lines to reduce crime and create a more attractive environment.
Criminals are always looking for "ambush points," poorly lit areas where they can lie in wait for the next victim, Kratzer said.
Police are often frustrated by gas stations and convenience stores that plaster big signs on their windows, making it difficult for passersby to see what's happening inside. Big windows with unobstructed views deter crime: "That is a huge security factor," Kratzer said.
Around the country, office buildings use strategically placed lines of low-lying, heavy shrubbery to dissuade people from cutting through. Some places even use cactus. The heavier the plant material, the less likely people will be to cut across, Kratzer said.
Some communities have gone to extreme lengths. After a middle school in Texas ran into problems with students loitering in the bathrooms, school officials installed windows that let people see the sink area from outside. The strategy caused a big drop in incidents, and it was cheaper than installing cameras or hiring more security guards.
When criminals move through a neighborhood, Kratzer said, they usually avoid homes with properly cut lawns, secured windows and working lights, known by police as examples of "target hardening."
"If it looks like somebody owns it and cares about it, they're probably going to move to somewhere else," Kratzer said.
The Raleigh Police Department has a program to make sure you're taking the right steps. A police officer will come to your home or business at no charge to do a walk-through safety evaluation. For details, contact Kratzer at 919-996-4455 or email@example.com.