Gardening for Life!

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design

Steps for crime prevention:

  • Engage the support of residents and key partners.
  • Identify crime and disorder problems in and around the proposed garden site.
  • Review and analyse garden design based on existing crime problems.
  • Develop preventative or corrective design options.
  • Carry out preferred options.


Design options for preventing garden crime:

  • Define clear borders from public to semi-private and private. Mark boundaries of the garden clearly with perimeter borders (wood, cement block, wildlife fence, perennial flower gardens).  Choose footpath material in garden that is different than in the area surrounding the garden.
  • Eliminate barriers that create hiding spaces such as tall, thick shrubs.
  • Avoid landscaping that may conceal offenders.
  • Avoid placing dark, and / or hidden areas near parts of the garden where gardeners carry out activities such as at the water source, tool storage, or compost bins.
  • Avoid having covered and walled outdoor areas where loitering may be a problem.  Keep all canopies and gazebos open for all to see.
  • Use garden curbing and landscaping features to direct car and foot traffic into controlled and visible areas.
  • Minimize the number of entry and exit points to the garden.
  • Display Neighbourhood Watch signs near the garden.
  • Post a sign stating who grows the plants and harvests the crops and why.  "If you grow it, you can pick it." Include how anyone can join the garden, garden open hours (no open hours after sunset) and how produce in shared gardens is donated to food banks and people short of food.  Include the phrase "Harvesting without permission is theft".
  • Provide appropriate lighting.
  • Placing light wire or fencing around plots can act as a psychological barrier.
  • Plant seedlings for yellow tomatoes instead of red tomatoes because they are perceived as less desirable to thieves.
  • Hide your best crops. Plant easy to pick and desirable crops behind less popular crops. For example, plant pumpkins in beds covered with straw and plant raspberries behind legumes (beans, peas) or tall ornamental plants.
  • Dust your ripening crops such as corn with a harmless white powder such as flour.  Then post a sign warning of pest or plant illness being treated.
  • Grow more than you need so that you won't lose an entire harvest.
  •  Harvest tomatoes and peppers before they are fully ripe.
  • Avoid planting too many bright coloured vegetables together in an area such as large squash or peppers  because the color attracts attention to the garden.
  • Grow tomatoes in a large container at home next to your door or on a balcony.
  • Avoid leaving surplus produce in the garden.  This can invite vandalism and theft.
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  • Police officers can conduct CPTED (crime prevention through environmental design) assessments in existing neighbourhoods and review applications for new developments.
  • For gardens that are insured: insurance companies can offer discounts for safe designs..


Social Prevention Options

  • As part of garden membership, require all members to take one week during the growing season that they will visit and check the entire garden every day for a week.  If the community garden remains well maintained, it gives the impression that residents care about the area and this deters people from performing illegal activities.
  • Involve youth that are living in the community
  • Encourage residents to watch over the area.  Maximize all residents' enjoyment of the garden space and their ability to view garden spaces. Invite people near the garden over for a BBQ or   potluck.  Introduce all guests to one another and encourage people to glance at the garden often.  Check in with neighbours monthly to keep them informed about garden activities.
  • Work out a common strategy on questioning unfamiliar visitors. Would-be thieves hate a place where people talk to them, even if the questioners are friendly.  "Can I help you find the plot you'garden bed you're looking for?" or  "Would you like to sign our waiting list for a garden bed?" may be all you need to say to turn intruders away.
  • If a suspected thief is spotted, make sure all gardeners know what to do. Having a camera on hand can be good for capturing a thief's photo and thus deterring that individual from returning.
  • During harvest season, schedule more gardeners to visit at different times of day.  Try to have fewer times where the garden is unattended.
  • At garden registration in spring, match up people with adjacent garden beds as water buddies.  When either one goes away on vacation the other waters and cares for the adjacent gardener's garden bed.
  • Request each gardener to keep a record of what produce was vandalized or stolen and the date it took place.  This is so that future planning to prevent vandalism and theft can be carried out for the next growing season.
  • Share ripe produce with gardeners who experience theft from their garden bed in order to provide support to them during this disappointment and distress of being a crime victim.