Property managers spin a lot of plates – screening potential new tenants, keeping the building and grounds in good physical shape, following up on late rent payments, dealing with vendors, etc but their number one priority is resident safety. Maintaining building and property safety is no easy task but has many critical benefits: avoiding litigation from accidents, keeping current residents happy to avoid turnover and attracting new tenants. Preventing crime is critical to providing a safe living environment, even the perception of safety concerns can deter people from living at your property.This article will examine a variety of areas in which safety can be enhanced.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED)
In order for crime to take place, there are three essential elements: criminals, victims and opportunities. CPTED focuses on removing the opportunities that attract criminals in the first place. Properties should be comfortable, inviting (to legitimate users) and safe. Traditional security measures such as strong locks on windows and doors and security systems are important but landscape design and lighting can be more effective and less obtrusive than iron bars on windows and fences topped with razor wire.
1. Natural Surveillance –
Keep non-legitimate users easily observable by developing open spaces and minimizing features which criminals can hide behind. Expansive landscaping such as large bushes, shrubs and ornamental trees can be aesthetically pleasing, but when it comes to safety – more is not always better. The thicker and taller the foliage, the easier it is for criminals to conceal their presence.
Three, Two, Five Rule: all bushes and shrubs should be trimmed down to three feet or up two feet, all tree canopies should be cut up to five feet.
2. Territorial Reinforcement –
Create or extend the sphere of influence providing users the sense of territorial control. Particularly at residential properties, it is great to encourage a sense of ownership by residents. Not only will they be more likely to keep the grounds looking great but they will also be more likely to protect it by calling authorities when non-approved users are trespassing or causing damage.
CPTED Golden Rule: if you paint it or plant it, you will defend it
For apartment managers: you may not have residents volunteer to cut the grass or paint the buildings but they may be more inclined to provide input or help when it comes to decorative plants or edible gardens
3. Natural Access Control –
Decrease crime opportunity by denying access to crime targets and creating a perception of risk for offenders. Install fences and landscaping to clearly indicate public routes and discourage access to private areas.
Thick ground cover such as Cactus or Juniper with tangled vines can be excellent deterrents.
4. Lighting –
The effectiveness of strategies taken in accordance with all property safety principles above can be amplified by proper illumination. Well lit areas will deter criminals and give residents a sense of security and confidence. Read more about lighting benefits, considerations and best practices here.
Unfortunately, Savannah, GA is not as safe as many of us would like to believe. According to national statistics, Savannah is safer than only 13% of cities in the United States.
- Violent Crimes
- Savannah averages 4.01 violent crimes per 1,000 residents each year which equates to roughly 1 victim for every 250 residents
- The national average is 3.8
- Property Crimes
- Savannah averages 37.21 property crimes per 1,000 residents each year which equates to roughly 1 victim for every 27 residents
- The national average is 27.3
Crime Free Housing
One of the best ways to avoid crime on your property is to minimize the likelihood of criminals living there. In many communities, law enforcement agencies support programs to decrease crime and increase property safety. The Crime Free Housing program in Savannah, GA addresses both the rules and regulations tenants must adhere to in order to live in designated properties as well as physical design elements for the properties themselves. There are nearly 20 properties in and around Savannah and Chatham county that have been certified. Requirements include:
- criminal history checks on prospective tenants
- tenants must sign behavioral agreements
- public records are shared between law enforcement and property managers regarding service calls to the property or tenant arrests
- property must adopt Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles including strategic landscaping and proper lighting to enhance property safety
Contact your local police department to learn about safety programs in your area
In Savannah, GA, Scpl.Tracy Walden of the Savannah Chatham Metro Police Department provides periodic training programs throughout the year, she can be contacted at TWalden@savannahga.gov or 912.651.6653.
Consult your landscape management professional to assess your property and see how they can maximize the safety of your grounds.
TideWater created an easy graphic reference to help property managers keep their properties safe.