Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a topic rarely covered in the security industry because most thought and attention is put to locks and bars, guns and ammo, retinal scans and sharks with lasers on their heads (that last one is still in prototype phase due to a mishap with an evil doctor 20 years ago). This is unfortunate, due to the fact that nature can be one of our greatest allies in the fight of good vs evil. Today, I am going to briefly cover one facet of CPTED – Natural Access Control – hostile vegetation. This is something that you can do yourself for a lot less money than a state of the art security system. Disclaimer: No security plan or system is, in itself, the “end all /be all”. Think of your security plan as a tool box. The more tools you put into it, the more robust and capable it is.
Hostile vegetation is exactly what it sounds like, plants that are, by nature, harmful to animals and humans. If you touch it and it makes you bleed, itch, or generally exclaim something inappropriate, then chances are it qualifies. So grab a shovel and some fertilizer, and lets check out some of the best ones out there. We will start with the outermost perimeter of your house and work our way in.
#1 Firethorn, or Pyracantha
So the bad guy wants to try to get onto your property. Here is an idea to make him reconsider. Plant these on the perimeter of your property. Firethorn is basically the bigger, meaner brother of the rose family, with much more formidable weaponry. This guy is perfect for a living fence, an intruder would need body armor to try to get through it in one piece.
Here are the pros:
- Big nasty thorns to cause plenty of painful incentive to stay away
- Natural deterrent for wandering animals /pests
- Fast growing: will grow about 2 feet in a season, the neighborhood kids will hate you in no time
- They are big: one plant will usually grow to about 10’ x 10’ so you shouldn’t need many for your property line
- They are evergreen, basically these plants have no off switch
- They are inexpensive when compared to traditional fencing. Example: a 20’ x 20’ space would only require around 8 plants, typically $40-50 for a 2’-3’ shrub. This would mean for around $400 you could have a living fence in just a couple of seasons.
- They grow in nearly every state
Here are the cons:
- Big nasty thorns that don’t care if it is an intruder coming in, or your kid playing in the yard, however in both cases, it’s usually a mistake only made once
- To keep them neat and visually appealing, there is some upkeep (pruning)
- For the first couple of seasons until the living fence connects, there will be some gaps in your perimeter
- These plants may reduce visibility beyond perimeter. What you gain in physical barrier, you sacrifice in line of sight.
#2 Needle Palm Tree
Ok, so the bad guy got around, through, or over the firethorn, hopefully with a few reminders that he is going to have to earn this one. And now he is at your house. Let’s introduce him to your next line of defense … the Needle Palm Tree.
Standing 5’ to 7’ tall and just as wide, this palm plant is perfect to put next to and under windows or around sheds or lower rooftops and other easily climbed areas.
Here are the pros:
- Big ol’ needles that love to pierce things
- Hardy and versatile: will grow in temperatures to -20F and tropical warmth.
- Will grow nearly everywhere and in both sun and shade
- Easy to care for, basically plant it and forget it, but prune if it becomes a line of sight problem
Here are the con’s:
- Can grow a bit too large for window coverage
- Are on the expensive side, can run about $40-50 for one adolescent tree
#3 And my personal favorite, the Yucca Plant
In my opinion this is by far the best plant available to use for physical security. Commonly known as Spanish Bayonet, there really isn’t much else to say about it. Just take a look at it and see for yourself.
These plants stand 10’ to 15’ tall and can be pruned down to be used under windows as a perfect deterrent to anyone that might want to look in or gain access.
Here are the pro’s:
- Nature’s sword, the leaves are both sharp and pointed… will cut like a knife, and will cause puncture wounds
- See the first bullet point
- Why are you still wanting more pros?
Here are the con’s:
- Like all hostile vegetation, they don’t differentiate between friend or foe, nor do they have a conscience, so you must be careful
The best thing about this type of hostile vegetation planning is that you can create a hard target to your property without the sometimes devaluation that a lot of higher tech or artificial security barriers can bring. It is a fact that criminals want to go for the easiest of everything. The easiest looking target, the easiest entry into that target, and the easiest “score” once they are inside. Your goal should be to create what we call a “hardened target,” or at a minimum the appearance of one. Using natural elements such as these, combined with other CPTED (bonus points for those of you who can tell me what that means without scrolling up) best practices, your investment will most likely be passed up for another much easier target.
PS: If you’re planting these bad boys for your own take on hostile vegetation, please do take safety precautions for yourself with gloves and tools!
For more tips like these, visit our blog at www.opssecuritygroup.com/blog.