Landscape crews do more than maintain plants and turf; they are also keeping homes secure from unwanted burglars and prowlers. Chuck Sczuroski, senior trainer of the National Crime Prevention Council in Arlington, Virginia, reported that the right landscaping helps keep residents and their property safe.

Sczuroski, a retired police officer, travels across the country teaching a method called Crime Prevention through Environmental Design. The practice uses landscaping and site design to improve an area’s security. Some methods are psychological in nature, and many are low in cost for property owners.

The method includes four basic principles: natural surveillance, natural access control, territorial reinforcement, and image and maintenance. Sczuroski recommends keeping sightlines open, so residents can see and hear malicious activity. Shrubs should be maintained at two to three feet in height, with canopies no lower than six to seven feet above ground. Many times, overgrown bushes are the perfect cover for prowlers.

“If you look at many condos or townhouses, people have lovely bushes growing under their first story windows. When those bushes grow to be five to seven feet tall, they have enough hiding area for someone breaking into their home and the average person driving down the street won’t see them,” Sczuroski said.

Trees should be planted far enough away from homes to deny access to upper story windows, balconies and deck doors. Another strategy is to install barrier plants that grow thorns, spines and other prickly growth beneath windows and along perimeter walls, to deter intruders. Landscaping can also establish clear boundaries, letting burglars know that an area is well maintained and belongs to someone else. Plants such as barberry, holly, juniper and rose are recommended. Even gravel can alert homeowners, because it makes crunching noise when stepped upon.