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Landscaping to fight crime
Design work to make parking lots safer

By Evan Belanger
evanb@decaturdaily.com · 340-2442

Future members of Decatur’s crime-prevention team may include an electrician, a landscaper or even a gardener, according to Decatur Police Chief Kenneth Collier.

No, they’re not undercover officers. They’re just folks doing their jobs, but Collier says they could make a big difference in Decatur’s crime fight.

As part of the Police Department’s new strategy, he said, officers are incorporating Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design principles into their daily routine.

The program uses landscaping and artificial lighting to create environments more attractive to the public, highly visible and less attractive to potential criminals.

It encourages business owners to make their parking lots more appealing by planting trees and bushes, maintaining green spaces and adding lighting. This encourages people to spend more time outside than they would in a lot with row upon row of tightly packed cars.

With more witnesses and higher visibility, it discourages criminals from committing crimes by increasing the likelihood they will be seen and caught.

Removing hiding places

Other design principles help eliminate hiding places for potential criminals by removing bushes taller than 3 feet and trimming trees to have no branches lower than 7 feet.

“We feel like it’s going to be very effective, and that’s just going to be a small part of what we do,” Collier said.

Collier said the department has sent its crime-prevention officers to school. Those officers have been consulting with city departments to help implement the principles.

On Oct. 23, the Decatur Planning Commission will consider implementing two zoning changes recommended by officers trained in the concept. Those changes will require new businesses to provide landscaping in parking lots with 15 or more spaces and lighting in parking lots with 50 or more spaces, if passed.

According to a spokesman with the Decatur Crime Prevention unit, parking lots are the No. 1 location for assault and sexual assault crimes.

Collier said the department is training the city’s school resource officers in the principles as well.

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