Natural surveillance

Natural surveillance relates to the ability to see into and out of an area. It involves the placement of physical features, activities, and people in ways that maximize the ability to see what is occurring in a given space, and optimize the potential to spot suspicious persons or activities.

How it works

The natural surveillance design concept is directed primarily at discouraging criminal activity by increasing the visibility of a property or building. Generally, criminals do not want to operate in an area that they can be readily seen. Natural surveillance techniques increase the ability for witness potential by making it easier for people to naturally see into an area during their normal day-to-day activities, creating an increased risk of detection for potential criminals.

Ways to increase natural surveillance


Pruning shrubs down to a height of 3 feet and trimming trees up to about 6 feet high to provide a clear, unobstructed view and to prevent someone from hiding on your property; doors and windows that are hidden by bushes give would-be thieves an ideal place to work at breaking in unnoticed.

Visibility of Doors and Windows

Making sure that the front door is at least partially visible from the street, to allow neighbours and passers-by to see anyone that should not be there. Leaving some window coverings open to create the perception of people watching, and to actually allow you to look out and potentially notice anything suspicious.


Utilizing good lighting around your property to maintain sightlines at night; all exterior doors should be well lit, as well as dark areas of the yard or property grounds, including pathways, stairs, parking areas, recreation areas, laundry rooms, storage areas, dumpster and recycling areas, etc. Ensuring lighting allows for people to be recognized at a distance and not produce glare for potential observers and witnesses.

Clear Sightlines

Keeping storefront windows largely clear of signs, posters, and advertisements to allow sightlines into and out of the store. Locating check-out counters in an area that they are clearly visible from the outside. Keeping the property address clearly visible and well lit at night; if someone needs to call the police about suspicious activity they need to be able to direct the police easily.

Building Design

Eliminating exterior building design features that allow for hiding or concealment, such as recessed doorways and alcoves. Choosing appropriate landscaping and fencing to allow unobstructed views into and out from the property (more on this in Access control and Territorial reinforcement).