Greenville police use environmental design to cut down on crime

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Greenville Police Department is working to prevent crime using innovative techniques, and in just months the city is already seeing a big difference.

Iris Hill has lived in her home for the past 25 years.

“This was a pretty nice neighborhood,” said Hill. “Yeah, friendly people. But most of those people have died out.”

“Everything has changed,” Hill continued. “Not for the better. People keep coming through my yard, back and forth, dropping stuff — selling drugs, using drugs — I needed some help.”

That help came in the form of Greenville police Lt. David Anderson, who works to solve crime using innovative techniques.

“CPTED is Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design,” Anderson said. “So if we take an area, for instance, on the back of this house where we place lights, if someone walks back there, and it lights up, that takes away that opportunity for that crime. And therefore that crime is less likely to be committed.”

The lights were not the only safety measures added to Hill’s home.

“Drug dealers were coming back here, and they were hiding drugs in the bushes,” said Anderson. “So what we did is we came in, cut the bushes down and built a fence.”

Anderson said these improvements create territoriality, a CPTED principle.

The safety upgrades have not just been implemented on Hill’s property.

“You think I worry?” said Amelia Pledger, a Greenville resident. “Oh no I didn’t. I got on my phone, and I called Lt. Anderson and just called up there to the office, and I said I need some help!”

Pledger, known to neighbors as “Mama Bear,” takes pride in being the neighborhood mom, and her street now includes several CPTED principles, including cutting down bushes.

“That’s a good CPTED principle; keeping the bushes low where you can’t see over them,” said Anderson. “Not very thick so you can actually see through them. If you can be seen, you’re a lot less likely to commit criminal activity.”

Since Greenville police started implementing these techniques, crime has dropped drastically in several west Greenville neighborhoods.
In the Myrtle Crime Reduction Initiative Area, aggravated assault has dropped by 67 percent since the changes were made. Shots fired calls are down by 33 percent.
In the Vance Crime Reduction Initiative Area, aggravated assault and shots fired calls are down by 50 percent.

“Before, the older people could not come sit on the porch,” said Pledger. “They be all afraid to even come outside. The kids wouldn’t play hardly at all. It’s not like that now.”

Anderson said anyone can implement these principles to secure their home.

“If you have a dark area on the back of your house, motion lights are outstanding,” said Anderson.

He also recommended keeping bushes trimmed approximately three to four inches high so there is nowhere to hide behind them.

Simple fixes can make all the difference, and Hill said now that she doesn’t have to worry about people hiding behind bushes, it makes her feel “good — really good.”

The Greenville Police Department is offering free CPTED assessments to all Greenville residents. If you’re interested in finding out how to make your home safer, call GPD at 252-329-4315.

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