Local News

Durham Police Turn To Landscaping To Crack Down On Crime

Posted November 12, 2000 6:00 a.m. EST

— Many people plant shrubs and flowers to make their yard look nice, but Durham police are planting them with a purpose. Shrubs and bushes are being used to stop crime and keep crooks away.

Construction has not even started on theAmerican Tobacco Project, but some people are already working on ways to curb crime at the downtown warehouse.

Crime prevention through environmental design uses surface texture to deter potential criminals.

"Like boulders, you could even put manure, pea gravel -- anything where it makes it a difficult spot to stand, and it's no longer conducive to loiter," says Patrick Harris of the National Crime Prevention Council.

Durham law enforcement officers, along with city planners and architects, are learning how to incorporate these ideas into the actual construction process.

"Basically, use the environment to create advantages or create disadvantages for people determined to engage in criminal activity," says Lt. Ed Sarvis of the Durham Police Department.

The idea also works in established areas. A few days ago, police planted shrubs, flowering bushes and ivy at an intersection in one of Durham's toughest neighborhoods.

The plants actually help to get the drug dealers off the street corners because it leaves them nowhere to stand.

"Sometimes, you see tremendous benefits. If you see the number of complaints go down, the neighbors are happy, and it looks a lot better," she says.

Police say the effort has worked in other neighborhoods. It has also helped to give neighbors a real sense of community.

Members of the Durham Crime Cabinet will be touring the American Tobacco Warehouse Tuesday to see what kinds of crime prevention ideas they can incorporate before the project gets into the construction phase.