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Defensive planting to reduce residential burglary

Using planting to make properties less attractive for burglars and reduce victimisation in target areas.

First published

Key details

Does it work?
Untested – new or innovative
Crime prevention
Neighbourhood crime

Alick James

Email address
South East
Community safety partnership
Voluntary/not for profit organisation
Stage of practice
The practice is implemented.
Start date
Completion date
Scale of initiative
Target group


This initiative aims to take a problem-solving approach to burglary prevention in hot spot areas during identified winter residential burglary peaks.

Intended outcome

  • To understand the burglary problem profile in the hotspot area.
  • To provide tailored burglary prevention advice.
  • To conduct targeted hot spot patrols.
  • To engage with the community to encourage adoption of defensive planting crime prevention techniques.


Analysts from the Surrey Police Problem-solving Team produced data on winter burglary hot spots. These were shared with all 11 borough commanders in Surrey to develop preventative plans and focus resources effectively. Resourcing was prioritised in areas that had seen the greatest volume of offending during the previous periods 2018/19 and 2019/20, September through to March.

The recurring hot spots were geographically defined and all burglaries in prior winter periods were reviewed by a neighbourhood support officer. Police community support officers (PCSOs) then visited these hot spots to conduct a visual audit to identify the common factors. This identified:

  • the commons days and times during which burglaries were committed
  • the majority of burgled properties were in a cul-de-sac
  • properties were approached from the rear and were not overlooked
  • a small minority of burgled houses had a locked side gate
  • burglars often gained entry by climbing over fences and gates

As a result of this work, Surrey police had specific and targeted information about burglary prevention in the hot spot area as well as information about the characteristics of target properties. Using this information, joint patrols were conducted with the Neighbourhood Watch members during the frequent offence commission days and times. This delivered targeted crime prevention advice and provided a visible deterrence in the areas. The crime prevention advice was either delivered in person or through a letter.

Recognising that properties were vulnerable due to side gates not being locked and access or egress being through the side or over fences, the benefits of defensive planting were considered. Defensive planting has the potential to make the properties less attractive and more difficult as targets. It involves planting plants with natural defences – such as thorns, barbs or spines – along fences and windows.

Advice was sought from the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS). As a result, a video was produced to raise awareness of defensive planting as a mechanism to prevent burglary. The RHS also provided advice and suggestions for plants that were suitable for this purpose. Planting suggestions had the benefit of engaging an audience on a topic they were interested in, providing an opportunity to give more general preventative advice. The video was released through the Surrey Heath Beat Facebook page and has received over 20,000 views.

Overall impact

Compared to the previous winter period there was a reduction of 82% in burglaries within the hotspot area. The overall reduction in burglaries for the division was 40% , although lockdowns and COVID were identifiable contributing factors to this reduction.

This campaign was shared with all Borough Commander and the approach was taken up in Tandridge (a neighbouring borough) to support a repeat victim of burglaries. The residential property had been targeted multiple times and target hardening measures were taken to reduce risk to their property, using Safer Streets funding for a landscaper to do some defensive planting for them. They have not been targeted since.


  • This project highlighted the importance of using data to take a targeted approach.
  • Understanding the community and how they might become motivated to take crime prevention measures was an important factor.
  • Similar approaches could be tested in commercial properties, subject to targeting.

Best available evidence

The crime reduction toolkit does not currently include best-available evidence on defensive planting.

It does include the best-available evidence on:


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Legal Disclaimer

Disclaimer: The views, information or opinions expressed in this shared practice example are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or views of the College of Policing or the organisations involved.

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