University police department using new method to ensure safety

The Florida A&M University Police Department is using a new concept to keep students safe.

Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design is a concept that uses the natural design of campus as well as manmade aspects to control human behavior.

FAMU P.D.’s Crime Prevention Officer Sherri Luke recently attended a CPTED training course administered by the U.S. Attorney General’s Office.

“It’s such a great course. It uses the environment to reduce criminal behavior. You study space and the designing of it to curb human behavior,” Luke said.

Luke, who is now a registered CPTED practitioner, says FAMU P.D. uses the CPTED concept in many different ways.

“We wanted to manipulate the relationship between the environment and the people we’re trying to protect,” Luke said.

One example is The Set. The design of The Set makes it a transitional zone, Luke said.

“We want people to know that this area (street) is for vehicle traffic, and this area (walkway) is for pedestrian traffic. If you notice, when you drive up to The Set, the road is gravel. Once you get in front of the female dorms, it turns to bricks. Why? Because it sends a message to drivers that this is no longer an area to drive in,” Luke said.

The speed humps on campus are also an example of CPTED at work.

“We use a lot of traffic calming. People don’t want to go through a lot of roundabout and raised intersections,” Luke said. “Look at Wahnish Way. The crosswalk (in front of The Café) doesn’t have to be raised, but it is. Why? Because it makes people slow down.”

Luke said that measures like that force people to take a certain action, usually without noticing they’re doing it.

“I never paid any attention to it,” said Alphaeus Knowles, a junior music education student from Miami. “It seems like a really good concept. I mean, I’ve noticed it before, but never really paid any attention to it.”

Besides traffic calming, the CPTED program uses the environment to help curb the way people think and act.

“We try to use different landscaping to meet our goals. If I don’t want people to cross a certain area, I can plant hostile vegetation so that people will know not to cross through there.” Luke explained. “If I plant a bush that has thorns on it, people won’t cross through there because they don’t want to get pricked. It’s things like that that normal people don’t think about.”

Luke says the CPTED concept has been around for a long time, but is new to the university.

“We’re real lucky to have it here. The potential of what we can do with it here is almost like you’re adding a whole new dimension in crime prevention.”

That extra dimension is something students say they appreciate.

“I think it’s a great idea,” said Patrick Tomlinson, a computer information systems student from Fort Lauderdale. “Anything they can do to improve the safety of students on campus is more than welcome for me.”

Part of that added security is campus surveillance.

The “three feet, six feet” rule says that no bush can be over three feet tall, and the canopy of a tree cannot be closer to the ground than six feet.

This creates a natural surveillance because it does not give criminals any added invisibility.

“You want them (criminals) to feel like this is not their area,” said Luke. “It’s a lot about perception. It’s everything from fences to gating to coloring. Believe it or not, it really changes what people think.”

Luke said she welcomes students to submit any suggestions about campus safety to her.

You can e-mail her at