You don't need a uniform and a badge to be a crimefighter. In some cases, a floppy hat and some gardening gloves will do just fine.
Conventional wisdom tells us that shrubs and hedges will make burglars think twice before breaking into a home. What you may not know is that science also supports the idea.
The territoriality principle
Back in 1983, a graduate student at the University of Utah conducted research on psychological barriers to burglary. Barbara Brown, who later earned her Ph.D. in psychology, studied hundreds of houses in the Salt Lake City area to compare houses that had been burglarized with houses that had remained secure. She made several findings, including:
- Barriers, even largely symbolic ones like bushes and hedges, can have an impact on the mind of a criminal
- Cul-de-sacs tend to have fewer break-ins than open-ended streets because they convey a sense of privacy
- Burglars will bypass an expensive-looking home, ostensibly a prime target, if the neighborhood seems well maintained
The reason, Dr. Brown theorized, involves territoriality. Homes whose occupants seem to have a sense of possession or ownership send a 'keep out'' message to potential intruders — and in many cases, they do heed that message.
''Residents who expressed pride in their homes, who believed their homes gave them privacy and who knew their neighbors were less likely to have experienced burglaries,'' she told The New York Times in a 1983 article on her research. ''The same principle applied to whole streets.''
Social scientists George Kelling and James Wilson explored similar themes with their Broken Windows Theory, suggesting that signs of disorder in a community can help set the stage for criminal activity.
How to get territorial in your yard
Experts offer a wealth of advice on landscaping your way to a more secure home, such as:
DO keep trees, hedges and shrubs neatly trimmed so that burglars will have fewer shadowy places to conceal themselves.
DON'T let toys, bikes or lawn equipment pile up in your yard, because an intruder could see it as a sign of inattentiveness on your part.
DO mow your lawn regularly (and have someone do it for you when you go on vacation) to sustain the appearance of an occupied, well-maintained home.
DON'T be afraid to get creative — planting some thorny rosebushes beside your home will create a burglar deterrent that’s also pleasing to the eye.
So when you tend your garden this summer, remember all the things you can do in the yard to make your home security bloom.