Presenting an impenetrable garden as MPS fights the ‘blight of home crime’

A decade-long collaboration between a horticultural school and Britain’s biggest police force has borne fruit – with the creation of a “world first” at the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society’s annual show.

Jun 27, 2018
By Nick Hudson
Winning design: The anti-burglary garden set for the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

Mature students Lucy Glover and Jacqueline Poll have won the opportunity to design and build a ‘crime prevention’ garden for display at next week’s Hampton Court Palace Flower Show in London.

It will be the first time that a contemporary garden incorporating proven techniques to deter opportunistic burglars will have featured at the event.

The pair – students in the final year of their foundation degree course at Capel Manor College’s School of Garden Design and Plantsmanship – beat three other rival entries to prepare a front or rear garden to a specification brief from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) that provides an “enjoyable and safe space, well-protected boundaries, prevents easy access to the rear, and protects everything within”.

Links between the MPS and Capel Manor go back more than ten years – with a well-established crime-prevention garden on the college’s own Enfield site.

Now, with the aid of £20,000 of funding from national crime prevention initiative Secured by Design (SBD), the anti-burglary spectacle will be unveiled on Sunday (July 2) at the week-long event.

The MPS’s Designing Out Crime Unit is determined to get a message across with the garden that “crime prevention is still important in the home and doesn’t begin or end with your doors”.

Sergeant David Lucy told Police Professional: “We want to prove that the first barrier is a bit further than the front and back entrances and that the garden is an extension of your property perimeter.”

With the clear-up rate for burglaries last year standing at just three per cent in England and Wales, and the figures only slightly better in London, the search is on for initiatives to help reduce the number of offences to free up more police time.

Along with the humble privet hedge as an impenetrable barrier, the “safe, secure and sustainable” elements of the garden design also include fencing topped with trellis to provide a high boundary; prickly plants, such as pyracantha or climbing roses, to protect windows, fencing and drainpipes; and fixed concrete benches topped with wood panels so they can not be repositioned to access windows.

The garden also features dawn-to-dusk low voltage lighting; solar globe lights in sandstone finish to provide low level illumination at night as well as sculptural interest to borders; and a pergola with a roof made of round poles with lose fitting wrap-around metal tubes to discourage climbing.

Other measures include gravel paths to hear the crunch of approaching footsteps; and a secure shed, topped with a green planting roof, with items inside like bicycles and gardening tools marked with DNA forensic marking liquids to identify them if stolen.

Sgt Lucy added: “Many of these simple, affordable tips can prevent burglars getting inside homes.

“Some people will be sceptical, but if this stops another elderly lady being a victim, then it’s worth it. We’re doing this for the right reasons.”

The winning designers delivered their presentations in front of a five-member judging panel comprising garden design and police crime prevention experts.

The panel was led by Julian Bennett, Central and South Area Commander with the MPS, who is also the force’s lead on burglary, and Julian Tatlock, lecturer in garden design, incorporating advanced construction and business management, at Capel Manor.

The other judges were MPS Prevention and Partnership Inspector Matt Turner, who also has overall responsibility for the SBD-trained Designing Out Crime officers in London; Lyn Poole, the local area development officer with SBD; and Julie Dowbiggin, Capel Manor plant sales manager.

Ms Poole added: “Gardens are all about being attractive and relaxing spaces for people to enjoy. We don’t want them to look like fortresses.

“However, you can include effective security measures that look like they are part of the overall garden without them appearing as standalone security features.”

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