Measure type: Target hardening

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Target hardening is the measure of strengthening the security by increasing the required effort to commit crimes to or at an object.


Target hardening involves all measures that make committing a crime more difficult and reduce the opportunities for criminals to achieve their goal. Dependent on the type of crime the realisation of this measure can take quite different forms, ranging from teaching self-defence to possible victims of assault to bomb-proofing buildings against terrorists. In general the aim of target hardening is not to make objects completely resistant to attack, but to increase the risk of an attack for an offender (by for example increasing the time it takes to overcome the measures) to a level where the risk outweighs the gain of the crime as perceived by the offender.


Examples of target hardening can be categorised by the type of attack they oppose:

Against forced entry

  • Toughened glass (acrylic, polycarbon, etc.)
    Bullet-proof glass after a burglary attempt
  • Latticework or screens to cover windows
  • Deadbolt and vertical-bolt locks and door anchor hinges with non-removable pins
  • Metal door/window shutters
  • Tamper-proof screws in fittings
    Tamper-proof screw
  • Bollards and indirect routes against ramming
  • Vertical metal or small-mesh (unclimbable) fencing
  • Steeply angled roofs with parapets and ridges

Against destruction

  • Concrete or steel picnic tables, benches, bleachers
    Bus stop in Talinn, erected in hardened design after several vandalism incidents
  • Trash receptacles bolted to concrete bases
  • Hardened rubber or plastic swing seats
  • Fire-retardant paint
  • High-impact plastic or steel fixtures
  • Rough-play-tolerant adventure playgrounds
  • Slash-proof and steel-framed seats
  • Graffiti repellent spray on graffiti prone objects
  • Tamper-proof sign hardware and fasteners

Against bombs

  • Stand-off zones where no unauthorized access is possible
  • Increasing bomb resistance for vulnerable (parts of) objects
  • Locating vulnerable structures behind other, bomb-resistant or sacrificial structures

Against toxins and air-borne agents

  • Detectors
  • Closable air vents
  • Filter systems
  • Unreachable air intakes
  • Alternative air intakes
  • Emergency forced air circulation

Against violence

  • Separating traffic flows of for instance pedestrians and motor cycles to prevent snatch theft

Against all of the above

  • Early warning (alarms, emergency button) of action force or action force present
    Emergency buttong in Metro in Japan
  • Quick response of action force (by for instance optimizing access from police station to area)


This measure can be effective to a range of security issues. These are:

Financial gain Boredom or compulsive behaviour Impulse Conflict in beliefs
Burglary{{#info:Burglary is the crime of illicitly entering a building with the intent to commit an offence, particularly (but not limited to) theft.}} Physical assault{{#info:Assault, is a crime which involves causing a victim to fear or to experience any type of violence, except for sexual violence}} Destruction by riots{{#info:Destruction by riots is the act of vandalism of property by organised groups for a shared rational or rationalised reason.}} Mass killing{{#info:Mass killing is the crime of purposely causing harm or death to a group of (unknown) people in order to make a statement or to influence the public opinion. This threat is exerted out of wilful action by fanatics: terrorists or criminal activists.}}
Ram-raiding{{#info:Ram raid is a particular technique for burglars to gain access to primarily commercial premises, by means of driving -usually stolen- vehicles into locked or closed entrances, exits or windows.}} Sexual assault{{#info:Sexual assault is assault of a sexual nature on another person, or any sexual act committed without consent}} Destruction of property by fanatics{{#info:Destruction by fanatics is the crime of purposely causing damage in order to make a statement or to influence the public opinion.}}
Pickpocketing{{#info:Pickpocketing is a form of theft that involves the stealing of valuables from a victim without their noticing the theft at the time. }} Vandalism{{#info:Vandalism is the act of wilful or malicious destruction, injury, disfigurement, or defacement of property without the consent of the owner or person having custody or control.}}
Robbery{{#info:Robbery is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear. It is used her exclusively for acts committed to individual persons.}} Graffiti{{#info:Grafitti is the defacement of property by means of writing or drawings scribbled, scratched, or sprayed on a surface in a public place without the consent of the owner or person having custody or control. }}
Raid{{#info:Raid is the crime of taking or attempting to take something of value from a commercial venue by force or threat of force or by putting the victim in fear.}} Antisocial Behaviour{{#info:Antisocial behaviour is an accumulation category of relatively small crimes that highly influence the security perception of citizens. }}
Vehicle theft{{#info:Vehicle theft is the crime of theft, or attempt of theft of or from a motor vehicle (automobile, truck, bus, motorcycle, etc.).}}
table to be updated if security issue pages finished


General considerations

The realisation form of a measure should conform to the targeted public, threat level and surroundings: stand-off zones will be inappropriate in a shopping area and only deadbolted doors and windows are inappropriate for high-risk objects.

Urban planning considerations

Safety/security considerations

Target hardening measures aimed to improve security can have both positive and negative impacts on safety:

  • removing a door can harden a building against unauthorised entry, but can also reduce evacuation speed in case of emergencies such as fire
  • Replacing normal glass by toughened glass increases resilience both against security threats such as burglars, and safety threats such as tornadoes.

Social considerations

< (unfounded) decrease or increase of security perception>

Economic considerations

Target hardening lowers the costs of security threats, but also requires time and money by private agents, companies/developers and the public authorities, exacting economic costs. Together the benefits and costs are referred to as economic impact of security measures. The costs of surveillance measures contain the relatively straightforward direct expenditures on capital equipment and operational costs (both temporary and permanent), and in addition generate various types of secondary effects. Whether the costs are making sense from an economic point of view, depends on many factors, and can be answered by two distinct sets of questions:

  1. Are the envisioned target hardening measures cost effective from a socio-economic point of view, or are there better alternatives?
  2. Which specific agents (individuals, companies, sectors, authorities) are affected by the target hardening measures, and to which extend? How do the envisioned measures adjust the behaviour of these agents, and of course the behaviour of criminals/terrorists?

Economic tools can help the decision makers to answer these questions and to prevent wasteful expenditures on security (of course in collaboration with insights from criminology, sociology, etc.). A good example of efficient target hardening is sustainable design since it combines energy efficiency with security. In contrast, target hardening measures like big concrete walls or window bars in retail areas are classical examples of measures that do not create a welcome environment, creating indirect economic effects as a result of a reduction of the perceived security and quality of the environment.

Mobility considerations

Routes between certain nodes are particularly vulnerable to crime, for example- homes that are on the route from a large bar may be vulnerable to vandalism and other types of minor disorder as well as to burglary. Planners can use this knowledge to help prevent crime when designing roads and accessibility routes in new communities.

Ethics considerations

Legal considerations

Footnotes and references