GUEST BLOG: Gerard Cleveland is a school and youth violence prevention expert and an attorney based in Australia. He is co-author of Swift Pursuit: A Career Survival Guide for the Federal Officer. He is a frequent contributor to this blog, most recently regarding policing and drones.
PROBLEM-SOLVERS, NOT CALL RESPONDERS
No one serious about public safety would advocate for the abolishment of our police agencies. We need them in times of emergency, as well as to investigate and solve community crime and disorder problems. However, we do need to have a serious discussion about what we want our police agencies to focus on in the next few decades.
Greg Saville and I just finished teaching a two-week problem-solving class called Problem-Based Learning for Police Educators at the Law Enforcement Training Academy in South Dakota with a wonderful group of dedicated and talented police and public service participants. Much of the course focused on ‘what next’ and we had senior police and sheriff executives, graduates from our previous classes, visit to tell us that as our communities change, so too must our public service agencies.
During all our training courses, we challenge police and community leaders to answer some key questions they will face in the years ahead, two of which include the metaverse and artificial intelligence.
If you are serving in a public role – in any agency – what plans and training have you undertaken to deal with issues in the metaverse? As that virtual area of our lives grows and becomes part of our daily activities, what role will police need to take? If you are not sure that you need to address this issue yet, consider how much catching up policing agencies had to do with the arrival of crime on the web – especially the dark web – only a few decades ago. We do not want to be in the same position of catching up with technology as the metaverse extends its reach into our daily lives.
As well, what does your team know about the enhanced capabilities of privately owned drones? Many of our class members had never considered that the new threat of crime may be delivered via mini drones to your neighbourhoods. Their experience with drones generally extended to using police drones to clear buildings or watch traffic patterns, but almost no planning had been done to deal with drones being used for nefarious purposes by criminals. Greg describes one of the high-crime hotspots where his team brought SafeGrowth programming but then learned that the neighbourhood gang used drones to monitor police patrols.
Finally, how does your agency plan to address the development and growth of Artificial Intelligence (AI)? While AI will provide positive support for us in so many ways in medicine, engineering, traffic control, predictive policing, and a multitude of other ways, how have you begun to prepare – as parts of Asia have, for AI attacks on our infrastructure, our computers and even the vehicles we drive and the machines we operate?
If you find yourself scratching your head wondering, “what do I do next?” we have a suggestion. Firstly, form some small groups with your police and community members and investigate and discuss what you can expect in the next 10 years from the above developments. Secondly, and most importantly, train your people to be problem solvers and thinkers, not reactive, call responders.
But that last sentence is much harder than it sounds. We’ve been trying to change police training for the past two decades with limited success. I suspect that unless we reframe and fund strategies to address future trends, our current model of warrior responder will suddenly be quite irrelevant except in limited circumstances in the late 2020s and beyond.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Public transportation hubs provide commuting assets to every city. That’s why it’s crucial that they are well thought-out and become well integrated into the city ecosystem.
A key form of transport hub is the Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) - a new Smart Growth form of city planning used in many cities to improve the integration of central stations and connecting services, as well as to promote the connectivity of services to populated parts of cities.
I wrote about TODs in Vancouver and Greg wrote about the central corridor TOD in St Paul, Minnesota. The Slovenian capital city of Ljubljana could benefit greatly from these considerations to improve currently underwhelming public transportation options.
I’ve recently joined the Institute for Spatial Policies’ (IPOP) Jane’s Walk where the participants discussed the proposed redevelopment of the new central station and transportation hub in Ljubljana.
The beginnings of this project date back to 2002. In 2006, the first building plan was approved but followed several revisions and the 2 public-private partnerships were dissolved in the process. The project was also put on hold due to historical archaeological findings dating back to Roman Ljubljana – Emona, and ensuing excavations on the site.
Fast forward 20 years and in April this year, new plans were announced envisioning a mixed-use development with commercial and business facilities, large parking facilities, a hotel, and exclusive apartments.
However, it appears as if the transportation hub is now of secondary importance to this project, which is also alluded to on the project’s website:
“…A modern development that will be a hub of activity. It offers retail and entertainment experiences, state-of-the-art workplaces, a welcoming hotel and long-stay apartments. It offers first-class connectivity together with modern, stylish, urban places to live. It’s the heart of the city where life happens. It’s Ljubljana’s urban forum.”
Unsurprisingly, the proposal was met with several criticisms. In one piece, Katarina Žakelj of the Coalition for Sustainable Transport Politics questioned whether the project is still focused on the central station or whether it is a fiasco in the city centre?
We held similar discussions at the recent Jane’s Walk I attended where I heard concerns about insufficient time given to public consultations, problems with a large number of planned parking surfaces, and a lack of greenery which could worsen the heat island effect.
The site envisions 1700 new parking places for motor vehicles, around 900 of these will be for visitors, and the remaining for business and office facilities. With the municipality’s intention of reducing car traffic and car dependency by 20% before 2027, this plan appears counterintuitive. One US report recognises that while there are numerous benefits of a transportation hub, we need to reduce reliance on cars and instead integrate those provisions with better public transportation services.
RETAIL & BUSINESS FOCUS
At the Jane’s Walk, one of the participants exclaimed “not another shopping mall!” Both the retail and business focus of the development at this prime location appear counter-intuitive.
This new shopping venue might affect the existing retail in the city and independent shops thus leading to vacant storefronts. According to some sources, Slovenia has one of the highest square footage of retail space per capita in the EU.
Additionally, as many have expressed the preference for working from home, future cities should be more focused on the provision of social infrastructure.
One point of contention concerns intermodality. For example, currently, Ljubljana has no unified system under which one could use the same ticket for different modes of transport. The concept called ZMAJ proposes this much-needed change together with the development of Emonika. As well, realizing the UN-Habitat concept of a 15-minute city means that micromobility and other flexible transportation options are also needed.
TODs AND SAFETY
TODs are an integrative and sustainable way to build future cities, but Emonika needs to consider issues such as growing population, environmental, economic and social sustainability, and futureproofing, not just commercial needs. Among the most important needs is the personal safety and security of the site.
To my knowledge, these topics have not yet been explicitly discussed on any of the forums I was able to source. The developers should not neglect the potential CPTED-related topics such as after-hours safety and social activity at micro-locations.
After 20 years of waiting the residents of Ljubljana deserve a transportation hub fit for purpose.
by Gregory Saville
Happy birthday to Canada (July 1) and to the USA (July 4). Why mention this? Because the US, and to a lesser extent Canada, are the birthplace countries of CPTED – Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design.
Some say CPTED began with my old friend Professor C. Ray Jeffery’s 1971 CPTED book. Some credit Canadian-born architect Oscar Newman’s 1972 book on American architecture - Defensible Space. But CPTED truly began with American/Canadian journalist Jane Jacobs’ 1961 book about American planning – The Death and Life of Great American Cities.
A decade after Jacobs’ book, CPTED began in Canada when it was presented at a University of Toronto criminology workshop in 1975. One criminologist at that event, Professor Gwyn Nettler, challenged CPTED to do the necessary scientific research to prove the theory. How, he asked, was it possible to do crime prevention with such poor quality social science of the 1970s? In other words, don’t just make stuff up.
I first studied defensible space and CPTED at university in the late 1970s. Many years later I spoke to Lew Haines, director of the Westinghouse CPTED studies in the 1970s, and urban planner Richard Schneider who implemented CPTED planning in Hartford in the 1970s. Those were the first-ever tests of CPTED. They used a principle called “motive reinforcement” for community-building tactics. They did not describe target hardening as a CPTED principle.
Eventually, traditional CPTED removed the social aspects of motive reinforcement from the theory. Traditional CPTED now includes target hardening, a concept Jeffery and Jacobs could not care one whit about.
In CPTED books of the 1990s, traditional CPTED bore little resemblance to what Jeffery was recommending at the beginning. The truth is so-called traditional CPTED is nothing like the social ecology and interdisciplinary model in Jeffery’s writing. THAT was his point at a keynote address at the 1998 ICA CPTED conference in Mississauga, Canada.
How can we know the difference in CPTED between fluff and the right stuff? Based on Nettler’s principles, and as Carl Sagan once said, here are some basic theory-building steps:
Attempts to rewrite CPTED theory did not use these principles and ended up with ‘crime opportunity’ (aka, target hardening). Check the logic. Traditional CPTED – aka 1st Generation CPTED – became devoid of social factors. The largest bibliography on CPTED lists over 700 studies. For goodness sake, read at least some of the publications.
A C. RAY JEFFERY MOMENT
That brings me to a recent blog of Tom McKay, a CPTED leader from Ontario. Tom is a former Peel Regional Police constable and he did CPTED duties after I retired from Peel Police having done the same thing. Tom is truly an exceptional fellow and went on to co-found CPTED Ontario. He was one of the original board members of the International CPTED Association. I have great respect for Tom McKay and his passion for CPTED.
Thus, it was with great disappointment I read a recent blog by him suggesting that both 2nd and 3rd Generation CPTED “run the real danger of confusing the utility of traditional concepts… and trivializing and or burying traditional concepts in an increasingly unwieldy model that bears little resemblance to the traditional CPTED flowchart”.
Traditional CPTED, as it is now understood, was never promoted by C. Ray Jeffery. None of Jeffery’s ideas made it into the 1990s, only Newman’s. As criminologists Mateja Mihinjac and Danielle Reynald point out in a 2017 study, “contemporary CPTED is, owing to its practical applicability, largely based upon Newman’s original conceptualization.”
That is what Jeffery was getting at.
Tom recounts the opening address of C. Ray Jeffery at the Mississauga ICA CPTED conference. I was the one who brought Jeffery to that conference and published his remarks in the ICA Newsletter. I was teaching at Florida State University’s school of criminology and Professor Jeffery’s office was nearby. He was my colleague, my mentor, and my friend. I know his dictum that CPTED should “study crime in terms of the science of ecology and call for interdisciplinary research”. Jeffery’s point was that Newman’s defensible space (aka “traditional CPTED principles”) was the problem.
In fact, 2nd and 3rd Generation CPTED were created to better align CPTED with the actual theory described by Jeffery. They are enhancements to the original theory and they are expansive and interdisciplinary – precisely what Jeffery was demanding.
THE SECOND-GENERATION ANTIDOTE
Second Generation CPTED has been around for two decades and has numerous scientific research studies published by members of the International CPTED Association.
Second Generation CPTED is neither new nor unproven. In fact it is now formally incorporated into the new ISO (International Standards Organization) CPTED standard, published worldwide last month, in part developed by members of the International CPTED Association. There is also the upcoming School CPTED Guidebook published by the ICA. It is the first formal document describing steps toward 1st, 2nd and 3rd Generation CPTED to prevent violence in schools.
You do not automatically do 2nd Generation CPTED if you teach 1st Generation CPTED “correctly” – an absurd idea I recently heard from a confused practitioner applying for CPTED certification.
Second Generation CPTED builds on decades of research demonstrating some very precise principles such as social cohesion, community culture, and neighborhood capacity issues like blighted housing.
Tom cites an article by Sally Merry in her attempt to categorize early CPTED. Ironically, Merry bases her ideas partly on British criminologist R. Mawby. Unfortunately, Mawby makes the opposite conclusion to Merry. He criticized Defensible Space for its lack of attention to factors such as social class and income. In other words, traditional CPTED of that time, as now, was silent on the social ecology of a neighborhood. That is the point Jeffery made in Mississauga.
CPTED in this “traditional” form is NOT about the social fabric in a community. If social programs are intentionally incorporated into this form of CPTED training, they are done so in spite of this early writing, not because of it.
With a few notable exceptions, social factors were washed out of early CPTED before the 1990s. In the so-called traditional CPTED, social fabric of crime is subsumed into fun-to-add artifacts of a CPTED program (neighborhood watch to enhance natural surveillance is not 2nd Generation CPTED). That is not the social ecology described by Jeffery.
SOCIAL AMNESIA IN TRADITIONAL CPTED
Jacobs was about healthy neighborhoods – places where people had plenty of pro-social behaviors and less exposures to crime. She described the crime prevention power of such activities as “tree planting, traffic calming, and community events.”
Newman realized his mistake in describing Defensible Space in physical terms that downplayed social factors. He restated his theory in his 1980 book “Community of Interest”.
But by then the traditional CPTED die was cast. CPTED courses far and wide taught territorial and access controls, natural surveillance, target hardening, landscaping, lighting, and so on. Go and research CPTED lesson plans on Google (basic or “advanced”… no matter). See for yourself.
As for 2nd Generation CPTED, that has been taught for over a decade. We’ve taught it to residents, police officers, urban designers, community groups, and many others – like those in a New Orleans high-crime neighborhood – and they love it. They do not find these models confusing or unwieldy. They find them logical, and scientific, and they get positive results. They use 1st Generation CPTED, but they no longer stop with physical modifications. They build the capacity of their neighborhood so they have some say in their own safety. We argue this is the kind of CPTED that addresses Jeffery’s true concepts.
In the free marketplace of ideas, all are welcome. Let scientific methods, logic, and original research guide the way.
THE THIRD-GENERATION BREAKTHROUGH
A few years ago Mateja Mihinjac and I launched the most Jefferyesque version of CPTED since Mississauga – 3rd Generation CPTED. We spent years carefully examining the original CPTED theory. Mateja is completing her doctorate in CPTED and I have published prevention theories and studies for 35 years. We were careful to follow theory-building principles, and, true to Nettler and Sagan, our propositions and hypotheses aligned with the logic of theory-building and recent supporting research. We did not just make it up.
Third Generation CPTED is the newest kid on the theoretical CPTED block. Its scientific development is still underway. But make no mistake - there is already a significant body of evidence in support and 3rd Generation CPTED. It represents an exciting way to help our 21st Century city residents figure out how to build more inclusive, ethical, and sustainable communities as we grow into the future.
That is the Jeffery moment I am having.
LAUNCHING SAFEGROWTH IN EUROPE - REFLECTIONS FROM HELSINGBORG'S H22 SMART CITY EXPO by Mateja Mihinjac & Gregory SavilleRead Now
Swedish promotional video on SafeGrowth for the H22 Smart City Expo - music video courtesy of MOOSGH
by Mateja Mihinjac & Gregory Saville
The H22 Smart City Expo in Helsingborg, Sweden is approaching its final days. What a month it has been for the two of us and the SafeGrowth neighbourhood team on the ground!
This is the first-ever demonstration of the SafeGrowth neighbourhood safety planning system in Europe and the H22 Smart City Expo is a month-long, international demonstration of all things futuristic, promising, and technological for cities in the future. Helsingborg is the host of the H22 Expo and the neighbourhood of Drottninghög has been the site of SafeGrowth community work for the past year.
In the first week, we held a series of safety audit workshops in Drottninghög where residents have been implementing parts of the SafeGrowth model. We hosted professional visitors from municipalities across Europe wanting to learn more about SafeGrowth and its methods. We demonstrated our safety audit process and technology using a mobile app to collect perception of safety data during night walking audits that communities can use for subsequent safety-based community work.
THE NIGHT SAFETY AUDITS
We also facilitated a night-time safety audit with a large group of 40 attendees from the Urban Future Conference, which was a welcome challenge. We divided participants into several small groups to demonstrate the method. It was necessary for us to keep our participants until after darkness, which mean that the audit could not effectively start until 22:30 when it finally got dark enough to observe the nighttime environment!
We were delighted to see they stayed late into the evening and enthusiastically engaged in the exercise. It was satisfying to hear such positive comments from the participants afterwards.
Our second highlight included two different H22 talks and Urban Future Conference presentations when we introduced SafeGrowth to industry partners. Both presentations included a brief overview of SafeGrowth and its initial stages of implementation in Drottninghög with Greg Saville, Mateja Mihinjac and Iman Abbas. The sessions included interactive discussions with the audience as they investigated how to adopt this in their own cities across Sweden and Europe.
We were fortunate to invite an outstanding group of panelists of our key stakeholders to the Urban Future Conference session. They included members of our neighbourhood team:
This panel shared their own personal insights into their experience with the SafeGrowth method over the past year, its potential, challenges during their work on the ground, and the future outlook.
THE LOCAL TEAM
One of the most crucial roles in the entire SafeGrowth experience at the H22 Expo was the role of the SafeGrowth team under the guidance of the city’s coordinators Iman Abbas and Mia Wiklund.
Iman and Mia helped provide direct interaction with attendees and they demonstrated the SafeGrowth method to neighbourhood and city residents, visitors, politicians, professionals, researchers and tourists who wanted to learn about SafeGrowth work underway in Europe for the first time. Iman, Mia and all the local team members continue to spread the message until the very last day of the Expo.
We were delighted with the professionalism and expertise of all our new friends in Drottninghög and we are convinced this is the exact message deserving of a smarter - and safer - city in the future.
We thank the residents and local community of Drottninghög who continue to volunteer their valuable time to make their neighbourhood safer and more liveable. Special thanks go to Iman Abbas and Mia Wiklund who have been working tirelessly while coordinating the neighbourhood team in their SafeGrowth work and planning for the H22 Smart City Expo.
Thank you all!
by Tarah Hodgkinson
A few weeks ago, we decided to take a drive out to Grimsby, a small city on the shore of Lake Ontario for a hike. We found a charming coffee shop, some neat stores, and one of the most interesting examples of community culture I have ever seen.
We parked our car and strolled through the roundabout and surrounding streets to find several houses in the area painted up in the funky colours of Painted Ladies architecture. Many folks who live in Southwestern Ontario will be familiar with the Painted Ladies. These are a collection of houses that feature wild colour palettes and thematic designs.
This now popular tourist destination was once a Methodist camp along Lake Ontario. The neighbourhood then transitioned to beach cottages. When the Methodist camp went bankrupt in the early 1900s, the area was replaced with an amusement park. After that closed in the 1930s, the remaining cottages were built up, winterized and decorated to reflect their interesting past.
Interestingly, homes in the Painted Lady architectural style are not that unusual. Old Victorian and Edwardian houses, or in this case cottages, are repainted in bright colours to enhance their architectural features and embellish their historical heritage.
Other areas of the world also participate in the tradition of painting their houses bright colours including parts of Copenhagen, Ireland, and San Francisco. I would argue that none are as creative, or as individual and unique, like those in Grimsby.
What is great about these houses, besides their fun designs, is that they create a community culture. The space is activated and people are present. Neighbours are out talking to each other and visitors to the area. The sense of place is strong and the houses, while equally bold in their colour choices, represent the individual personality of their residences. The curving and narrow road paths reflect a road network that has prioritized walking over cars. The colours are bright, not worn, reflecting that they are often updated and maintained.
We often speak about the role of second-generation CPTED principles on this blog. These include culture. The Painted Ladies reflect not only a way to activate space (1st generation advanced CPTED), but also bring folks together through a process of constantly building and rebuilding their local sense of place.
Like the painted intersections in Portland, or the penguin art across Penguin, Australia, these traditions not only build culture but also contribute to socially cohesive neighbourhoods.
GUEST BLOG: Lilit Houlder is an urban planner working with a consulting firm in Edmonton, Canada. She is the most recent member of the SafeGrowth team and has contributed a number of guest blogs to this site. This, her latest blog, describes some recent initiatives in her municipality indicating a new reality in a post-Covid world.
Downtown communities around the world have been facing challenges since the start of the pandemic in the Spring of 2020. The work-from-home mandates resulted in deserted or sparse city core areas that left businesses dependent on office workers in a struggle to attract customers who were no longer in the vicinity.
Like other cities, Edmonton’s downtown residential and business community has also been affected by increased crime rates. Edmonton’s downtown crime has increased by nearly 12% in 2021 from before the pandemic.
Within the past two years, we have seen residents relocating away from downtown. Some businesses permanently closed their doors. Additionally, as an update to previous blog posts from Portland and Edmonton on homelessness, Edmonton saw the number of individuals experiencing homelessness double. This has led the city to develop encampment strategies to increase safety.
Those residents and businesses that continue to live and operate in the area are advocating for safety in the neighbourhood and are asking for the local Council’s help. Council recently initiated a program to increase downtown patrolling by bringing together teams of police officers and social service agencies. These patrol groups will target downtown areas and transit stations (where most of the crime increases have been reported) and will focus on crime prevention and education programs for the community.
In the meantime, the Downtown Business Association has been outspoken in putting in serious efforts to aid in the downtown safety efforts.
For long-term goals, Edmonton’s City Council is working on approving the Community Safety and Well Being Strategy and is preparing grant plans for the Edmonton Police Service, call dispatch centres, indigenous-led centres, and other initiatives.
This strategy employed by Edmonton echoes the 2nd Generation CPTED principles of employing an inclusive and relationship-based approach. Community involvement captures the intent of 2nd Generation CPTED principles that are missing from many municipal CPTED strategies.
Employees are slowly transitioning back to the office, and with the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL playoffs, Edmonton’s downtown streets are seeing more activity throughout the day. From lunch crowds at local cafes, to eyes on the street on local patios, it appears there are early encouraging trends.
by Mateja Mihinjac
During our SafeGrowth classes, we conduct a tabletop exercise called a ‘design charrette’ based on designing an urban park. The purpose is to teach students how to use collaborative design when they begin their crime prevention work.
In almost every case the teams end up placing a circular design into the centre of their park – a water feature, park gazebo, or perhaps a children’s play area. In over 20 years of running this exercise, virtually every class comes up with some circular feature dead centre in their park.
There is something psychologically ingrained about centrally located social gathering places, echoing the tribal campfires of ancient times. In fact, we have archaeological evidence of the power of tribal campfires going back 50,000 years.
It is as if our collective human culture seeks to gather around those ancient campfires of prehistoric times for safety, storytelling and celebration. It is a cultural meme that remains in our subconscious.
KRESOVANJE – BONFIRE FESTIVAL
This cultural meme also has a tradition in Slovenia. Following a 2-year hiatus due to COVID, this year’s May 1st celebrations finally brought back the beloved Slovenian tradition – the bonfire festival or “kresovanje” in Slovene.
May 1st symbolises International Workers’ Day (also known as Labour Day or May Day) which commemorates the historic struggles and gains of the labour movement. In 1889 the international federation of socialist groups and trade unions designated May 1st as an international holiday, which has since become a public holiday in many countries around the world.
While on May 1st many countries observe formal public events, marches, parades and more or less peaceful demonstrations, in Slovenia we also burn bonfires on the night of 30 April. It turns out these bonfires have a symbolic meaning – perhaps a cultural reflection of the human tendency to seek out central places that we discover time and time again in our classroom exercises.
SYMBOLISM OF BONFIRES
Bonfires originate from a pagan tradition believing that the strength of fire supports the sun to strengthen its power and shine with full strength as summer starts to approach.
However, with the emergence of the Labour movement bonfires acquired a somewhat different purpose. They were used as a highly visible communication tool that accompanied the marches and public speeches and were intended to increase awareness about the workers’ rights.
Today, the bonfire festivals in Slovenia hold largely a social gathering role. While commemorating the importance of the workers’ unions through speeches, the bonfire festival also includes live music celebration, food and drink stalls with the ritual of bonfire burning and people gathering around the fire representing the highlight of the evening.
Events such as bonfire festivals are fuel for the community. In SafeGrowth we refer to the cultural principle that represents actions of the heart. These are the instincts that show up in our classes on the design-a-park charrette. Just imagine how much progress in neighbourhood development we could achieve by combining actions of the heart with those of the mind – systematic and organised actions to enhance social cohesion!
by Gregory Saville
I recently spent time in downtown Toronto and found some great street designs, including Dundas Square - a walkable/event square surrounded by flashing billboards and shops of all sorts. It is like a kind of mini-Times Square, following the pedestrianization of former New York planner Janette Sadik-Khan.
Between the flower pot decorations, the latest tunes from loudspeakers and an evangelical huckster announcing his wares on one side, and a fashion photographer capturing the stylish gaze of his model on the other, Dundas Square seems chaotic at one glance and at another, deliciously exciting. It might generate plenty of activity, but there is nothing inherently crime-generating about this downtown corner.
Dundas Square is an example of two ideas in SafeGrowth related to community design that have a huge impact on safety – or the opposite – and yet we seldom use them when we aim to build livable and safe places.
SOCIAL STABILIZERS & CRIME DISRUPTERS
One is the concept called social stabilizers. The term was first coined as part of neighborhood livability in the late 1960s. The idea originally referred to people whose presence and activities help reduce disorder in a neighborhood. Today we draw the term from 2nd Generation CPTED to refer to safe congregation areas for pro-social activities and balanced land uses that minimize places that can tip an area into higher disorder or crime.
The other concept is called crime disrupters - a term that is related, but different, from stabilizers. While planners can design social stabilizers into new neighborhood plans, for those who live and work in a community, it might be too late to add new designs. So they can use crime disrupters to alter problem areas.
One example of crime disrupters is pop-up placemaking, sometimes called tactical urbanism. Because it is done by local residents, shop owners or property managers, tactical urbanism cannot only disrupt crime but also stabilize the safety of an area.
I recently received a Bloomberg research report from my architect friend Mark Lakeman about the stabilizing effect of intersection repair programs on traffic accidents and neighborhood safety.
Stabilizing neighborhoods and disrupting crime is as much a part of urban design and community building as any other activity. As we create livable communities, and as crime rates rise in our post-Covid era, we should tap into the urban design and community-building tactics at our disposal.
by Gregory Saville
Between May 1987 and June 1990, Toronto police investigated the case of the Scarborough Rapist - Paul Bernardo. Scarborough is a sprawling suburb of Toronto and at the time the fear of a serial rapist spread across the entire Toronto metro like wildfire, especially along public transit lines. This notorious and horrific case is well-known in Canada and eventually led to the arrest and conviction of Paul Bernardo, the rapist (by that time, tragically, a serial murderer).
I first learned of this case as a police patrol officer 25 miles west of Scarborough, but we knew very little about the facts at that point. Coincidentally, I was also in urban planning grad school at that time and one of my professors asked me to join a new group conducting field visits and safety reviews on the Toronto transit bus and subway system resulting from the Scarborough rapes. They created their audit form from research on CPTED and they were calling it a safety audit.
That is how the safety audit was born – out of tragedy and necessity.
Up to that point, fear of crime patterns was surmised from generic surveys, but specific geographical details were sketchy. We knew from interviews what residents said about fear, but little about the specific places that triggered those fears. The Safety Audit changed all that.
SAFETY AUDITS IN COLORADO
A few days ago I helped a local transit committee conduct their first Safety Audit on a bus stop near my home – the first audit of its kind in Colorado.
What we found was fascinating. We discovered an isolated and remote bus stop location with few nearby opportunities for natural surveillance. We learned that bus drivers reported disorderly incidents on this route and that this stop was the end of the line and was nowhere near restroom facilities. We also uncovered a nearby shopping mall with numerous crime incidents, including a recently burglarized restaurant when we discovered a jimmied front door (we called the police).
Thus, we were able to report a crime before the owner learned about it. I spoke to him when he arrived and, naturally, the poor fellow wasn’t happy! He was the latest victim of crime in this shopping mall next to our bus stop.
As this transport committee learns how to use the Safety Audit process, they will eventually have the capacity to conduct other safety reviews across other parts of the transportation system.
SIMILAR AROUND THE WORLD
Safety audits are not new to this blog. Seven years ago, Tarah blogged on how to teach high school students the art of the Safety Audit in Every time they want to count you out – use your voice.
Four years ago I blogged on safety audits in A Tool for the Archeology of Fear. I described the mistake CPTED practitioners make when they confuse safety audits with CPTED surveys or visual checklist inspections. Some conflate Safety Audits with Jane’s Walks or Night-Out-Against-Crime. They too are wrong.
Then, two years ago, Mateja blogged on how she digitized our Safety Audit process for measuring fear in downtown Saskatoon.
What struck me this week is not how much the committee members enjoyed the Safety Audit process. That is a comment SafeGrowth advocates hear commonly during our training. Rather, the most striking thing was how similar design and location problems arise over and over at bus stops here and elsewhere.
We have taught audits from Melbourne Australia, Christchurch New Zealand, San Diego California, and Calgary Alberta, to New York City, and Helsingborg Sweden. We usually uncover similar fear and crime opportunity risks in those cities just as they existed in Scarborough during the Paul Bernardo rapes 30 years ago.
Will we never learn?
Last month we began a series of blogs about the impact of local news on community engagement. The first blog covered Denver, Colorado, and two weeks ago the second covered Ljubljana, Slovenia. This week we conclude with news coverage from Hamilton, Ontario.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
As with our last two blogs on crime news, much of the focus in Canada is on the war in Ukraine but, as in Denver and Ljubljana, crime stories continue. Here are some recent crime stories from Hamilton, Ontario.
In this story, a man went to meet the private and online seller of a luxury car and when he went to test drive it, locked the doors and took off with the vehicle. He is still at large. This story confirms the narrative that people should be careful selling (and buying) their items online.
This incident demonstrates some of the unique ways offenders are adapting in order to steal cars. Since electronic immobilizers were mandated in Canada in 2007, auto theft has plummeted.
This is largely because you can’t turn over the ignition without the key. As such, many offenders are finding alternative ways to access the keys to cars, such as burglary and robbery.
In this story, police caught an armed bank robber who stole cash from two banks in Hamilton’s east end. He went into the bank, handed the teller a note saying it was a bank robbery and he was armed and took off with an undisclosed amount of cash.
This story follows some common themes in crime reporting: it is discrete, easy to understand, and there is a clear villain and hero. Similar to the auto theft story, it is also a somewhat unique event in the 21st century. Bank robberies are far less common now that security has been improved and bank tellers have very little cash at their stations.
In this story, police are investigating a shooting in downtown Hamilton leaving one person hospitalized. The two assailants fled the scene and the police are encouraging local residents to inspect their security cameras for any footage of the incident.
While there is very little information provided in this story, we still see many of the criteria of newsworthiness: it is easy to understand, there is a clear victim, and the event was short-lived. It is also a rare and violent event. Shootings are incredibly uncommon in Canada, especially compared to our southern neighbours. However, these kinds of incidents have the ability to instill a sense of fear in neighborhood residents who are provided very little detail about what actually happened and if it might happen to them next. This is similar to crime stories in Denver.
MEDIA AND THE POLICE
You will note that all three crime stories in Hamilton are similar to those told in Ljubljana and Denver in one crucial respect – while they differ in seriousness, they are all informed by the local police.
According to Criminologist Vincent Sacco, the police are the main source of crime news for journalists because of the relationship that is mutually beneficial. Journalists receive ongoing access to crime news and the police are positioned as the experts or “owners” of the problem.
This may be why residents who comment about crimes in news media directly refer to police in their observations. It may also be why stories about police ineffectiveness or controversy also show up on many front pages. Residents see police and crime as intimately the same story!
The stories also fit specific criteria outlined in a Canadian criminology textbook by Sacco and Kennedy, The Criminal Event.
In my master’s degree, I worked with my mentor, Dr. Sacco at Queen’s University. Sacco’s book is a well-known Canadian intro textbook. He explains that crime news often contributes to a skewed understanding of crime in our neighbourhoods. He outlines four main reasons for this:
Sacco explains that crime news ignores the complex relationship between social conditions and crime – something we observed in all three cities. Further, there are factors that make crimes more newsworthy in all three cities of Ljubljana, Denver, and Hamilton. Crimes are newsworthy if they are short-lived, simple to understand, and predictable with dramatic narratives and clear heroes/victims/villains.
Crime reporting has significant implications for local residents in neighbourhoods. First, reporting may result in fear of crime. When citizens are afraid, they often retreat into their homes, meaning there are fewer eyes on the street and more opportunities for crime. That makes community crime prevention difficult.
Second, when crime news creates the impression that police are the owners of the crime narrative, local residents are less inclined to engage in crime prevention because they don’t see themselves as part of the solution. This is a constant problem we confront in our SafeGrowth work.
We believe that neighbourhood residents are among the best suited to prevent crime. We support residents in reclaiming the crime prevention narrative and we help them establish ownership over their own crime problems. SafeGrowth helps contextualize the frightening crime headlines by providing residents the tools to collect their own data and build their own understandings of crime issues, often in collaboration with local police.
In doing so, they see the truth behind the crime stories and they analyse their fears so they can build their own local solutions. From Denver to Ljubljana to Hamilton, we are convinced that is the way forward.
Last week we began a series of blogs about the impact of local news on neighborhood perceptions and how different media styles affect community engagement. The last blog discussed media coverage in Denver, Colorado. This week Mateja takes our analysis to Slovenia.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Like in many other parts of the world, Slovenian daily news likewise has disproportionately covered the Ukrainian war for over a month. Sadly, local crime remains uninhibited despite this global crisis. In fact, it is possible that crime may increase during these times or shortly afterwards.
ARMED ROBBERY OF A JEWELLERY STORE
One news story that raised eyebrows was a brazen armed robbery of a jewellery store committed in daylight adjacent to the city’s municipal building.
Two robbers, one of whom was armed, tied up an employee and then escaped via the historic part of the city. There was a description of the two perpetrators, however, readers commented that this was of no use since the perpetrators would have already disguised themselves once they escaped. Those responsible for the robbery have not yet been apprehended.
As in last week’s blog, reader comments also mentioned police issues. Readers complained that police foot patrols that were once present in the city centre are now absent. They believed such a presence could deter crime and provide reassurance to city-goers. There is scientific evidence supporting these comments. Research shows that police foot patrols can help reduce robberies.
This story reports on a domestic homicide from last year when an 80-year-old man murdered his sleeping wife by repeatedly hitting her on her head with an axe. The story reports details of how he hit her at least 34-times causing her to die at the scene. The story questions whether the accused will be fit to stand trial considering his frail health and possible impaired judgment at the time of the act. The report offers a dry description of facts.
While the cases of domestic homicide are difficult to comprehend, they are sadly all too common and have increased in Slovenia during COVID lockdowns. Domestic violence most often occurs behind closed doors and in neighbourhoods where people are disengaged from one another. In Slovenia, it is not uncommon to expect that what happens at home is a private matter, especially in rural areas.
The final news story involves a 25-year-old perpetrator who broke in, stole items, and then set fire in several locations across Ljubljana city centre including the COVID test location, a market stand, and a rubbish bin. The perpetrator was apprehended owing to witness information about his movements. The rest of the report provides basic facts about the event and the police statement. Readers’ comments, however, are highly judgmental about the apprehended young man and suggest he must be bored for engaging in such acts or that he needs to “learn to do some real job”.
This case attracted extra attention as the country is currently on high alert for forest fires, so any open fire is strictly prohibited. Over the past two weeks, firefighters had to extinguish several forest fires and police suspect these fires have been set intentionally.
I am lucky to live in a fairly safe country. The national homicide rate is around 1 per 100.000 inhabitants. Rates vary by city (the capital city Ljubljana’s rate is below 1 while Celje’s – the third-largest city – is 2.6) but overall serious crime is rare. Unlike the situation in Denver reported last week, in Slovenia the rarity of shootings and homicide is reflected in scarce reporting of serious crimes in the news media.
However, there are some implications from Slovenian news not directly mentioned in these reports. They are obvious to those of us engaged in SafeGrowth programming:
It might be too early to tell what impacts the current war will have on local crime trends, however, one thing is certain. We should not disregard the impacts of global affairs. Our neighbourhoods are not insulated from their surroundings. Spending extra attention on community-building and creating resilient neighbourhoods is the best insurance policy against the potential post-war effects of increasing crime and the worsening news headlines that may become a new reality.
by Gregory Saville
As we read the horrific daily news from the Russia/Ukraine war, usually somewhere close by are crime headlines. When we write about, work towards, and teach others how to use SafeGrowth to build safer neighborhoods, we run into local fears about crime. Sometimes fears are debilitating and residents are too afraid to leave their front doors. Other times, they are outraged by some local crime and it mobilizes them. In all cases, local perceptions are driven not only by experience, but by stories.
Local engagement hinges on the role of media in story-telling. I often analyze the content of a news organization’s headlines to see how reporting will help or hinder a SafeGrowth program in a new city.
With that in mind, Mateja, Tarah, and I decided to write three different blogs over the next month on media story headlines where we live. Tarah will write about reports in and around Hamilton, Ontario in Canada. Mateja will write about reports in and around her city of Ljubljana in Slovenia. Today in Part 1, I will write about reports in and around Denver, Colorado.
Our deep-dive will compare the latest crime stories in local and national news related to our cities. We will examine how media reports those crime stories (Blood and gore? Perceptions of residents?) And we will assess the police/law enforcement response or role in those media stories.
How do our different cities compare?
The United States is a country where firearms are easily available, so the chance that guns end up in the wrong hands is multiplied a hundredfold. A decade ago I wrote the Washington/BC murder mystery blog and reported that when a burglar breaks into a Washington home there is a 1 in 20 chance of finding a handgun versus 1 in 500 in British Columbia. There is a mass or school shooting somewhere in the U.S. a few times a month
Thus American crime stories focus on guns, shootings, and horrific firearms crimes.
This week, I read a Denver Post news article about “A 14-year-old was shot dead early Friday morning in NE Denver". The story had very few details. We learn only that juveniles were involved. We learn nothing about how juveniles got hold of firearms! (See my murder-mystery blog above). So while sensational murders show up on the front page, we learn little about them or what caused them. In this environment of perpetual fear-mongering, neighborhoods are, understandably, fearful of a wave of crime.
These types of stories are common in Denver in spite of the fact that Denver’s crime rate is significantly lower than many other American cities. Reality, it seems, plays little role in the reporting of crime.
IT DOESN’T DEFINE US
Another story in Friday’s headline documented the one-year anniversary of a grocery store mass killing in Boulder in 2021.
This journalism was an attempt at “investigative” reporting, although without a great deal of actual investigation. One resident described how he attempted to mentally recover by playing his cello at the streetside memorial to the victims. The Boulder mayor acknowledged the impact but said the shooting does not define their community.
The story ended by citing research about the harm to emotional well-being within neighborhoods after mass shootings. It is encouraging that there are news editors asking these more in-depth questions to follow up on the long-term neighborhood. Their message: People are resilient! Now THAT is something SafeGrowth can work with.
FOCUS ON POLICE
Sadly, the most alarming news coverage was not shootings. It was the coverage on police accountability. Yesterday’s media carried stories on “Unsealed memos reveal concerns by Denver police about internal “leadership failure” during 2020 protests”
The implication of internal police turmoil has as deep an impact on neighborhood confidence as crime stories. Most people want to be confident and trusting of their police and, in fact, most are. They might support police reforms, but research indicates they overwhelmingly oppose defunding.
But, perhaps the most disturbing of all recent coverage was not shootings or accountability, rather it was this local news video clip about the city of Wheat Ridge in suburban Denver.
Long-term motel tenants feel forced out by the new Wheat Ridge ordinance
by Tarah Hodgkinson
This week, one of my friends, and colleague, Jeffrey Bradley, came to give a guest lecture in my course on victimology. While he has a range of experiences with victim services, most notably, he spoke about his experience volunteering with Books 2 Prisoners.
Books 2 Prisoners (B2P) first started in Seattle in 1972. Since then, it has spread to parts of Canada, including Ottawa where my friend Jeff co-chairs their local chapter. B2P receives requests for books from prisoners, local volunteers source these books through donations and/or crowd-sourcing, and these books are mailed to the correctional facility. B2P is an important pathway to support literature in prison, as it is one of the only ways to provide books and much of the material that enters Canadian prisons are censored for revolutionary content.
One of the key messages I’m trying to drive home with my students is that victims and offenders are frequently the same people. As such, B2P is an important victim service, since many prisoners have suffered significant victimization and trauma in their own life.
The impact of books in prison is well documented. Reviews of the literature have found that most stated commitments to education in prison are severely lacking in practice and any access to educational materials is an improvement. In addition, literature contributes to prisoners’ well-being and sense of self in an unforgiving and oppressive system like prison. Chris Hedges’ new book The Class documents this impact in an accessible, engaging, and even heartbreaking way.
As we said in the last blog, Wild Horse Redemption, we cannot ignore the rehabilitation of offenders back into society as part of neighourhood building. Many of the neighbourhoods we work in have been devastated by legislation that punishes poor people of colour (think the War on Drugs) and contributes to mass incarceration. Children grow up without parents and siblings as these folks are imprisoned for minor possession charges or simply trying to survive in a community where all legitimate means of earning an income have disappeared.
A major part of the SafeGrowth movement is building local capacity. B2P provides those who are currently incarcerated with some of the necessary materials to improve their situation.
But that’s not enough since, as we said last week, eventually, almost all offenders end up back in society. Prisoners need better support for their mental and emotional well-being. They need healthy food and safe conditions. They need job training AND job opportunities when they leave prison. Most importantly, they need a system that doesn’t benefit from keeping them incarcerated through privatization and the equivalent of slave labour.
SafeGrowth is all about grassroots and community-led strategies for revolutionary change. B2P is just one example of these strategies, working to support one of our most marginalized populations.
by Gregory Saville
One of the great things about living in Colorado is horses, especially free-roaming, wild American Mustangs. When we first arrived in Colorado, we spent four months living on a ranch with some friends who had a number of horses that we could ride and enjoy. They are remarkable creatures both frightening and magical.
Step outside any city in Colorado and you’ll find horses on the land, in equestrian centers, and on farms. What do horses have to do with crime and prevention? Think of the Horse Whisperer, the story of how working with horses can help those afflicted by trauma.
In 1986 the State of Colorado Department of Corrections and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management established the Colorado Wild Horse Inmate Program. The horse whisperer program provides jobs to prisoners who voluntarily agree to learn how to tame wild Mustang horses – a case of the rough-and-wild inmate meeting the tougher, wilder, and much more dangerous Mustang horse. Inmates go through hours of classroom learning and then spend up to three months with mentors helping to tame a wild horse. The story is beautifully told by the documentary film The Wild Horse Redemption.
Over the years, hundreds of inmates have been successfully released from prison following the program by learning skills in discipline, patience, and compassion. The program's success is well known among state correctional circles.
This alternative style of rehabilitation, albeit within a prison system, is a step towards a different way to treat crime and justice. Alternative justice like this is even better when applied before entry into the formal system, in a community setting – the so-called restorative justice method. Otherwise, we only end up trying to rehabilitate people who have already become hardened to crime.
OFFENDER REHAB IS COMMUNITY REHAB
We cannot ignore the rehabilitation of offenders back into society as a part of neighborhood-building. We cannot build and maintain livable, safe communities unless we learn what to do with those who commit crimes. Eventually, almost all offenders end up back in society.
As criminologist Todd Clear and I wrote years ago about a concept called community justice:
“This alternative approach to public safety uses neighborhood problem-solving strategies to obtain better, longer-lasting results. It holds offenders responsible locally and then reintegrates them back into their communities… Society must look at new ways to reform the criminal justice system towards community justice and rebuilding our neighborhoods from within.”
I am excited to hear of the recent announcement by the City of Vancouver, Canada to become a city committed to restorative justice – A Restorative City.
My friend, criminologist Evelyn Zellerer is one of the many initiators of the idea and, as a powerful influencer in the restorative movement, Evelyn plays an enormously positive role in initiatives like this around the world (she also loves horses).
SafeGrowth is a close cousin to community justice approaches like Restorative Cities. Such approaches teach us that we cannot build our way out of crime without re-building the trust lost through the actions of some of our wayward citizens.
True, not all will respond. Many are lost in drugs, violence, trauma, and other ailments. They may need intensive and creative programs before rejoining us. But as we see from the Colorado horse whisperers, there are peaceful and productive paths back to us.
by Mateja Mihinjac
A couple of weeks ago I wrote on self-governing urban open spaces as venues that support creativity, freedom of expression and informal social programming. The two examples from that blog teach us about the importance of government/non-government/civic society partnerships in order to preserve such venues and integrate them into the urban fabric.
Yet not all informal spaces have such fortune.
ROG AUTONOMOUS FACTORY
In 2006 a group of students illegally occupied the Rog factory complex, once a home of a popular Slovenian bicycle factory. The building, owned by the City Council and protected as a monument of national heritage, had been vacant for several years, which led to degradation of the area. In their collective statement about opening Rog to the public in 2006 the occupiers issued the following statement:
"Until the City of Ljubljana finds a solution for the 7000 square meters of unused space in Rog, that very space can – instead of staying merely forsaken and unexploited – host ateliers, music, video or graphic studios, theatre and dance halls, meeting rooms for different associations, playgrounds, social activities etc. We want to open a public space for entirely non-profitable and independent activities, and through this initiative contribute to the quality of art, culture, social health, thought and life in Ljubljana."
After the occupation, the complex operated as an alternative cultural centre and a self-managed social centre for 15 years. It hosted music performances, held a skate park and a football pitch, a medical clinic for asylum seekers, and housed artist ateliers. Despite the negative reputation associated with squatting and occasional undesirable conduct, the centre became an important place for celebrating diversity, inclusivity, and creativity in Ljubljana.
There were several attempts to evict the centre and in January 2021 the City Council delivered its promises, a move that Rog occupants termed “social cleansing of the city”. During the eviction, the authorities had to forcefully remove some of the occupants who fought to protect the centre from its fate. Shortly following the eviction the city started demolishing the site with a promise to rebuild it into a new modern cultural centre that will house 500 creative workers. The former occupants of the centre remain unconvinced of this trade-off and believe that the city has lost an important informal social place.
ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT MODEL
The Rog Autonomous Factory was not intended to be a permanent space. It aimed to fill the cultural void and prevent the degradation of a vacant heritage space. In other cities, authors suggest that the temporary use of space can function as a catalyst for long-term sustainable development. However, for this to be realised, there needs to be a consensus between the users of the space and the municipality.
In their article on regenerating urban spaces, Cotic and Lah proposed an alternative model where informal and formal stakeholders find a consensus about the functioning of space. This alternative model envisions the co-governance of groups representing all the various interests in public spaces.
Could the municipality have approached the issue of the Rog Autonomous Factory more effectively?
A LOST OPPORTUNITY
The municipality showed little interest in discussing the matter with the occupants or making an effort to come to a consensus about the use of the space.
In our SafeGrowth work, we put special emphasis on partnerships and collaboration between formal and informal organisations. For an effective neighbourhood liveability strategy, local governments play a crucial role at the table. But they must come to the table.
In SafeGrowth we employ the search conference method to do this, a process we described in places such as New Orleans. The first application of the search conference in this type of work appears in the book, Crime Problems - Community Solutions, describing a 1988 search conference in Canada.
Such collaborative methods not only benefit the local community, but also provide a platform for building mutual trust, discussing issues, and finding workable solutions. They also lead to better liveability, wellbeing and life satisfaction outcomes for the residents.
The Rog centre is a lost opportunity for the municipality. The municipality might have adopted an alternative development model of urban planning in which everyone involved could identify the best way to preserve the social and cultural heritage of the centre.
Perhaps we can look forward to an alternative future where both sides could win?
GUEST BLOG - Lilit Houlder is an urban planner working with a consulting firm in Edmonton, Canada. She is the most recent member of the SafeGrowth team and in this blog she reviews the book Feminist City: A Field Guide.
In Leslie Kern’s 2019 book Feminist City: A Field Guide, readers discover the contemporary female experience of urban space. Kern is an associate professor of geography and environment and the director of women’s studies at Mount Allison University.
Her research is mainly focused on gender and cities, gentrification, and feminist urban theory, which is often reflected in the book. I blogged previously about diversity with a focus on indigenous inclusionary practices and this book looks at similar issues using the concept of “intersectionality” as one lens.
Kern’s personal stories from growing up in Toronto shed light on struggles and uncomfortable situations women deal with in public spaces. She addresses her privilege of being a white, cisgender, middle-class female and admits that her feminist perspective on fear and safety is only one of many. Intersectionality is reinforced and brought up often in the book, bringing up the notion that women of colour, single mothers, non-binary people, and other marginalized groups may experience fear and crime in the city differently from one another.
DEFENSIBLE SPACE - ONLY PART OF THE SOLUTION
Her approach was refreshing to read since the subject of contemporary feminist geography tends to focus on privileged women and fails to emphasize issues of age, family, sexuality, and race. Kern claims that fear is contoured by these wider issues - an admirable admission that should be discussed more often as part of safe urban environments.
Using Oscar Newman’s defensible space, Kern declares that physical environments are only a part of the solution to reduce fear and crime in an urban space. Social and political change plays an equally important part, mimicking 2nd Generation CPTED principles of social cohesion, community, and culture - a point made over a decade ago by DeKeseredy and Schwartz in their study on Gendered Second-Generation CPTED and Woman Abuse.
While Kern does a great job eliciting a sense of empathy from her audience, the book leaves the reader with more questions about how we can close the gap between feminism and white feminism – for example, how to avoid divisiveness, acknowledge differences, and discover how to work together.
Kern mentions that making cities safer for privileged women often comes at a cost to marginalized groups. Consider urban revitalization projects. A gentrified neighbourhood can bring a new sense of security for white, middle-class females, but at the same time drive other marginalized groups to the urban periphery.
As Kern puts it, “safety becomes a private commodity.”
Immigrants and people of colour are often subliminally associated with danger and criminal activity, causing victimization of these groups. A study in Malmo in 2008 found that public violence against veiled Muslim women was mainly committed by older, white, Swedish women.
This reflects back to actor Emma Watson’s call for solidarity and her famous acknowledgment of her blind spots around race. Says Watson, "Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women” when criticized by other feminists on various issues.
Reading Kern’s book is tense as you navigate through the political space of women vilifying one another - white feminism is seen as an exclusionary movement. Practicing separatism and divisiveness rather than solidarity (from either side) is not beneficial for anyone. Kern’s book certainly leaves room to see what this solidarity could look like.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
I’ve been back in Canada for a few months now after living in Australia for a few years. Something I missed terribly, though none of my Canadian friends could believe it, was snow. In Brisbane, the weather never dropped below 8 degrees Celsius and most of the Australians I knew had never seen snow in their life.
I, on the other hand, had grown up surrounded by snow. For the first month every time a few flakes fell I had my face pressed against the window like a little kid.
A few weeks ago Ontario received a massive snowfall. Several cities, including Toronto and Ottawa, woke up to a minimum of 30-40cm. It shut down major roadways and forced a snow day on the first day school classes were supposed to return to being in person.
So why all the fuss about snow? The last time I wrote about snow, I was complaining about the injustice of snow on sidewalks for folks living with disabilities.
This time I wanted to write about how snow, much like other collective weather events, has the potential to bring us together. When I woke up the day of the snowfall I couldn’t wait to get outside and start shovelling (remember it had been a while).
But what I found amazing was how quickly the neighbourhood came out to join. I met many of my neighbours for the first time. We laughed as we tried to dig out our cars. A few local residents helped older folks to shovel out their driveways and sidewalks. It became a whole day affair. People stopped and chatted and planned who/where else needed some help. When some people ran out of steam, others took over until the neighbourhood was walkable again.
A PARADISE BUILT IN HELL
This quickly reminded me of an oft-quoted book on this site – A Paradise Built in Hell by Rebecca Solnit. She suggests that when we face exceptional events like extreme weather or disaster, it often creates a sense of connection and unity - something we have all been missing lately.
While not all extreme weather events may trigger long term social cohesion, there are those that do. You may recall it was the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that led to our involvement in the New Orleans, Hollygrove livability project. Back in 2010 and 2011, this site posted blogs on how Hollygrove resident teams removed blighted homes, how they launched a flurry of targeted revitalization projects, including a seniors walking group and a decade-long community farm, and how they ended up cutting crime 78%.
These small, but significant, moments are part of the tapestry that make great neighbourhoods. Residents take an opportunity to help one another and gain connection in the process. They get a better sense of who lives nearby and what kinds of support they might need. They are also more likely to talk to each other when issues like community safety emerge and decide to do something about it.
Maybe this is why I like snow so much.
by Gregory Saville
The opening lyrics of The Boulevard of Broken Dreams disclose: “My shadow’s the only one that walks beside me…My shallow heart’s the only things that’s beating”.
As we wallow in our current cult of self-care and self-healing, I remember that twenty-two years ago Robert Putnam published his book Bowling Alone about the collapse of traditional community and the rise of loneliness. And here we are, decades later, about to emerge from a Pandemic into an epidemic of loneliness! We drive our cars alone! Ride the transit alone. Walk through crowded spaces, still feeling alone. We can feel alone in social gatherings and in a marriage.
We have all felt the pain, at one time or another, of that kind of loneliness. It is truly a terrible thing.
Research suggests over 40% of our population often feels alone, which is not at all the same as seeking solitude or being alone. Loneliness is insidious! It is harmful to our mental health and it poses a significant public health risk to everyone. Scientific studies also correlate loneliness to higher levels of violence.
It is the condition of our communities that matters most when it comes to preventing loneliness. When we house people alone in single flats, in alienating nursing homes, or fail to provide opportunities for social gatherings, we build the foundation on which loneliness rests. It arises when people live alone, have no intimate partnerships and few friends, or suffer strained relationships.
None of those things are easily fixed, but all of them can be prevented.
Mateja has blogged about the Happy-to-Chat benches in Helsingborg, Sweden and also about speaking to strangers on transit. Tarah has written about the importance of Third Places to create opportunities for connection. She’s written about how the best form of self-care is to care for others
LONELINESS IS A TERRIBLE DISEASE
I too have written about the damage loneliness can do to our health (lonely people get sicker sooner and have higher mortality rates), all of which is backed up by behavioral science.
A decade ago I blogged about the well-known Roseto Effect – the town in Pennsylvania where residents experienced a powerfully strong sense of community with a huge circle of supportive family and friends. That in turn had a role in reducing stress, mitigating isolation, and cutting loneliness. Roseto had among the highest health rates and the lowest mortality in the nation.
Intimate connectedness and social support networks – those are the assets of great neighborhoods. If we are not creating neighborhoods, places, and relationships that eliminate loneliness, then what the hell are we doing?
by Mateja Mihinjac
During my work travels over the past years, I have found – often by accident – many interesting places with an alternative local subculture. These places always intrigued me to learn more about how they emerged and who manages them to keep them alive and flourishing.
I recently discovered one such place by the pier in Helsingborg, Sweden. Pixlapiren is a meeting place intended for everyone to visit and explore, and for local residents, organisations and groups to create. People have opportunities to meet, initiate and share ideas and form place identities to strengthen local democracy and challenge segregation problems.
They can also obtain a pixel (a development space measuring 10 x 10 metres) to create and display their creative outputs. Other activities occurring at this place include street art festivals, community gardening, skateboarding, beach volley, swimming, water skiing, various festivals and workshops.
Pixlapiren is an example of urban commons, a form of self-governance that was originally established by the local government as part of the urban renewal project with the purpose of exploring new forms of co-development. The space is now self-governed by users, NGOs and non-government actors that manage and steer the resources while the municipality acts as a facilitator. In the process, governance changed from open co-governance to self-governance.
The second example of a self-governing space, the Metelkova City Autonomous Cultural Centre, is in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
“Metelkova” is an autonomous social and cultural centre that since the early 1990s occupies the space of the old military headquarters. It started as informal commons with the tension between squatters occupying the space and the municipality. At one point, it was even declared illegal.
The space remains contentious due to non-compliance with the building codes and urban planning regulations. However, due to its extensive contribution to cultural activity in the city and its attractiveness for tourists, the municipality is now also linked to the site through its institutional actors. It capitalises on recognition of this space as a tourist attraction as well as a national cultural heritage status that was awarded to Metelkova in 2005.
Today, Metelkova is a self-governed and self-managed community that receives European cultural funds. It has become a home to many artists and creatives, a place of art exhibitions, art installations, festivals, concerts, performances and clubs. LGBT associations and NGOs now also hold offices in the space. While independent, connections with many institutions and organisations, and its cultural and tourist prominence have solidified its position in the city.
URBAN OPEN SPACES
The literature on urban open spaces teaches us about the prominence of these spaces as a “vital element of the urban matrix”. From SafeGrowth we also know how important they are for the social sustainability and the cultural character of the neighbourhood.
Pixlapiren and Metelkova add an important social, cultural and tourist character to their respective cities and are based on collective movement and self-governance.
While the journeys of these two places started somewhat differently (the first one was initiated by the city government while the second started as an illegal occupation), the evolution of such spaces in the years ahead teaches us about the importance of government/non-government/civic society partnerships. The success of these spaces also speaks to the importance of the community that manages the space and assumes self-governance.
Urban commons strengthen local democracy and they offer a great opportunity for local governments to involve people in local decision making. That is an excellent way to prevent tensions that might arise from unwanted activity in those spaces. Urban commons like these provide local governments with a way to leverage social sustainability and cultural character into neighbourhoods of the future.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
A few years ago, I was at a conference listening to a colleague of mine talk about theft in Australia. They noted that most of what was being stolen was food. I raised my hand. “Wait. People are stealing food? WHY are people stealing food?”
I received the standard opportunity theory answer. The academic crowd around me clucked about the lack of guardianship and easy targets. Fine, fine, I’ve written about all of that. But this is food.
Food isn’t a CRAVED item. (CRAVED is a theoretical list of characteristics that make items vulnerable to theft - consider the sad irony of that acronym in this context!) Some food items are easy to steal but not easy to resell, and not particularly valuable. Unless they are!
When I was conducting research in the Canadian prairies about 5 years ago, small shop owners there also told me that their most common stolen item was food. They told me that they rarely confronted those stealing food or reported it to the police. They claimed it wasn’t worth it for them and assumed that, if they were stealing food, they probably needed it.
THEY PROBABLY NEEDED IT
I think food theft is indicative of something bigger. For as much as certain criminologists don’t want to talk about offender motivation, how can we not talk about it what is being stolen is a basic human need.
Covid-19 has changed the game for many people around the world. Jobs have been lost and neighbourhoods are struggling. Add to that, the many recent crises making the problem worse:
I’m seeing my own students struggling to feed themselves and their families.
We need to do better. People shouldn’t need to steal food to feed themselves or their families.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
First, demand a living wage (or provide one if you own a business). $15 an hour is not a living wage in North America. Multiply that by a full-time work week (37 hours) and 2 weeks of vacation and that’s $27,750 BEFORE taxes - barely over the poverty line in Canada ($25,153 in 2021) for one person. What if you are providing for your family?
Second, if you are able to contribute to food banks, be sure to give the right things. Remember that most non-perishable food items require can openers and other items to make them (like butter and milk). So think about pop-top cans and staple items. Your local food bank will have a list.
Third, support and grow community gardens. These not only grow food locally, but they help make fresh produce accessible to everyone. We have blogged about the power of community gardens all over the world, from Indianapolis to Brisbane.
Fourth, buy local. Support organizations that support your community back and help provide a living wage to your neighbours.
All of these are small ways we can address the actual underlying issue that the opportunity theorists miss: food insecurity. But there are others as well. Food theft shouldn’t be a discussion of crime opportunities or guardianship and security. It should make us ask ourselves: what kind of neighbourhood do we want to live in? If you ask me – one where people have their basic human needs met.
by Gregory Saville
With apologies to Mark Twain, that quote above is what came to mind as 2021 ends. Such a turbulent year with so many distractions – Covid, mass shootings, increasing crime, social unrest! It’s hard to look back through the lens of the 24-hour news cycle and social media and not conclude that we are going to hell in a handbasket.
Do yourself a solid and have a read of Bailey and Tupy’s exceptional book Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know. They use those increasingly rare things called facts to soundly debunk the doom-and-gloom-is-everywhere theory.
When you've read Global Trends, (and after you mask up, vaccinate, and elect better politicians with better policies), then give a thought to doing the right thing for safety in 2022 and learn some state-of-the-art theories in neighborhood crime prevention. There are a few good ones to pick from, but be careful - some only go halfway.
Here are a few to watch:
In the 1970s they created electric car alarms to cut auto theft. You know, those pulsing lights and blaring horn alarms (BLEEP...BLEEP...BLEEP) that, nowadays, most people just ignore.
Around the 1980s, they created The Club to lock a steering wheel so thieves could not drive the car. Unfortunately, thieves adapted and learned to hacksaw the steering wheel and slide The Club off. One thief said: “So if it takes 60 seconds to steal a car, it now takes 90.”
In the 1990s auto manufacturers adopted another situational crime prevention approach to harden the target. They created vehicle immobilizers, electronic devices that prevent a car engine from starting until a proper key transponder is present. Immobilizers prevent hot wiring and also eliminate that annoying BLEEP...BLEEP...BLEEP.
What is the result of situational crime prevention?
Some criminologists say the increasing adoption of security technologies has cut crime opportunities all over the world. Crime everywhere has decreased and auto theft has plummeted, as you can see on the graph.
Except, there are a few glaring problems with this theory. First, not all crime rates around the world have declined in spite of more security technology! (Latin America comes to mind).
Second, consider this...
Even with improvements to auto theft prevention, decade after decade, in the past ten years auto theft rates have NOT declined. In fact, they have started to increase! Look at the reality in the chart above of the past 10 years! How can this be? Security technologies have not vanished.
Why are auto theft rates increasing? Perhaps the situational prevention theory spends so much time hacking at the branches of crime opportunity, it missed digging at the roots of crime causation?
Consider another recent prevention theory - focused deterrence, also known as CVI (community violence interrupters). I blogged on this promising strategy a few weeks ago.
In a 2019 article, "There is no such thing as a dangerous neighborhood", Stephen Lurie says we should not fix broken neighborhoods but rather target the small group of chronic offenders in those neighborhoods who cause most problems. That is how CVI intervenes in the cycle of violence. Says Lurie:
"The notion that public disorder drives criminality can seem an intuitive approach to public safety. But if people understand that most serious violence circles specific interpersonal group dynamics in structurally disadvantaged communities, order maintenance policing seems more like what study after study shows it is: an unnecessary evil."
Regrettably, permanently resolving a complex crime problem is not as simple as intervening with the offender before they rob or shoot. As the late Desmond Tutu warned, "There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they're falling in."
No doubt we need to do something fast when violence threatens and that is something at which situational prevention and focused deterrence both excel. But there is no hiding the fact that they both hack at the branches - neither one alters structurally disadvantaged communities in any meaningful way.
Criminologists will tell you there are many seeds to crime causation. But over a half-century of criminological research amply demonstrates that the dysfunction, trauma, substance abuse, and blight in disadvantaged communities provide the breeding ground from where most chronic offenders emerge in the first place. Severely disadvantaged places create an endless supply of chronic offenders and if we want to dig at the roots of crime, and not hack at the branches, we must face those structural disadvantages. That is from where hope emerges and that is how we do the right thing.
ANOTHER WAY - SAFEGROWTH
Some criminologists and law enforcement officials will complain that it is exceedingly difficult, (and takes a long time) to deal with deep structural problems in neighborhoods. Part of that is because the expertise and professions that deal with such problems are not found within criminology or law enforcement. They are found in economic development, urban planning, neuropsychology, cognitive science, and education.
That is why SafeGrowth practitioners collaborate with experts in all those different fields and then work with residents to co-develop prevention plans. This kind of deep-dive capacity-building is neither simple nor fast. Ultimately, SafeGrowth marries community development and social prevention with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Generation CPTED. The method has been successful for decades. Our SafeGrowth book describes how we keep our eyes on the real prize.
A few other recent examples:
These are only a few of many ways forward. In 2022 let’s do the right thing and not lose sight of the fact that, if we want to build a better society, we actually have to build a better neighborhood.
Happy New Year.
by Mateja Mihinjac
At a time when a rising tide of violent crime infects Philadelphia and so many other American cities, one small pocket in that city has discovered a different way forward. A few weeks ago, community teams from the HACE Livability Academy presented preliminary plans for improving livability in their neighborhood. It was like an early holiday gift to their city and their neighborhoods and I was enormously impressed with their plans.
The HACE SafeGrowth Livability Academy has been underway in the Fairhill and Kensington neighborhoods for a few years and – although applied only to these two neighborhoods and severely challenged by the COVID pandemic – academy classes continued unabated thanks to the amazing work of HACE, the non-profit community development organization.
COVID has made life miserable for community development work. In 2020, we were forced to suddenly transition to a virtual environment that was not conducive to collaborative workshops. But a year later we’ve managed to better adapt to this new reality. Training from afar is not ideal, but the virtual environment does have advantages and we can now reach a wider audience.
WHAT IS THE LIVABILITY ACADEMY?
Over the past two months, I had the pleasure of co-facilitating the latest online cohort of HACE Livability Academy participants.
HACE has been successfully running Livability Academies twice a year since 2018. Last year, the HACE team modified the curriculum to run virtual-only sessions. This year we were able to offer both face-to-face and virtual modalities.
The Livability Academy is a 6–8-week program developed by AlterNation LLC – the company behind SafeGrowth® – in which local residents and community representatives learn skills in community leadership, SafeGrowth and CPTED, community organizing, and project management.
The Livability Academy is an integral part of the SafeGrowth philosophy and it provides a constant flow of community leaders into neighbourhood problem-solving teams to address local issues. I found it empowering to see the kinds of complex issues that the latest cohort decided to tackle in their project work.
During training, participants identify an issue and in work teams they tackle a small-scale, real-life project in their neighbourhood. In this training, the in-person, face-to-face team produced one project proposal while the online virtual team chose to divide into two project teams.
This past week all three teams presented their preliminary plans of the work they’ve done over the past few months. All three teams created inspiring projects directly within their neighborhood and they tackled persistent problems that were made worse during COVID.
Fairhill United for Livability
The first team’s project focused on activating the neighbourhood park to create a space for people to come together and build connections. They envisioned a more united neighbourhood that fosters community pride, strengthens connections between residents, and partners with neighbourhood groups, schools, and businesses to promote livability.
They divided their plan into 3 phases over the next year: outreach, clean-ups, and community celebrations. The goal is to create a movement of people to fix broken social connections, a problem made far worse by COVID. The team concluded with their slogan: “No one can do alone what we can do together”.
Literally Literacy (Increasing Adult Literacy)
This team chose adult literacy as a key liveability issue. They identified low levels of literacy as a key barrier to job access, high earning potential, and access to better healthcare. Illiteracy is one of the major contributors to overrepresentation in the criminal justice system. Illiteracy is an obstacle to personal growth and this team decided to do something. The main objective of the project is to empower adults to seek assistance with reading and increase their self-esteem while eliminating the stigma associated with illiteracy.
The highlight of this team’s presentation was their inspirational personal stories.
They summarized their stories with the phrase: “You can be all that you can be; all you have to do is take the first step.”
This team focused on the struggles of youth that (if not addressed early) can cause long-term damage to a young person’s life and the neighbourhood quality of life. They outlined multiple consequences of trauma such as emotional and behavioural issues, internalised stress, engaging in unsafe behaviours, substance abuse, and mental illness.
They proposed a 6-week program with various topics to address traumatic events. They also proposed creating a safe space with a support group for teens experiencing trauma. Two young team members, who themselves went through traumatic events, were especially inspiring in their quest to help their peers turn a new leaf. The team summarised the objective of their program: “To go from dysfunction to function.”
A HOLIDAY GIFT
I was extremely proud of all three teams for the work they completed within this short time. It is amazing how a group of people who know little, if anything, about each other, were able to take steps together and share the common purpose of improving life in their neighbourhood.
This is the true spirit of SafeGrowth and the Livability Academy. There is no better holiday gift to Philadelphia, to their community, and to themselves.
As one Livability Academy participant concluded: “It takes the whole village to raise this community.”
by Mateja Mihinjac
The birth of a new theory is not a straightforward matter, especially in social science or urban planning. A few years ago, when my co-author Greg Saville and I published our proposal for a Third Generation CPTED in the research journal, Social Sciences, we built on a decade of theories in crime prevention, including our own work in SafeGrowth. We described how, for over 60 years, theoreticians and practitioners learned how to prevent crime using the natural and built physical environment (1st Generation CPTED), and then in the late 1990s added social strategies to that local prescription (2nd Generation CPTED).
Over the past decade, our cities and neighbourhoods faced new and unprecedented challenges that demand that we think in a much more integrated way about safety.
In 2019 we presented Third Generation CPTED as that new integrated approach.
We built this theory on the premise that it is not sufficient to consider CPTED apart from the idea of liveability if we want a better quality of life within neighbourhoods. Our neighbourhoods – our core units of life, work and play – must offer opportunities for satisfying not only our basic needs (what psychologist Abraham Maslow called our physiological and safety needs) but also our needs at the medium and higher levels – needs of self-esteem and self-actualization. This is known as Maslow’s human needs hierarchy pyramid.
Our theory translated that pyramid into a hierarchy of liveable neighbourhoods, and our 3rd Generation CPTED was the key to elevating our quality of life.
After the past few years of additional development, we presented the full model at the recent International CPTED Association international conference. This latest version of the theory will also appear in a forthcoming academic publication.
The most recent advances in this theory include the following 4 S strategies for achieving those liveability outcomes.
THE 4 S STRATEGIES
I first introduced the 4 S strategies in a blog several months ago. Here I will describe some specifics for practitioners.
Liveability and sustainability are intrinsically linked. Some scholars say that communities cannot be sustainable unless people want to live in them and people need to have a say in identifying their preferences to ensure long-term environmental, economic and social impacts. This is the whole point to sustainability and so within 3rd Generation CPTED, we have four sustainability strategies.
Environmental sustainability is the most frequent topic discussed in relation to urban development, safety, and liveability. Evidence shows a strong link between environmental stressors (heat islands, lack of greenery, long-distance travel) and crime. Third Generation CPTED practitioners will apply tactics that help improve environmental liveability, such as the greening of neighbourhoods, greening of vacant lots to reduce crime, and building on local assets.
Social sustainability points to people-focused design and it promotes opportunities for social interaction and collaboration, such as pedestrian infrastructure, gathering places, and Third Places.
It includes building a physical “command centre” – or neighbourhood hub – for local decision-making. An early version of neighbourhood hubs was described in an earlier SafeGrowth blog.
The goal of social sustainability is social cohesion and resilience through grassroots urban design where the residents have direct influence and stewardship over the local neighbourhood. Social sustainability can help prevent the seeds of criminality from taking root before they become unmanageable. SafeGrowth offers one such approach.
Research continually shows the indisputable relationship between income inequality, disadvantage and crime. Focusing on the immediate economy through investment in neighbourhood infrastructure and economic development is one antidote to some of the issues that are endemic to crime. Third Generation practitioners, residents and business partners can use tactics such as local partnerships, a focus on local creativity, and business incubation.
Practitioners can also implement tailored employment transition and reintegration programs for those with a criminal history so they don’t fall back into habits of gang membership, violence, and drug abuse. Neighbourhood economic sustainability has a direct impact on breaking the cycle of criminal recidivism.
Public health sustainability
Public health sustainability refers to enduring physical and emotional health. At a time of Covid, it seems redundant to make this point, but the fact is that urban design and social cohesion are correlated with outdoor pedestrian movements, the use of physical infrastructure, the perception of safety and trust among neighbourhood residents. Those are not only part of public health but they are part of the psychology that can trigger, or mitigate, crime motives.
Residents should have opportunities to co-create neighbourhood plans for amenities to promote health. In particular, these include amenities such as testing facilities and counselling to monitor unchecked trauma experienced by children during their formative years. Neighbourhood and family trauma, such as substance abuse, violence, and social dysfunction, have a direct impact on offending behaviour and violence, especially in later years. We have written about similar issues such as suicide prevention in prior blogs.
Emotional intelligence programs, perhaps offered at neighbourhood hubs, offer a great tool for assisting both young people and adults to learn self-awareness tactics, mindfulness skills and pro-social behaviours. Third Generation provides CPTED with a way to remove some of the breeding grounds for future criminal behaviour in a way that better lighting and access controls cannot accomplish.
EXTENDING THE DISCOURSE
Third Generation CPTED is obviously much more complex than basic CPTED tactics. Practitioners need a wider set of competencies and collaborative methods and forums for discussing and deploying such an integrated approach.
It extends beyond simple opportunities for crime - not that there is anything wrong with cutting crime opportunities! Rather, and more to the point, 1st Generation CPTED is simply insufficient in the contemporary 21st Century neighbourhood if we want a higher quality of life in the long term.
The 4 S strategies amalgamate crime prevention, safety with neighbourhood liveability. Third Generation CPTED offers strategies so that we can realise many of our long-term, highest level, personal needs within our own neighbourhoods. Most importantly, by extending the discourse of public safety and crime prevention beyond the focus on crime, we can create opportunities for a different kind of neighbourhood in which residents will not only survive but thrive.
by Gregory Saville
A number of years ago I watched an impressive problem-oriented policing presentation about a homicide reduction program in Boston that cut murders in half in a single year. Officially called Operation Ceasefire, it became known as the Boston Miracle and the magician behind it was David Kennedy, one of the brightest criminologists I know, professor of criminal justice at John Jay College in New York.
Ceasefire has evolved into what is now called the CVI method of violence and homicide reduction – Community Violence Intervention. There are two forms of CVI:
"Community members with moral authority over group members deliver a credible moral message against violence. Law enforcement puts groups on prior notice about the consequences of further group-involved violence… support and outreach providers make a genuine offer of help for those who want it. A central method of communication is the call-in, a face-to-face meeting between group members and the strategy’s partners."
Cure Violence was the brainchild of Gary Slutkin, an epidemiologist from Chicago.
Both styles of CVI programs are visiting cities across the U.S. and now Europe and they have an impressive evaluation history. We could certainly use those CVI strategies to tamp down violence in some of our communities in the first few months of our capacity-building work.
THE NECESSARY INGREDIENT
However, all CVI programs require one essential element in order to function – existing crime!
That means that, whether police call-in suspected gang members, or if Interrupters visit a potential offender for a shooting, CVI practitioners must already know of a crime underway or about to occur. And these pending events obviously do not happen in a vacuum, they occur in high crime areas or with known perpetrators of violence, shootings and gangs.
In other words, the social, economic, and psychological conditions that led to those risky moments were already in place long before CVI practitioners arrived. There is nothing wrong with preventing violence and shootings. But there is little evidence that intervening with a small group of offenders will do anything to sustainably transform the neighborhood conditions that led to their criminality in the first place. They might get some job offers, training, or perhaps social support for drug addiction. But what about the economic, social, and psychological conditions in the neighborhood where they and their families reside?
If you tamp down the fireworks, do you address how those fireworks started in the first place so they don’t start again? One published long-term evaluation of the Ceasefire approach concluded “Boston has been challenged to sustain the implementation of the Ceasefire strategy over extended time periods. High profile replications of the Boston approach has experienced similar challenges.”
What can be done to transform the long-term livability in such places that breed violence in the first place?
It is like going to the circus and playing the game called ‘whac-a-mole’.
The whac-a-mole game is played on a tabletop with a number of holes filled with plastic moles. The moles randomly pop up and the player whacks each one with a plastic hammer as fast as possible to gain points. The player never knows which mole will pop up, why they pop up, or how to keep them down, other than smashing them with the hammer as fast as they can.
Prevention programs like CVI require an offender, or offenders, to whack (to deliver CVI programming), but CVI programs have little to say about the root causes why they are violent, why they deal drugs, or from where their criminality arises. Other than individualized programs to help each offender (an important part of prevention, to be sure), CVI programs are not designed to transform the neighborhood so crime-causing conditions no longer create a breed of next-generation offenders.
That is what SafeGrowth does. By combining 1st, 2nd, and now 3rd Generation CPTED, we help residents rebuild troubled neighborhoods and attack crime at the roots where it grows. SafeGrowth is less about whacking moles, and more about the social ecology and cohesion of a community. CVI is attractive because it works quickly. SafeGrowth takes time.
Both strategies are important. But without digging at the roots, you hack at the branches and do not fundamentally change neighborhoods where the seeds of crime are planted. We describe this work in SafeGrowth: Building Neighborhoods of Safety and Livability, and in scholarly articles on neighborhoods where we cut crime from New Orleans to Toronto.
We need programs like CVI for effective alternatives to ineffective arrest strategies. But we also need neighborhood transformation programs, like SafeGrowth, to sustain early successes over the long term.
Otherwise, we find ourselves back to where we started, perhaps one reason the decades-long crime declines are now reversing in far too many cities!
by Gregory Saville
As Bruce Springsteen writes in his song, it’s easy to get blinded by something you are passionate about. That especially applies to crime theory.
It’s hard enough to implement crime prevention without having to constantly check whether the prevention theory itself is under attack. Of course, prevention practitioners should know the strengths and weaknesses of their programs, including theory veracity. But when theory itself remains unchallenged by scientists, even when emerging data contradicts that theory, it makes the practitioner's job much more difficult.
When that happens, practitioners are unsure whether it is the theory that is wrong or the implementation.
Take crime displacement theory. When a crime happens in one location, will preventive measures move it somewhere else? Traditional displacement theory says crime will not necessarily move elsewhere. Or if it does, it might create benefits in other ways (the so-called diffusion of benefits theory).
Most likely, we are told, the displaced crime will reduce in impact – it won’t get worse! We are told dozens of studies confirm this theory over a number of years.
WHAT IF IT IS WRONG?
Then a British undergraduate thesis on displacement uncovered some disturbing patterns in the evidence.
Catherine Phillip's analysis discovered, “that displacement may, in fact, be more common than is widely claimed, particularly in the case of studies with offenders. Furthermore… the findings of the Kirkholt Burglary Prevention Project, which purport to demonstrate a diffusion of benefits, are shown to be based on questionable evidence.”
Curiously, this was met with deafening silence in the situational crime prevention community. Phillip's referring specifically to the scientific evidence would, one would think, sound alarms to scientific theorists. Not so.
A few years later, Tarah Hodgkinson, myself, and Martin Andresen, conducted a detailed study on displacement over a multi-year timeframe using extensive ethnographic/statistical research in a city where we had delivered CPTED for over a decade. We combined the best qualitative and quantitative research. Our research discovered that, indeed, displacement was not benign, there was no diffusion of benefits, and alarmingly, we uncovered clear evidence of malign displacement in which crime got much worse in two different areas.
We published our study in one of the most prestigious journals in the criminological community – the British Journal of Criminology.
Again, from the displacement research crowd… crickets! Apparently, data and evidence, even in a thorough crime study, were also not enough to sound the alarm about troubles with displacement theory.
For many years, Gerard Cleveland and I have taught our police students emotional intelligence (EI). EI was created by psychologists in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly the work of Yale University’s professor Peter Salovey and his colleagues. The best recent book on EI is Marc Brackett’s, Permission to Feel.
The role of emotions, it turns out, is poorly understood among professionals and, I would add, researchers. Emotions explain why researchers get attached to their theories and, when it comes to criminology, why they refuse to accept new theories or abandon old ones.
The methodology of science suggests that researchers should carefully manage their emotions and follow the data. In displacement, at least, it seems that may not always have been the case. The attachment to theories – this clinging to something when contradictory evidence arises – emerges from poor emotional intelligence and the inability to detach from a theory and look at alternate theories with a clear eye.
SECOND GENERATION CPTED
Take, for example, 2nd Generation CPTED! For years, Gerry Cleveland and I heard complaints from traditional crime prevention practitioners that “if it’s not about changing the physical environment, it’s just not CPTED”.
When we pointed out that the founders of CPTED – Jane Jacobs, Oscar Newman, C. Ray Jeffery – did not limit their discussions to architecture; they also spoke of the interconnectedness between theories, of the role of neighbors in crime prevention, and of social cohesion in neighborhoods. Getting locals to create a sense of defensible space was the mantra in authentic CPTED, yet those practitioners attached to physical target hardening ignored this part of the theory.
This is theory-blindness! It is often triggered by emotional attachments to a particular view and it is known in psychology as confirmation bias – the tendency to search only for information that confirms your prior beliefs of something. It is not surprising we are sometimes blinded by the light of a theory to which we are attached. We are all, after all, human. But ignoring data and cherry-picking evidence that supports only one particular theory is not only unscientific – it obstructs our work to help create safer places. Our communities deserve better.
I spoke too soon in regards to crickets from the criminological community. The situational theory cluster inside the movement might ignore, but not so the mainstream criminology community. The American Society of Criminology just awarded our own Tarah Hodgkinson the prestigious Robert Bursik Award for the displacement study I referenced above that Tarah, Martin Andresen, and I co-published in the British Journal of Criminology. Congratulations Tarah.