My High Line Park post a few weeks ago happened because of my fascinating new friend and community mapping guru, Wansoo Im. He showed us High Line with the energy of an excited tourist, even though he is an area resident, adjunct professor in urban planning at Rutgers University and founder of inventive initiatives in community mapping. I discovered he brings that energy to his work everywhere.
Wansoo is a pretty cool fellow. He has mapped safe routes to school for kids and helped residents use crowdsourcing to map potholes. Huffington Post describes how he got high school students to crowdmap emergency gas stations to help residents stranded during Hurricane Sandy. The New Yorker featured him using crowdsource mapping to solve the problem of finding public washrooms in New York. And now he's turning to community mapping of crime and fear.
I met Wansoo at our New Jersey SafeGrowth training where he is testing his community mapping software called Mappler. It uses Google Earth and GPS and most importantly it doesn't rely on complex GIS mapping - the stuff crime analysts spend months mastering. And it's dead easy to use.
Mappler technology works as a smart phone app. Our class was able to input Safety Audit fear data directly from their observations and view it in real-time on neighborhood maps. Pretty cool stuff.
Community mapping may be the way to tap into engagement in a direct way. And for Millennials growing up as Internet natives it offers a new way they can use their considerable talents to solve community crime.
We insist our students spend time assembling asset maps before they come up with strategies during their crime prevention work. We call it tapping into the latent neighborhood talent.
That talent staggers the mind. It represents an untapped source of potential energy waiting to be transformed into its kinetic form, what social scientists call community efficacy. Read the social science description of this effect in Robert Sampson's epic Great American City: Chicago and the Enduring Neighborhood Effect.
For firsthand evidence check out these fabulous cityscape photos taken by talented photographers - students participating in, or connected with, SafeGrowth trainings over the past few years.
John Thurston and Roberto Contreras kindly provided birds eye views of their respective cities in past SafeGrowth trainings. The latest offering is at the top of this blog; a beautiful time lapse portrait of City Hall by Philadelphia police officer Albert Cruz.