by Mateja Mihinjac
Vacant land is concerning because it attracts vandalism, provides refuge for drug activity and squatting, and attracts other undesirable behavior. In SafeGrowth we often find vacant lots and empty properties are associated with crime and disorder.
Fortunately, there are ways to transform these liabilities into assets. In our work, we encourage communities to activate vacant land in order to prevent a downward spiral of neighborhood disorder emerging from empty properties. This form of activation is also known as meanwhile spaces.
THE PROBLEM - VACANT LAND
Land vacancy is a prevalent issue especially in formerly highly industrialized cities across North America that are dealing with the consequences of economic downturn. Some of these cities suffer from hypervacancy where 25-50% of properties per census tract have been neglected.
We know from 1st Generation CPTED that this is due to poor territoriality or ownership resulting in decreased quality of life. We know from 2nd Generation CPTED that different neighborhoods have different thresholds for tolerating social destabilators (like vacant land), before they tip into social disorder. A timely response to vacancies can halt the slide into disorder.
Some cities have successfully rebuilt former factory buildings into housing. Others, as I've written in prior blogs, transform vacant lots into community gardens and community gathering places. And yet there are many cities that still struggle with vacant land and the consequences of poor upkeep, disorderly conduct, and crime.
Cities across North America and Europe are increasingly activating vacant land – a phenomena sometimes called meanwhile spaces – and temporarily using it to boost the local economy, provide jobs, advocate for social justice, and attract prosocial activities. These include pop-up markets and shops, placemaking, festivals, food trucks, art installations, programs by non-profits and civic collectives, and other activities that benefit the local community.
Meanwhile spaces are a form of tactical urbanism allowing local participation, and they also help developers see what people want in a particular space.
In Paris, one place was transformed into a temporary marketplace with diverse, small enterprises. It gave community groups and startups use of a rent-free space rent free until 2020 when the developer intends to commence with the construction.
Another example, from a prior blog, was SafeGrowth advocate Brad Vassallo's description of the pop-up market-place in Philadelphia, a city suffering over 40,000 vacant lots.
In Christchurch, New Zealand, an entire downtown commercial area, destroyed following a devastating earthquake, was transformed into a beautiful shipping-container shopping district. It was a temporary solution that now has wide acceptance and popular appeal (and may become a permanent feature of the city).
There are many low-cost and low-risk ways that meanwhile spaces can respond to the needs of residents and their neighborhoods. Creative design strategies can adapt quickly to changing conditions, such as layering multiple activities into one space, thereby injecting life and vibrancy into the local community.
Meanwhile spaces strengthen local relationships, build resilience and provide ownership to spaces that could otherwise attract undesirable activity. They may also signify a shift in modern city planning toward temporary and more responsive use of space.
However, what resonates most with me as a criminologist is the importance of a dedicated local community for transforming vacant spaces from liabilities into assets, thus preventing crime and disorder.
by Mateja Mihinjac
In the previous blog I wrote about the issue of food access and underlying problems that stem from inequality. We have learned in our SafeGrowth work that there is a connection between inequality, food access and the conditions that create crime. In this blog I present three pillars that can transform food deserts into food oases and concurrently tackle socio-economic disadvantage and crime.
Physical accessibility is the first pillar. Local infrastructure and zoning should support access to affordable fresh food within half a mile of residential areas. Many disadvantaged neighborhoods are faced with urban obstacles rooted in socio-economic inequality and high levels of crime that fail to achieve this objective.
Importantly, new supermarkets will not in themselves shift deeply ingrained eating habits without providing nutritional education.
In addition to physical access, another challenge is insufficient knowledge about nutrition and the effects of eating habits on health.
Education about health-promoting eating patterns should complement physical food accessibility. The Design for America Healthy Food (Access) Project developed an innovative approach that provides helpful graphic food guidelines for shoppers.
The third pillar focuses on financial aspects. Encouraging providers of fresh and affordable foods to partner with locally owned stores, thereby investing in the local economy, is preferable to relying on large supermarket chains. One strategy to achieve this is Rossi and Brunori's proposals for public and private stakeholder partnerships.
Another report looks at New York public housing and suggests the housing authority should contribute towards food access and economic security by encouraging commercial development on the housing properties. This could be coupled with employing residents to drive both local economy and local governance. Echoing Jane Jacobs, mixed uses promote safety by increasing occupancy and human interaction.
LOCAL FOOD GOVERNANCE
Food access from a local perspective is gaining traction in food justice circles. Knowing that available resources and education strongly influence food purchasing habits, it is unquestionable that food deserts are not a simple solution solved with new supermarkets.
Food accessibility and food education at a scale that responds to local demands is one major step towards food oases and away from barren food deserts. In SafeGrowth we suggest such changes should be driven With and By local residents for a lasting change towards 21st Century neighborhoods.
by Gregory Saville
With 267 murders last year, Detroit has a city population of 700,000 and murder rate 8 times the national average. It suffers a decimated tax base and in 2013, the largest city bankruptcy in US history. Naturally, you might associate it with crime, racial inequity, and blight. But would you associate it with urban innovation and rebirth?
With a renaissance of late, a lively downtown Detroit looks far different than a decade ago. And while that transformation is triggered by large, corporate reinvestment, it is the inner and outer suburbs where much of the blight and crime originates. How, I wondered this past week on project work in Detroit, does a neighborhood reinvent itself?
Then I met Pastor Barry Randolf at his Episcopal Church in the Lower Eastside neighborhood of Islandview. Not only has Islandview begun transformation, but Pastor Barry and his team have grand visions for the years ahead. Our task was to teach the SafeGrowth program in the neighborhood and work with our new friends at the Restorative City initiative.
New initiatives have fertile ground in a place like Islandview thanks, in no small measure, to Pastor Barry. He leads his church with programs like a community garden, a tea manufacturer, T-shirt design company, landscaping company, an employment program, a bike repair shop, mentorship programs, media production workshop, audio/video production, and others.
SPEARHEADING LOCAL LEADERSHIP
Not only does the church provide opportunities for jobs and work, but it also spearheads a community development corporation to build and purchase affordable housing (213 units in the neighborhood thus far). Pastor Barry told me that he and his team locate small numbers of market-rate housing across from well-designed, affordable housing to help stabilize and diversify the neighborhood. They then hire local residents to work with builders and learn the skills of construction.
Pastor Barry’s work is widely featured in local media and we were thrilled to offer our SafeGrowth tools to Islandview’s considerable toolkit. For me, the Islandview story illustrates the value of local organization and the power of competent neighborhood planning. As we say in our SafeGrowth Vision Statement, the successful 21st Century city will be based on a linked network of self-governing and self-learning neighborhoods.
When it comes to designing out crime beyond superficial security strategies, urban development and community-building like this digs at the roots of crime. With apologies to E. F. Schumacher, small truly is beautiful. Thanks, Pastor Barry, for the reminder.
by Mateja Mihinjac
I recently read John McKnight’s 1995 book The Careless Society: The Community and its Counterfeits. It reminded me of the vital importance in what we term vision-based asset mapping in our SafeGrowth work.
McKnight shows how elevating community capacities, rather than focusing on community deficiencies, can mitigate the many threats to community life that stem from a forest of unfocused and inefficient social services.
THE SOCIAL SERVICE INDUSTRY
The book’s core premise of “a glass half full” explains why systems of professionalized social services embedded within our daily lives fail to generate authentic citizen communities that care. As we teach in SafeGrowth, building cohesion in troubled communities is difficult when residents don’t care, or when they expect other organizations to solve local problems with no local involvement.
The issue McKnight sees with communities surrendering their power to the social service system is the assumption that communities are not able to identify their problems and solve them on their own, or with the assistance of others.
Thus starts the dependency-creating cycle that external service providers propagate. Then, as service professionals present themselves as experts with a suite of solutions to proposed problems, they often justify their own raison d’être while contributing little to positive change in the communities that have become dependent on them.
All this generates negative side effects and leads to a disabled citizenry and weakened community ties resulting in a loss in local capacity to self-organize. In effect, says McKnight, we become surrounded by community services but isolated from the community.
This does not mean that social services and others offer no value. However, communities need to themselves identify these services as useful and thus become active, rather than passive, actors in the life of their community.
VISION-BASED ASSET MAPPING
McKnight offers asset mapping as a tool for empowering communities and building capacity.
In our SafeGrowth work we help residents tap into the neighborhood resources to realize whatever vision they create to resolve problems within their neighborhood. We use this neighborhood social analysis as an important part of visioning and problem identification.
However, unlike McKnight’s broad scan, we tailor our approach into vision-based asset mapping - tailoring assets toward a specific vision for that problem. This step is repeated for different areas gradually building a repertoire of assets for the entire neighborhood. Neighbors themselves learn not only much more about local gifts for capacity-building right at their fingertips, but they learn how to use them for problem-solving.
The vision-based asset mapping approach empowers residents to become active in solving neighborhood problems. At the same time, they choose what social services to summon and reduce their dependency on external service providers.
by Gregory Saville
Providence, Rhode Island, an hour drive from Boston, is among the oldest cities in the U.S. and one of the first to industrialize. Today it confronts post-industrial poverty and associated crime. Yet it retains a lively cultural life and, with considerable urban reinvestment and 5 colleges and universities, it is working to breathe new life into ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
Residents from Providence participated in the recent Chicago SafeGrowth training to learn concepts from 1st and 2nd Generation CPTED and apply them to one of their small-scale trouble spots. They chose Trinity Square, an area that suffered 15 violence crimes, 10 property-related crimes, and over 200 police calls for service in the 6 months leading up to the class.
As the Providence SafeGrowth team describe in their report “most of the activity on that site is negative in nature and works against the progress of positive growth with high levels of drug activity, panhandling, homelessness, and abandoned property.”
The team knew their first step was to work with local stakeholders such as police and break down fear of crime and activate spaces with a series of organized activities. They started getting locals involved in positive social events. They chose a Trinity Square bus stop to install some board games and then launch a promotional program for regularly scheduled events.
Last week, on the inauspicious date of 9/11, the team ran their first weekly Game Off event, with residents from around the area. It was a smashing success as shown in the photos.
They plan to run this regularly. They are committed to establishing a more positive environment at this location and re-establishing the Trinity Square area as a neighborhood asset.
Congratulations to the Providence SafeGrowth team.
by Mateja Mihinjac
During my recent visit to New York City, I was thrilled to witness the upsurge in cycling in this iconic city. As an avid cyclist, I love when cities provide infrastructure for bipedal commute.
Promoting physical and social connections through design, such as increased bike usage, fosters interaction and establishment of social ties. In SafeGrowth we know that this also influences safety and perception of safety.
New York City, the metropolis well known for its traffic congestion and yellow cabs, has followed the lead of several European and Australian cities and in the past decade expanded its cycling infrastructure. Cycling in the city has since 2005 increased by an astounding 260%, currently amounting to 450,000 daily trips.
In 2013, the city also introduced the nation’s largest bike sharing program Citi Bike, which currently offers 603 bike stations and 10.000 bikes across the city’s five boroughs. These bikes are extensively used by city dwellers and tourists alike.
Exploring Manhattan on a bike
CYCLING FOR HAPPINESS?
Replacing motorised commute with biking impacts health and social connectedness, two of the three most important contributors to happiness in urban environments.
Moreover, planning for environmentally sustainable cities that prioritize cycling and walking is intrinsically linked to socially cohesive communities.
IMPROVING CYCLING INFRASTRUCTURE
Talking to locals revealed that despite great progress, cycling infrastructure could benefit from several improvements. The first was more bike lanes and Citi Bike stations outside downtown and affluent areas, a common need in other cities.
Ironically, those living on the peripheries of the cities and those less prosperous are the ones who would most benefit from biking connectivity.
The second issue concerns safety. A 2015 article reported 90% of bike lanes in New York City were unprotected, meaning the majority were lanes without a safety buffer between cyclists and cars. This is surprising knowing that protected bike lanes can reduce the risk of injury by 90% and also increase ridership.
CYCLING FOR CITIES OF TOMORROW
Promoting cycling in progressive cities like New York is an excellent avenue for developing environmentally and socially sustainable cities. Planners should encourage future expansions of bike infrastructure in less affluent areas and designers must follow guidelines for safety and buffered lanes.
Designing future cities around cycling will contribute to overall healthier and happier cities.
by Kallan Lyons
Kallan is a journalist who has blogged for Journalists for Human Rights and has contributed to the Kingston Whig-Standard newspaper. In 2013 she spent 6 months as media trainer in Ghana at the African College of Communications. She wrote this guest blog after attending the last part of the Baltimore SafeGrowth course.
“I had an overall instinctual sense that I was not safe.” - Community member who uses the Tot Lot, Pigtown, Baltimore
When the SafeGrowth Tot Lot team in Baltimore met Edith Nelson, they knew they had found an ally.
Tasked with transforming the park in Pigtown into a safe space for families, they consulted with Ms. Nelson. As reported in the last blog, A Baltimore trailblazer - Part 1, Ms. Edith has played an integral part in the process.
Now with her support, the team plans to clean up the lot and capitalize on community partnerships in an effort to decrease criminal behavior in the area. The team brought new energy to the project with representatives from the community, the Mayor’s Office, and the police.
STEPS FOR CHANGE
Here are just a couple of the recommendations put forward by the Safegrowth team members who are determined to build on the foundation laid by Ms. Nelson.
Throughout the Baltimore SafeGrowth training, the team addressed potential factors inhibiting locals from using the space. Surrounding the park are several abandoned homes and a liquor store; in addition, the tot lot is poorly lit in the evenings. Instead of people gathering in the park for block parties and barbecues, frequent activities include drug use and drinking.
While Ms. Nelson often peruses the park for trash, picking up empty bottles and other items left behind, the job is becoming too big for just one person.
That’s where the SafeGrowth team stepped in. The team’s vision includes volunteer clean-up crews and regular outdoor programs led by community groups. They plan to contact owners of abandoned homes to negotiate improvements. Other strategies included:
The goal is to restore the Tot Lot to its original use: a welcoming, family-oriented environment where parents and their children feel safe. Now that the wheels are in motion, and with Ms. Nelson on their side, a possibility is being turned into a promise.
The Tot Lot transformation started with one woman, and thanks to the SafeGrowth team, it will resume with the community.
by Gregory Saville
Fifteen years ago, I visited Skraplanet in Denmark, one of the world’s first cohousing communities and spent an afternoon with architect and founder, Jan Gudmand-Hoyer. In 1964 Hoyer gathered with friends to figure out how to purchase homes in the pricey Copenhagen real estate market.
Home purchasing then – as today - offered few real choices of importance. Hoyer and friends discovered house architecture was boring and designed by someone else. Land developers already answered (or ignored) the critical questions of neighborhood living before residents even showed up:
Hoyer described this in his 1968 article The missing link between utopia and the dated one-family house. The result was cohousing – a new type of village, a style of intentional community in which residents form their own development company, hire their own builders, and create their own neighborhood. When cohousing migrated worldwide in the 1980s, it offered a unique form of equity housing and village living - usually within or nearby existing cities.
Ultimately, cohousing became a safer and more sustainable housing option. It has appeared here numerous times in An alternative future and Avoiding a wire-esque future.
TOURING WITH THE MASTER
Jan Gudmand-Hoyer taught me the nuances of cohousing planning. He proudly described some of the clever design techniques unique to this housing form. His community, Skraplanet, used modernism, an architectural style popular in the 1960s. At the time of my visit, the community was 20 years old and had found a green niche in the surrounding forest.
Jan died yesterday at 81. He and his cohousing pioneers offered the world a new kind of village for the 21st Century. Thank you, Jan. May we live up to your dream!
In the world of futurist writing, dystopia reigns. Writers populating that world hunt current data and extrapolate to foretell future catastrophe. In Laurence Smith’s The World in 2050 the Arctic melts. In Jared Diamond’s Collapse we trigger our demise by ignoring the collapsing environment. In Gwynne Dyer’s Future Tense we are sowing the seeds of World War 3.
The problem is that the real future obliges the dystopians no more than the utopians. Remember the 1962 book (and later film) A Clockwork Orange about a hyper-violent future? In the 1960s our crime rate went ballistic and Clockwork seemed likely. Yet today crime rates plummet and, contrary to loud and ludicrous media pundits, urban violence is at an all-time low.
THE ZERO MARGINAL MESSAGE
The truth is data can predict only human patterns, not human potential. Nor can data predict our drive to survive collapse events. Predicting such things takes foresight, logic and optimism. Enter Jeremy Rifkin’s audacious book The Zero Marginal Cost Society and his story of a new kind of future.
An internationally renown economist and advisor to governments worldwide, Jeremy Rifkin is no stranger to global trends or deep thinking. His book is a tough slog in economic history, but well worth the effort if you want to know why economic systems unfold as they do. Agrarianism, Socialism, Communism and Capitalism - Rifkin dissects the Big Four and in the process rankles both far left and far right.
That alone is reason to read the book!
The trouble with those systems, says Rifkin, is they worked only for a time. Now they are mostly dead. And capitalism, outed by the Great Recession and the looming debt crash, is also obsolete. In its place emerges the Collaborative Commons.
"The Collaborative Commons is ascendant and by 2050 it will likely settle in as the primary arbiter of economic life in most of the world. We are already witnessing the emergence of a hybrid economy…" (Rifkin, page 1)
The Collaborative Commons shows up in Zip Cars, children’s toy exchanges like Baby Plays, 3-D printing, MOOCS and crowdfunding, all early inventions of the new economic system.
Another is the L3C social enterprise corporation, a corporate model unimagined by capitalist theory. Not quite profit and not quite charity, the L3C uses marginal profits for maximum social goals - exactly the kind of thing predicted in Collaborative Commons (SIDE NOTE - I helped co-create a social enterprise for vetting private security companies who contract for public safety).
Collaborative Commons show up everywhere. Nextdoor.com helps us solve everyday problems by connecting us with neighbors in a real (not virtual) place. Criminology’s most promising prevention theory - collective efficacy - is Collaborative Commons incarnate. Sampson’s book Great American City demonstrates that collaborative, altruistic behavior drives most successful and lower crime neighborhoods, exactly what SafeGrowth predicts.
Zero Marginal Cost is not utopian. It admits, for a time, prolific consumption will continue. Capitalism will survive in a niche to drive innovative technology. Yet its days of dominance, says Rifkin, are numbered. And every time we see the dynamism (and low crime) in community gardens, farmer’s markets, co-housing projects, food cooperatives, and micro-finance, we are reminded that collaboration has long been wired into our civic DNA.
A few months ago we completed SafeGrowth training in Rochester. Many of those projects are still underway.
During our training we describe the importance of community art, what planners call place-making, as one step for creating positive neighborhood culture. We highlight Portland's famous Intersection Repair project that I blogged about a few years ago.
One of the exceptional SafeGrowther's in Rochester, Rachel Pickering, just sent me this fascinating link to the BoulveArt project now happening across Rochester.
Painting an intersection is so simple, colorful, and remarkably fun, it's a wonder it doesn't happen everywhere. I'm told it is a daunting process to organize it and sell it to the city. That's not the case in Rochester, who actually host this site.
Good ideas, apparently, can spread.
Inside the neighborhood. That's where crime is prevented and community is built. That's why federal politics rarely appear here. Today, briefly, Leroy changed my mind.
Leroy Smickle is a 30-year old Toronto father with no criminal record. In 2009 he was at his cousin's apartment and, discovering a loaded handgun, hatched a bone-headed idea. Holding the gun in one hand and a laptop computer in the other, he began snapping pictures of himself wearing sunglasses and boxer shorts. Apparently, to the infantile, this looks cool.
At that very moment [I'm not making this up....honest] a police tactical squad busted down the door to arrest Smickle's cousin on another matter. And there was Smickle, in flagrante delicto, gun in hand, sunglasses, laptop clicking away, boxer shorts, well… you get the picture. Talk about a bad visual. Talk about bad luck!
Fast forward. After 7 months of pre-trial incarceration, Smickle came in front of Judge Anne Molloy. Mandatory sentencing rules required her to send Smickle to another 3 years in prison. Three years, no record, for a bone-headed stunt.
Instead she gave him 5 months in-house arrest and called the mandatory sentencing "outrageous".
CANADA'S NEW TOUGH-ON-CRIME LAW
In truth, except for a new law just passed in Ottawa, the Smickle caper is little more than tabloid fodder. But today that changed. Canada's federal conservative government voted sweeping tough-on-crime legislation into law (mandatory sentences, more prison-building, etc).
I've criticized BC courts for leniency in prior blogs. Mandatory sentencing would seem the answer. In fact, the BC Premier (and other western Premiers) supports the new law. But mandatory sentencing rarely works and more prisons just fill up. Ontario and Quebec oppose the law.
What about the public? A recent non-scientific poll found 86% wanted more prevention. Only 8% wanted more punishments.
Restorative justice advocates call it a step backwards. Canadian criminologists feel the same.
Even justice officials in Texas, the most conservative of all States, say the new Canadian law won't work. They've tried and it failed. In fact they are repealing their mandatory sentences in favor of drug treatment and community supervision.
With apologies to great Canadian poet Robert Service, there truly are strange things done in the midnight sun. I fear there are dark days ahead in the Canadian justice system.
Canadian criminologist Evelyn Zellerer describes restorative justice as one alternative to new Canadian law
Back in New Orleans this week talking at a crime summit hosted by Louisiana AARP. The topic is how SafeGrowth and the Hollygrove success story might work throughout the city.
The highlight was meeting old friends from Hollygrove and watching them tell their story to groups from throughout the city. A 78% decline in crime rates this year is quite a story, especially when crime elsewhere in the city is plateauing.
Recently there has been an increase in New Orleans homicides. Hollygrove's homicides have declined from 20 to 4.
HOW DID THEY DO IT?
How, they were asked, did they turn things around?
Difficult to spell out in clear steps. Certainly plenty of early steps were underway soon after Hurricane Katrina. A garden center was reinvigorated by volunteers (see photo). The city began a program of condemning and demolishing blighted properties (over 35% of all homes were condemned when we did our first SafeGrowth session 3 years ago. Today that's down to just under 20%).
Then AARP Louisiana came to the table with their Livability Academy and training. Change sped up considerably.
For me this neighborhood continues to improve due to the soul and gumption of some local residents. They started their own non-profit organization and now claim ownership for making changes themselves.
Here's a few things the residents did:
1.Installed their own street lighting when they could not get the city to do it
2.Could not get official street signs so used politicians signs from the last election to make their own (see…politicians can help troubled neighborhoods!)
3.Quadrupled attendance at Night Out Against Crime walks
4.Cleaned and swept their own streets.
5.Absent landlords refused to move lawns, local residents did it
6.Partnered with police and the city to shut down a drug house
7.Created a seniors walking group - the Soul Steppers - to take back their streets. Soul Stepper groups are now throughout New Orleans
8.Got a problem bar to get rid of drug dealers
9.Bus department would not repair a bus shelter so they built their own with recycled materials
And so on.
That's how you start to turn a place around.
To my friends in Hollygrove, congratulations! It's a great way to start the new year.
SAFEGROWTH DEFINED: Crime prevention and community building is best achieved within the neighborhood by harnessing the creative energy of neighborhood change agents and functional groups.
I'm on a roll with good news stories lately. Here's another one demonstrating the above.
Hurricane Katrina hammered it. Fifteen to 20 murders annually vexed it. Even homegrown rapper L'il Wayne once sang "Hollygrove ain't no muthaf**kin melrose".
Hollygrove in New Orleans is born again. Not in the religious sense…though, maybe. SafeGrowth training through Louisiana AARP is part of this story (eg: read The Hollygrove Story and Bus Shelter Madness).
Only four murders this year. What's down? Crime, by 78%. What's up? Community events, garden centers, and Night Out Against Crime. AARP-sponsored strategic planning sessions with residents charted new urban designs for elder-friendly places. The Hollygrove Walking Club now walks for health and peace.
Two weeks ago Hollygrove won a national MetLife Foundation award from the Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Watch this new videoon their success story.
Here's another video, this one about their garden program.
The rappers are right. The hood's where it's at!
In Charles Dickens's classic work, three ghosts haunt Scrooge. My last blog described evidence-based criminology - particularly the power of few - as a path for policing in the future. It too has three ghosts.
The power of few emerges from evidence-based criminology and has morphed into the new vogue - SMART policing. Comstat (computer crime statistics) and intelligence-led policing are part of it. SMART policing is Strategically-Managed, Analysis and Research-driven, Technology-based. The goal of the SMART Policing Initiative (SPI) is to develop effective, efficient and economical tactics.
Three ghosts come to mind.
Ghost #1: What data?
Evidence-based approaches rely on data to prove or disprove hypotheses in an objective empirical way. Data are the thing.
Mike Scott said as much at the inaugural SPI conference; standards of proof for evidence of success are difficult to define. What happens when the data is far from objective?
I've done blogs on research-driven and technology-based approaches like the paralysis of analysis, predicting crime with superlinear scaling, and problems with comstat data.
Ghost #2: Tech-envy
The SPI website offers a proof of technology-driven success in the story of security cameras in London.
London's Ring of Steel is a system of 500,000 CCTV cameras resulting in, supposedly, an improved clearance rate for murder. The evidence? London's murder clearance rate in 2005 increased to 95% from 75% in 1999.
Unfortunately London's 2008 teenage violence increased to a record 29 teenage murders (an epidemic for London), a year in which six days of youth violence ended in 6 teen knife attacks (two fatal).
Also unfortunate is that London's robbery rate ebbed and flowed the past decade. Then there was the explosion of robberies from 26,330 in 1998 to 53,547 in 2002.
So much for the Ring of Steel.
Ghost #3: Buy-in
It is rarely, if ever, advisable to proceed without public education and outreach, especially when targeting offenders or neighborhoods. SMART policing doesn't do that, but too many evidence-based methods do.
Some SPI advocates acknowledge this. "Smart Policing will benefit an entire community, not only through cost-savings and improvements to criminogenic problems, but also through the promotion of a sense of community and collaboration."
If done well, I think this is where SPI might flourish. Not just by promoting a sense of community. Rather, like SafeGrowth, by re-creating it and growing it from the ground up. McKnight and Kretzman describe this in Building Communities From The Inside Out.
Community capacity-building isn't an add-on after number-crunching is complete. It's not a tactic for strategic managers to craft their evidence-based plans. It is the very DNA of safe communities.
To ignore that DNA is to risk being haunted by ghosts of our past.
How do we start community building in a place of rapid decline? How do we create social capital where none appears?
Tough questions. One answer is to learn from others with great ideas. Here is a great idea using community design.
Emily Pilloton is a brilliant, young activist architect (Watch her TED.com video. You'll see what I mean). Her book Design Revolution set the stage for how she works.
She and her partner have now launched the next act: They moved to the poorest county in North Carolina and created Project H Design, a strategy to put their ideas into action.
Emily describes Bertie County, North Carolina as the poster child for the demise of rural America. A place where downtowns are hollowed out - a "rural ghetto" with no shared vision for a collective future.
They have already done some pretty cool things (see photo above) Now they are teaching high school kids how to start transforming their own neighborhood through community design.
There is a New York Times article about it here.
My favorite is her appearance this past January on the comedy show The Colbert Report. Wait for the buffering - it's worth it.
I have added the Project H group website to my LikeMinded list in case you want to follow them. (I do!)
I can't imagine a group more likeminded to SafeGrowth.
Today the span of this gulf showed up in an excellent Toronto Star column: Jane Jacobs great ideas have morphed into pettiness.
Say’s columnist Christie Blatchford:
"Where Ms. Jacobs, for instance, was instrumental in stopping a highway which would have torn apart some lovely parts of the old city – the Spadina Expressway – on my street her successors have succeeded in stopping a daycare.
My hunch is Jane Jacobs would be appalled to see how civic engagement has become…civic entitlement, wherein everyone expects to be notified and consulted about every single thing that everyone else is doing."
Have Toronto’s famed Jacobsian-style communities gone mad?
As if on cue, philosopher Mark Kingwell attacks what he calls The Shout Doctrine. Kingwell believes the real social glue of community is civility and sympathy for others.
In this month’s issue of The Walrus magazine he says:
"Adam Smith, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, persuasively suggested that sympathy, the recognition of shared human vulnerability, is the real glue of social structures. Contractual theories, like the ones popularized a century earlier by Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, miss the point.
We would not make a contract with another, much less hold to it, unless we already recognized the other as an entity worthy of our consideration."
They may not know each other, but Sarkissian, Blatchford and Kingwell tell the same story. We should pay attention.
Noted Australian social planner, Wendy Sarkissian submitted a guest blog last year regarding fear of the "other". Here is another entry from Wendy she kindly lent from her own blog at Kitchen Table Sustainability.
Trouble in Paradise
Tomorrow evening my neighbours are meeting to decide whether or not to try to ban dual occupancy (commonly called accessory dwelling units) in this eco-village of 43 dwellings on 22 hectares [54 acres]. The whole process has me mightily confused.
Imagine the contradictions. Here we are living on half an acre in a Permaculture community committed to self-sufficiency and sustainability principles.
We live in a low-income community (Nimbin, population 350) with a desperate shortage of housing, especially for lower income residents. And most of us do not grow much food – if any – on our properties. I think every lot has at least one car. We’re highly automobile-dependent and we’re certainly not secure in terms of food production.
A permaculture community
But we’re trying. The Jarlanbah community, designed by formidable Permaculture designer, Robyn Francis, who lives down the road at the Djanbung Gardens Permaculture Education Centre was established in 1993 and the first residents moved in in 1994.
Now many of us are ageing and looking for opportunities to age in place and to have the possibility of a caregiver living on our house block. Or to have an income stream from renting a small dwelling on our land.
Recently, the Jarlanbah Review Sub-committee rejected a proposal by one of our neighbours for a dual occupancy arrangement on his block. In North America, this is generally called an “accessory dwelling unit”.
This case, which is likely to go to a formal mediation session, has caused a huge amount of discussion in our community. Some of us, citing global sustainability principles, Peak Oil, automobile dependence and the needs of an ageing, rural population, want to be able to have two dwellings on a lot. We can’t see how this would differ – in planning terms — from, say, a house with four or more bedrooms for a large family or shared household. We don’t see that the impacts on our road infrastructure would be that dramatic.
Not everyone would want to have another dwelling on their lot (perhaps half might – eventually) and those who did could pay extra to reflect the wear and tear that another vehicle might cause (assuming that vehicles would not be shared).
"It'll turn Jarlanbah into a slum"
But not all residents feel this way. Others are afraid that having a few more dwellings will open the floodgates. “It’ll turn Jarlanbah into a slum and a ghetto,” remarked one of the long-term residents, while another claimed that she did not move to Nimbin “to live in cluster housing.” “This is not inner city Redfern,” [a high crime community in Sydney] claimed another.
As a Jarlanbah resident who has spent a whole career (since 1967) working in housing and planning, I am curious to understand what this really means.
Where would these road-wrecking new slum-dwellers come from? How could a ghetto emerge as a result of density increase?
Nevertheless, this small village community is about to embark on an open, democratic, community discussion on this matter.
How do we get people from disadvantaged places to the table in the first place? How do we initiate community engagement when communities are so disengaged?
There is little point in creating a safe physical place if people are disengaged from community life.
Take schools for example. It is no surprise that crime and vandalism rates increase shortly after high school kids leave school and on weekends. In one Brazil research study, youth homicide rates skyrocket during weekends
Across the US, almost half of all juvenile crime occurs shortly after school lets out and into early evening according to some studies.
Even worse is when a neighborhood suffers from poor student attendance and youth disengagement from the educational system. Disengagement is a cancer for neighborhood vitality. Educational detachment ripples through a young person’s life for years. Eventually it reaches the shores of community safety. School detachment is the mark of a neighborhood in trouble. Kids in school matter.
Most prevention programs are after-school programs aimed at the kids. Rarely do programs target the parents, teachers, and communities themselves.
Not so for a capacity building program with Western Australia’s aboriginal people over the past 9 years. Check out the Voices of Our People.
Their capacity building program was a response to absenteeism and disengagement by aboriginal youth in school.
Gerry Cleveland, education and youth violence expert, created and delivered the program in conjunction with others such as Carol Garlett, the Aboriginal district director of Education in Western Australia’s remote Kimberley district. (Gerry’s SafeGrowth blog last year describes his philosophy on justice and safety).
Gerry’s training aims to enhance community participation and reduce absenteeism. After 9 years aboriginal staff are more inclined to take leadership roles and manage school and community projects – projects they develop themselves. In one early evaluation a half dozen schools had 10% improvement in attendance. In one school it was over 30%.
Gerry’s capacity building answers the question of where to begin by going to the source. They start with people directly in the community - Aboriginal support staff, parents of students, and Aboriginal students themselves aged 6 to 12.
Leadership and emotional intelligence training is also key, not for service providers from outside, rather for aboriginal teachers and parents inside the community.
In international development circles this is called technology transfer – but in community development it is more about co-developing solutions with residents and applying them locally. Capacity building training helps residents do it themselves. In SafeGrowth too, this isreally the whole point of sustainable community.
For more on this project check out the section on engaging youth in Western Australia in the Chapter titled Second Generation CPTED: The Rise and Fall of Opportunity Theory in Randy Atlas’s book 21st Century Security and CPTED.