by Greg Saville
Seasonal celebrations are now underway. Winter Solstice, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and National Don’t Make Your Bed Day (Yes, there is such a thing! I’m a believer). Each event celebrates a different aspect of life – seasonal, religious, cultural – and, in so doing, each celebrates our human community. Given the mess that is 2020 - inequity protests around the world, the Racial Reckoning riots in the United States, and the scourge of COVID-19 - we desperately need to celebrate something this year!
Human “community” is an elusive animal. It means different things to different people, and consequently, it means nothing that you can put your finger on. Of course, since we’re not testing a theory in a lab experiment, who cares? It’s okay that we have regular celebrations of community; it’s needed now more than ever.
To some, “community” is their immediate family and circle of friends. (I’ve been particularly lucky in this regard.) For others, it is their social circle or their affiliation with sports teams. To yet others, it is those who share political affinities or who occupy the thousands of groups in Meetup.com.
TO EACH, HIS-HER OWN
For my part, I recently became obsessed with a YouTube group that takes virtual rides on famous trains around the world (yes, yes… I know how pathetic and uncool that sounds. COVID cabin fever takes a toll!)
Yet there is another important part of this story worth telling. For those of us in the community-building and crime prevention world, the term “community” is too elusive. We prefer using local geography to describe our neighborhood – those buildings, neighbors, parks, shops, and other places within a 15-minute walk of our home. After all, it is within those neighborhoods where we actually live much of our lives.
Our immediate neighbors, for better or worse, matter a great deal! And it is in those very places where we experience, recover from, or hide from, crime and fear. Mateja Mihinjac and I describe some of these ideas in our Third Generation CPTED article last year.
Neighborhoods matter and neighbors matter. So let’s celebrate our neighbors too during this holiday season. I’ve been fortunate to have some great neighbors over the years. We may not always agree about politics or see eye-to-eye on our philosophy of life, but we agree it is important to be a good neighbor. When neighborliness works well, it costs you little, it means a lot, and it contributes to your quality of life. In an upcoming blog, Mateja will describe how we encourage neighborhood engagement. In the meantime, let's celebrate our neighbors.
To the great neighborhoods and to the great neighbors who care, thanks. You rock!
by Gerard Cleveland and Gregory Saville
NOTE: My colleague Gerard Cleveland and I co-wrote this second part of last week's blog on “Defund the Police”. Gerry is a frequent contributor to the SafeGrowth blog. He is an attorney, a specialist in school violence, and the co-chair of the Police Society for Problem-Based Learning.
Occasionally, SafeGrowth programmers benefit from exceptional problem-solving police officers. Other times they get little help from the police. When that happens, residents ask questions such as: Where are the police? Why are we spending so much on policing services? What is wrong?
Why does a disconnect exist between what works to make communities safe and what currently occurs within policing? In our view, the systemic blockages first emerge within the academy. And since training serves as the entry point to police subculture, we must start reforms at that early stage if we hope to create a different style of police service.
THE ROLE OF TRAINING
Over the past twenty-five years, we have taught thousands of police, federal agents, military units, and security personnel from across the globe. We find a disturbing commonality exists among most police training academies from places as diverse as the United States, Canada, Australia, Mozambique, Papua New Guinea or Qatar.
Why disturbing? Because most policing academies today hold four prevalent and dangerous myths. Police leaders and academy directors think these myths are unassailable truths. They are wrong.
POLICE TRAINING MYTH #1
Academy instructors have no choice but to lecture to ensure that they get as much information to the recruits as possible. They do not have time to do otherwise. They must follow legally prescribed, State and Federal regulations and therefore lecturing serves as the most expedient method to get all the required information to the recruits. They assure everyone that they would like to do more adult learning and problem-solving in the classroom, but such efforts “take too much time.”
This “no time to train properly” mantra undermines the long-term success of new employees. If the objectives of the academy genuinely state a clear intention to focus on student learning, then agency and academy leaders must abandon their ineffective instructor-focused lessons and institute problem solving and adult learning strategies.
We described antidotes to this absurd “no time” mantra in our book You In Blue and in our work on National programs that we wrote such as Police Training Officer and Police PBL: Blueprint for The 21st Century.
POLICE TRAINING MYTH #2
Defensive tactics and weapons training necessarily fill a substantial portion of the academy agenda because of the inherent dangers on the street that officers will face from day 1 of their careers.
Defensive tactics (DT) and firearms instructors have hijacked police training schedules and are responsible for much of the fear that exists both within the force and throughout the community. The DT and firearms instructors may have good intentions, but they are doing serious damage to the profession and to police-community relations.
We must stop allowing tactical or firearms instructors to “call the shots” when it comes to crisis training. These instructors are important and they provide a necessary skill, but their mandate must include broad-spectrum problem-solving options, coupled with a focus on working collaboratively with community crisis providers (such as mental health professionals) prior to, during and after violent escalation. Firearms and DT instructors should be trained extensively on the impacts that shootings, violence and vehicle accidents involving police have on the officers as well as the community.
POLICE TRAINING MYTH #3
Discipline and adherence to a para-military code of behavior in the academy builds character, cohesion, respect for agency hierarchy and fosters professional pride among the recruits.
This is blue babble!
The concept that we must break down and then build up a new employee makes little sense when recruiters claim they hire only the best candidates. Boot camp may work for soldiers, but police must work within communities, engage intelligently and problem-solve cooperatively.
Yelling and shouting at new employees and telling them they know nothing achieves little except to waste precious training time and stoke the egos of the instructors doing the yelling. Further, we argue it creates an unhealthy role model in the minds of the recruits as to how they should treat people over whom they have power.
POLICE TRAINING MYTH #4
Police trainers should discourage recruits from questioning orders, engaging in divergent thinking and challenging up the chain of command. Those practices increase dangers to officers because they may not, at critical times, follow orders when required to do so.
Discipline within the ranks serves as a safety mechanism for agencies and instilling that obligation to authority must begin at the academy.
No one doubts the need for discipline and following orders. These requirements exist in all professions and occupations. Numerous professionals learn to respect authority while engaging with each other to solve problems and employing problem-solving/adult learning methods in their training. Why then do police academies spend so much time on artificial discipline when there are much better techniques to enable self-controlled and socially motivated police officers who think critically?
REPLACING BLUE BABBLE MYTHS WITH TRUTHS
Public safety agencies need to work as part of the communities they serve, not apart from them. They must do more than spout community problem-solving and catchwords in their mission statements and public speeches. Agencies must adopt those methods as their primary style of policing. For decades this has been the central goal of the Problem-Oriented Policing movement and the Police Society for Problem-Based Learning.
Those are the movements that police leaders, political representatives and particularly police trainers need to support.
On many police vehicles it reads “to serve and protect.” The logical question arises, “how can the police serve and protect the public from a distance with officers clad in camo clothing, carrying tactical gear and framing interactions with the public as perilous to the officer’s survival?” The incessant high alert, ‘fear factor’ that has crept into police work – again perpetuated at the academy – has led officers to spend far too little time working directly with residents on local crime and violence concerns.
We will not achieve different responses from our police agencies so long as police leaders allocate inordinate amounts of resources to security and suppression equipment as well as tactical training and so little time to community engagement initiatives. We propose that diverting funds to problem-solving training in cooperation with the community will not only garner better crime reduction, but it will enhance police and community cooperation, trust and positive engagement.
If city managers and police leaders fail to act, the noise from the activist groups calling to Defund the Police will grow louder and soon begin to resonate with more and more reasonable, pro-police members of the community. The time for the combat cop has ended. We should reinvent the age when officers and the community work together to make neighborhoods safe for both the police and the public.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Never did the reality of rapidly changing and technologically advanced cities become more apparent than during my recent visit to Singapore. Coming from a small European town with narrow medieval streets, city squares and few high rises in its city core, arriving in Singapore felt like time travel. Modern architecture, multi-level pathways and an interplay between city design and nature was, in my eyes, a very different and futuristic image of modern cities.
SINGAPORE – A SMART CITY?
This city of 5.5 million inhabitants was designated a 2015 UNESCO Creative City of Design. It puts great emphasis on its innovation and aesthetic design, and is one of the leading smart cities in the world. Singapore is also one of the safest Asian cities that boasts the highest quality of life in the region.
The Singapore Design Masterplan Committee developed a 2025 design masterplan envisioning a technologically advanced and environmentally sustainable innovative city with opportunities for enjoying all the ample activities that the city has to offer.
However, despite referring to people-centered design, much of Singapore’s infrastructure culminated from top-down planning. The 2025 plan describes how they “actively engaged industry and public sector stakeholders through interviews and focus group discussions”, but ultimately it fails to consider a deeper level of community involvement and how citizens will develop a stronger sense of community, pride, and neighborliness from design innovations.
As we know in SafeGrowth, in many cities this top-down process often results in citizens becoming disconnected from the plans and decisions made by city agencies. That, in turn, affects ownership and sustainability over the long term as we attempt to enhance social cohesion in neighborhoods.
Smart City strategist Boyd Cohen emphasizes this people-centered point in a recent article when he claims: “Cities must move from treating citizens as recipients of services, or even customers, to participants in the co-creation of improved quality of life.”
This people-centered message is well established in neighborhood-based planning. In our SafeGrowth book, my chapter describes neighborhood engagement as an essential part of SafeGrowth planning. The message of the chapter is fundamental; citizens need to become co-creators of their cities.
Fortunately, this is the latest trend in Smart Cities – a shift from a technological and corporate/government planning system toward citizen-driven planning where citizens become co-creators of decisions, solutions and design.
Unfortunately, despite institutional collaboration, Singapore still appears to be driven top-down by the city government and it lacks a coherent citizen component. By comparison, cities such as Vienna, Austria, and Medellin, Columbia are examples showing how equity and social inclusion can play a part in future smart cities.
At the core of citizen-driven smart cities are empowered, smart citizens who collaborate in the development of the city. It is an approach called collective intelligence, and it arises from two ingredients: technology that supports the social and everyday activities of average people; and planning that involves citizens establishing the activities they want in the city they call home.
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.
GUEST BLOG: Brad Vassallo is a SafeGrowth Advocate having taught POP-up placemaking and community development as part of a SafeGrowth team. He has worked in community development in Philadelphia for the past few years and offers here a case study from that city.
Philadelphia is a city of 40,000 vacant lots. Like many post-industrial cities, it fell victim to a mass exodus of middle-class residents in the mid-20th century. Unfortunately, the 40-plus-year drought in tax revenues has taken its toll, with neighborhoods in North and West Philadelphia ailing from high crime rates and rampant vacancy. These conditions have had a torturous effect on neighborhood quality of life.
As a former student at Temple University in community development, I witnessed first-hand the effects of this multi-generational disinvestment. Asociacion Puertorriquenos en Marcha (APM) is a neighborhood nonprofit serving residents of all color and creed, with a mission of helping families. This is no easy task in a neighborhood commonly referred to as "the Badlands" due to its high frequency of violent crime.
TACKLING THE BADLANDS
As part of my degree, I found myself working with APM during the beginning of a new creative placemaking grant. The goal of the Pop Up Market Place (PUMP), was to reactivate a vacant lot at the corner of 6th Street and Susquehanna Avenue. The 11,000-square-foot lot was slated to become a youth housing facility with ground-floor retail, but the development cycle often takes five or more years. Our task was to reimagine the space as a gateway for a downtrodden stretch of Germantown Avenue. The project involved several layers:
Despite problems moving this version of the project forward, we learned how to revive vacant land and encourage business activities. We also learned that this unique design style was easy to mobilize, it could move from parcel to parcel, and it provided a beta-test for local businesses as an alternative form of entrepreneurialism.
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 Greg Saville
We are frequently asked in our seminars how to activate unsafe places with fun, lively and safe activities. In CPTED the generic term used for this is called ‘activity generation’, but that term hardly describes it nor what works in one place over another. For years our SafeGrowth programs have turned to urban placemaking for answers.
Placemaking began, some claim, with the 1970s research of William H. Whyte, especially his book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.
It was Whyte who inspired the development of New York’s PPS - the Project for Public Spaces - still an active placemaking group today. A few years ago we worked alongside PPS in New Jersey and found placemaking directly relevant to CPTED, particularly 2nd Generation CPTED.
More recently our friends at Portland’s City Repair movement have been an inspiration. Members of City Repair attended our first SafeGrowth Summit two years ago and we often feature their guerrilla architecture on this blog.
NEW YORK POP-UP
This week we conducted training for community leaders in New York. SafeGrowth Advocate Brad Vassallo joined our training team and ran a terrific session during our training called POP-up placemaking, which is the process of directly engaging local residents and passers-by at a public spot where place activation may help.
POP-up placemaking has the advantage of requiring few funds and simple planning. Because it will not last long, it may have only short-term impact. However, a regular program of POP-ups may well provide a planner or community practitioner a great tactic to engage locals in a fun and easy way to start the long process of building relationships and reducing fear.
On the streets outside Penn Station in New York, our 4 teams spoke to dozens of New Yorkers, enticed them to use simple materials (blue interlocking rubber tiles, tape, chalk, colored string), and construct some simple and fun placemaking activities. Within minutes people stopped to participate, write, dance, talk, laugh, and co-create spaces around a bus stop, a subway stairway entrance, and along a public wall.
It took less than 30 minutes to complete the entire activity using about $100 of material. Obviously, space activation need not be complicated, expensive, or permanent. In a class exercise, this was simple enough. In a real-life community project, this can launch a transformation.
by Mateja Mihinjac
On this blog, we’ve written about the importance of giving youth a voice and engaging them in public life. When they can participate, or even drive, the development of services for their use, they feel especially empowered.
EXPLORING LOCAL POTENTIALS
I like to explore hidden potentials in cities and one recent discovery in my hometown emerged as I enjoyed an autumn walk. It was a "Pumptrack", a continuous loop track intended for cyclists and skateboarders. Even more exciting for me was recognizing that track was situated adjacent to public housing thus providing youth with opportunities for prosocial activities, in this case, a recreational service.
The American National Recreation and Park Association stress that parks and recreation represent essential public services.
Apart from economic value, health and environmental benefits, the Association recognized that access to such infrastructure reduces crime and juvenile delinquency. From criminology, we also know that providing recreational and healthy activities for youth builds resilience and provides a protective factor against delinquency.
POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT
When communities invest in their assets to assist with the development of youth and their potential, they communicate to young people that they care for them. Reciprocally, the youth develop an attachment to the community and contribute to its wellbeing. Thus, according to one report, “youth are valuable resources to invest in and not problems to be solved”.
Recreational infrastructures in cities are not extras! They offer an ideal platform for engaging and developing youth. Any future vision of the city must include them.
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 Tarah Hodgkinson
When you ask people to provide an example of crime prevention, the first program they mention is Neighbourhood Watch (or Block Watch). This is not surprising considering that for 45 years it has been implemented extensively. Police departments offer toolkits for residents and many neighbourhoods sport signs that say “Block Watch Community – All suspicious behaviours will be reported to the police.”
Neighbourhood Watch originated in Seattle in 1972 when the Law and Justice Planning Office conducted a survey and found that residents were most concerned about burglary. They created a program to:
The program produced massive declines in burglary rates (48-61%). Thus, Neighbourhood Watch was deemed an exemplary project and, backed by the National Crime Prevention Council and most police departments, it took off across North America.
Some positive results continue today. For example, British research shows it cuts burglary in UK neighbourhoods by 16% to 26%.
However, Neighbourhood Watch has been subject to considerable criticism. Research demonstrated that expansions of the program in different cities produce positive results only in middle-class neighbourhoods that already had strong social cohesion. Other studies found that it tended to have negative consequences, including increasing fear of crime.
WHAT WENT WRONG?
So what happened to this exemplary project?
Current versions of Neighbourhood Watch have missed the mark in addressing crime problems and mobilizing residents to address them. Some accounts claim they do not encourage neighbours to organize around crime issues that they care about.
Instead, today’s programs are a shadow of what they once were; they play lip service to a once well-designed program by posting signs and handing out flyers. In most case, residents call their local police service to install signs and give residents information on how to secure their homes or notice suspicious behaviour. Unfortunately, they miss the point regarding what contributed to the success of the original program – people!
THE MISSING INGREDIENT
This is in direct opposition to the action research methodology that underpins SafeGrowth - to address relevant crime issues with local residents, not to or for them. When people and context are removed from the equation, all we are left with is a feel-good program.
We don’t need signs, flyers and more door locks. We need engaged neighbourhoods where police and residents work together on crime issues that matter most and then co-create lasting solutions. That is how we move forward.
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 Mateja Mihinjac
Towards the end of the past Century, a gruesome downtown rape shocked Brisbane, Australia. The incident occurred at 9 am in a laneway surrounded by the pedestrian corridor of the busiest spot in Brisbane, the outdoor Queen Street Mall.
This horrific incident went unnoticed by the city workers rushing to their offices. The victim, a young woman, remained helpless in the shadows of the bland gray facades of the surrounding buildings.
FAST FORWARD 20 YEARS
Today numerous Brisbane laneways have undergone a remarkable visual transformation aiming to imitate similar successes in Melbourne and Sydney.
Burnett Lane is Brisbane’s oldest laneway with a dark history of a prison exercise yard during the early penal colony days.
It was the first to undergo rejuvenation. The 600-foot laneway now boasts creative lighting and artwork that characterize its cultural and historical identity. It has a few small restaurants, cafes and bars, the largest vinyl record store in the Southern Hemisphere and a wine bar with late evening hours.
Winn Lane and Baker Lane, situated in the middle of the night entertainment district, also offer a mix of diverse opportunities in one place. They host day and night cafes, eateries, service shops and small retail shops that attract Brisbane’s artisan community.
Once a forgotten place surrounded by tall buildings, Eagle Lane now offers a bar and a café, street parties, artistic installations and live music with pop-up gigs in the evening hours. It has become a popular post-work venue for city workers in the financial district.
IF YOU BUILD IT, THEY WON’T COME?
More than a dozen other laneways across Brisbane’s CBD have sprouted since the City’s Vibrant Laneways program was introduced in 2006, and more are pending. However, according to critics the program leaves much to be desired since laneway culture in the city has yet to truly flourish.
They suggest that the City’s domination of the Vibrant Laneways program resulted in mechanically built laneways that failed to evolve over time. Instead, as predicted by SafeGrowth theory, they recommend the laneways should grow organically as a product of the creative and entrepreneurial activities of locals whereby the city assumes a cooperative rather than the leading role.
Confirming this idea is that fact the laneways attracting most people in Brisbane are those able to capitalize on their creative and economic potential to develop imaginative places. Elements that promote their vitality include permeability, accessibility, the absence of vehicular traffic and a positive image.
Truly vibrant laneways convince people to stop and linger, which in turn activates the area and reduces the potential for undesirable activities like serious crime.
For laneways to be safe, they need to move away from what Woodhouse describes as “forgotten space within cities, trapped in the dark and quiet spaces” offering nothing more than pedestrian thoroughfare and service delivery access.
Instead, as Carmichael claims, with collaboration between business planners, interest groups, and local governments, these precious micro-spaces can facilitate social interaction, promote safety and evolve into assets and anchors for community life in the 21st Century.
by Mateja Mihinjac
In The Republic, Plato asserted it is absurd “a guardian should need a guardian”. Five Centuries later the Roman poet Juvenal rejected this and claimed guardians do not always behave ethically and should not be trusted. Incidents of child sexual abuse by school personnel, estimated in some studies between 3.7% to 4.1% (almost 1 in 20), suggest that Juvenal may be right.
While increased focus has been placed on external threats such as school shootings, children remain largely defenseless from internal threats of sexual abuse by staff.
I was recently tasked with investigating whether child-safe schools can be designed to prevent child abuse by school staff. This led me to dig deep into the literature, while remaining skeptical the solution to this social problem was physical modification.
The first step required understanding the contextual factors leading to abuse. Some of the findings revealed:
Exacerbating the problem is inadequate legislation, unsatisfactory institutional policies and procedures, inadequate awareness, institutional blindness, and inability to centre strategies on child welfare. All that leaves children vulnerable to abuse by those who should be protecting them.
The second step was research into preventive strategies, revealing the problem needs a holistic multi-level approach. These include:
Design Out Crime strategies proved ineffective for addressing the intricate problem of institutional child sexual abuse. Instead, responses should embed child safety at individual, organizational and systemic levels while also giving children a voice in the matters affecting them.
As Juvenal might suggest, trusting guardians is not simple and responsibility for preventing child abuse falls to wider society at all levels including neighborhoods, parents, and schools.
Just as I was writing about homelessness and walkable public spaces I received a Vimeo from SafeGrowth friend Sue Ramsay in New Zealand. It is a 4 minute video uncovering simple urban design and social programming features that make a public space fantastic.
It is all based on William H. Whyte’s 1980 book The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, and to a lesser extent his follow-up book, City: Rediscovering The Center.
Whyte was born 100 years ago and he became mentor to Jane Jacobs and inspiration for the New York place-making group Project for Public Spaces.
For CPTED practitioners, William H. Whyte is among the bright lights in the history of urban design. He invented the idea of urban carrying capacity - later called tipping points - used throughout 2nd Generation CPTED. Like any student of urban affairs and planning he loved cities. He envisioned the return of the Agora to the modern city and, best of all, showed us how to get there.
His ideas for reclaiming civilized, walkable, and fun urban places are simple, obvious and oddly ignored in too many cities. Here are a few that show up in the video:
Thanks to Sue for reminding us about one of our pioneers.
The placemaking tactic called Intersection Repair made a recent appearance in the southern hemisphere.
A few years ago SafeGrowth Advocate Sue Ramsay ran some SafeGrowth training in her New Zealand city of Christchurch in two different neighborhoods. Thanks to the Riccarton West neighborhood SafeGrowth team, they have created a first for New Zealand.
Christchurch is the city rebuilding itself after suffering such a devastating earthquake a few years ago. Sue and other former leaders in that city saw neighborhood revitalization as a great way to move forward as the bulldozers and builders reconstructed.
The West Riccarton team has been working on activating their neighborhood and they recently completed their first intersection repair project. The time lapse video tells the story.
Congratulations to all involved! Another step forward.
GUEST BLOG – Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia completing her doctoral research on CPTED implementation. She is a member of the International CPTED Association. She recently attended the Asia-Pacific ICA CPTED Forum and kindly submitted this blog.
In mid-October, the ICA hosted a 2014 regional Asia-Pacific CPTED forum themed Better CPTED - Multidisciplinary Design for Safer Places.
The participants came from many different backgrounds thus bringing to the table a rainbow of strategies. Despite the differences we all agreed better and safer places emerge from the special features that make places more attractive and the people who use those places. I found great examples on the streets of Adelaide.
The nicely maintained Victoria Square offers numerous opportunities for social activities, meeting spots and sheltered seating areas. Walking down the pedestrian Rundle Mall I found The Mall’s Balls - a common meeting point for people in the mall.
Looking for examples of people being users and co-creators of such special places I discovered some yarn bombing - dressed-up Rundle Mall Pigs and a statue of Dame Roma Mitchell on the North Terrace. They instantly attracted my attention and reminded me of the yarn bombed road barrier from Melbourne in a blog from a few months ago.
Turns out that the pigs and the statue were not isolated cases and that yarn bombing is popular throughout Adelaide, especially since 2012 when even the statue of Queen Victoria received a makeover. Yarn bombing is now part of Adelaide’s community events and it all started from local people aiming to create better places for and by themselves.
Yarn bombing and its “softer” version known as yarn storming (in the UK) manifests community pride and provides a personal touch in public places. It is widely considered a feminine form of graffiti or artistic vandalism.
Creative approaches such as knitting are one channel for the public to express and partake in public life. What I find neat about this approach is that it empowers those who traditionally wouldn’t participate in public activism and allows them to have a say in their own communities.
Placemaking surely comes in many forms.
Today I have been reflecting on an old friend.
So many prevention, policing and planning programs today seem like throwaway ideas in a sea of mediocrity. Few last long and even fewer work. Yet everyone has a shtick. Sadly most are just new gizmos and old ideas rehashed. As they say in Canada they are all stick and no puck.
At a time when so many neighborhoods face the social turbulence that is crime and violence, where is the original thinking? Where is the creativity and wisdom?
Long ago, when I began my graduate studies in planning, human ecology and environmental criminology, I met someone who taught and lived that kind of creativity. His wisdom changed my life. He is the friend I mentioned above and last week he died after a long bout with cancer.
PROFESSOR DAVID MORLEY
Professor David Morley was my supervisor at the Faculty of Environmental Studies at York University in Toronto. He was the smartest scholar I have known (I have known some greats).
Never shy of conceptual rigor, David was one of those who taught that an ounce of action is worth a ton of theories. His field was action research and action learning which included advanced methods of group collaboration and community participation, the very lifeblood of creativity. Thanks to David those methods are now embedded in SafeGrowth planning theory.
He wrote profusely but for me his two best works were Making Cities Work: The Dynamics of Innovation (1980) and Planning in Turbulence (1986).
Both books are full of ideas on how to activate community groups and how to engage residents to change their own neighborhoods. There are no techno-fixes here - no CCTV, no anti-homeless spikes, and no burglary foggers. There is just hard work in community development. Today, thirty years after David co-wrote those books, we need those methods, and David's wisdom, more than ever.
At a time when I had just decided to leave a career as a street cop, and I might have gone in many different directions to places of uncertain destination, David Morley gently and passionately taught me to think big, think important and, while riding the turbulent currents that carry us in life, never forget there are no spectators. Goodbye David and thank you for your gifts, guidance, and friendship.
Judging by recent e-traffic, my last blog struck a chord! Especially the contention that community engagement in policing has been a dreary failure. I conclude that, except in problem-oriented policing or when mentored by non-profits (see below), it seems a lost cause.
Truth is, aside from trite historical footnotes (“the police are the public, the public are the police”) most police-community engagement today is little more than political optics. Of course, as in all polemics, that isn’t true everywhere.
I was impressed to discover the Dallas Police Community Engagement Unit. Then I read it is three policing teams who do evidence-based analysis, work with apartment owners to deal with crooks, and attend community meetings where they "gather information first-hand that can be relayed to other teams in the department."
MORE THAN REPORTING CRIME
There’s nothing wrong with asking the community for information on criminals. That’s good police work. But let’s not pretend it is community engagement.
Ultimately I don’t think any of this explains our engagement flop, at least not the version where residents take an active role planning and working towards their own public safety. Perhaps police are not the best agency to do that anyway.
Governments hardly do any better. National Crime Prevention Councils rely on national "night outs", neighborhood watch schemes, or education about existing crime prevention programs. In other words walk around at night, watch out for crooks and call the cops.
I know I’m simplifying and yet a critical thinker must ask, Who is really "engaged" when that engagement amounts to little more than walking around, calling the cops, or going to meetings?
CPTED history offers some hope. Consider Oscar Newman’s dictum in Creating Defensible Space; Always include grass roots participation in prevention planning!
We use a similar approach in SafeGrowth though our message is conveyed in a different way. For example, one lighthouse shining brightly on community-policing partnerships is the LISC - CSI SafeGrowth programs.
THE MEDIUM IS THE MESSAGE
When the message is engagement we need a messenger who is appropriately staffed, resourced and most of all, trained in engagement tactics. The last time I checked the Engagement Toolkit I counted over 60 tactics. That messenger must master them all.
Who is that messenger? Probably a non-profit like LISC or AARP, a philanthropic organization, a municipal planning department (as in Saskatoon), and an active community association. It will require municipal executives, particularly police chiefs and city managers, who know how to advocate for and implement such a model. They must be properly trained how to do that.
Every time I’ve seen successful engagement in places like San Diego, Milwaukee, Saskatoon, and Philadelphia I get the feeling that is the shape of the future. At least I hope it is.
An email showed up this week from a crime prevention colleague in a far-away city.
“Not sure if it's a sign of the times or just the fast pace, long work hours, and long bus commutes…but it’s a bit of an uphill struggle to get some communities to take ownership of their neighborhood issues.”
It’s a theme I’ve heard over and over - getting residents, shop-owners and locals out of their homes, away from TV to “do” crime prevention. Setting aside their boredom (or their fears) and working together in common cause.
That theme hovers raptor-like over work that depends on building community. Sometimes called capacity building, or in the latest sociological parlance collective efficacy, this is the idea ofcommunity engagement.
Engagement is the road kill of community crime prevention, in one moment obvious and in another impossible.
Academics study it, policy wonks insist on it and social workers claim it brings meaning to neighborhood life. Yet none of them tell us exactly how to do it, how to get people outside and “engaged”.
In criminology the grandest experiment in community engagement was the juvenile delinquency work in the famous Chicago Area Project back in the 1930s and 1940s (still going on). Even today strains of that work echo in studies about cutting youth violence with community engagement.
Police too did their bit during the community policing era with community engagement strategies, though they were usually limited to those monstrosities where cops sat up front in some hall to "engage" the community (sort of) in community meetings.
There were experiments with neighborhood substations, now long gone (closed in the name of funding cuts as expenditures turned instead to fancy computer programs, night-vision goggles and new military equipment). In most cities all that remains is the police/community meeting room (usually adjacent to the front foyer at HQ).
And still none of that tells us anything about the simplest question: How do we get neighborhood dwellers engaged and into the public realm – their street, parks, community halls – where their lives intersect in a real way?
FOOD AND FUN
Then I remembered this lovely, formally adorned, Muslim mother at a SafeGrowth training a few years ago. She came up to me and said quietly, “you know, in the Muslim community engagement in daily life starts with great meals and tasty food. Celebration starts in the stomach.” Actually, I thought, it does for everyone! Potlucks, barbeques, corn and hotdog roasts, lemonade stands!
Interesting, isn’t it! It is the fun and joyful things of community life like food, music, and play that draw people out. It's those times when they meet and share in each others lives in a gradual and ‘smell-the-roses’ kind of way. Less community organizer and more community jester.
What is impressive about a gravel trail with painted stones?
I've been reading reports from SafeGrowth teams in Connecticut. One struggle I hear is how to engage community members.
Last week, I was in Monterrey, Mexico, site of the 2011 narcoterrorist attack on a downtown casino where over 50 people were murdered. Engagement should be more difficult here than anywhere. I was taken to a poor community on the outskirts of the city near the construction site of a master-planned community.
It was unlikely residents in this poor community could afford to live in the new development. My guides, a dynamic Monterrey CPTED team, showed me the poor community and a rocky ravine beneath a highway overpass with an elementary school on the other side. School kids had to walk across this unsafe stretch to go to school. A gravel trail had been built connecting the community with the school.
Residents, school kids, the developer, and volunteer construction crews had come together to build the trail. The Monterrey CPTED team ran a painting day when school kids painted stones. They then used the stones to mark the trail edges.
The visible part of this project was simple - a gravel trail, painted stones, and construction volunteers. It was the invisible part that caught my attention – engagement!
The kids and their parents enthusiastically showed me their trail and the stones, from one end to the other. This was clearly a source of pride. Discussion focused on expanding the trail and adding play areas.
In other words, residents with few resources had built their own solution to a neighborhood problem in a region of Mexico not far from one of the most violent narco-gang wars in history. By partnering with others they were making their community a better place, stone by stone. Those actions are community-engagement seeds starting to grow.
Not just a gravel trail and painted stones. Much more.
Andy Mackie played harmonica at a local restaurant/theatre during open-mike Monday nights, just down the street. A painting of him hangs on the wall at the back of the bar.
Andy believed music was a gift so he gave free lessons and harmonicas to school-kids. He paid for those harmonicas with money for his medication. He paid with his life and he wouldn't have it any other way.
Community capacity-building is one of those phrases that spreads over everything like goo. Different practitioners use the term to mean different things. Thus, it means everything and nothing. What is "community capacity?"
The best way to get at capacity is through asset mapping. Asset mapping is based on the work of John McKnight and John Kretzman. Asset maps substitute the idea of deficiencies and needs for community assets - turning a negative into a positive. Assets include physical features and groups.
They also include those things that might seem invisible like the talents, skills and experience of the elderly. Andy Mackie was a talent and an asset. He was definitely not invisible.
If you want to know what positive community-building looks like, watch the video.
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!
I'm always intrigued by a trip to Washington, D.C. Inside the beltway it has remarkable sights, a successful subway system, sprawling parks, and terrific dining.
Outside the beltway, it's another city. There are wealthy and intriguing neighborhoods - mostly low crime and safe - and blighted and poor neighborhoods to the east - mostly high crime and unsafe.
Once known as Murder City USA, today Washington's crime declines echo the Great American Crime Decline in every other city since 1990s.
Still, high crime and fear remain.
In recent years police have enacted "crime emergencies" allowing the cops to double their manpower at peak times, gang intervention programs and police checkpoints. Though murders are at an all-time low, they are still 5 times the national average.
It is 2 years since the Supreme Court lifted DC's handgun ban. Yet the fear of crime persists. ABC news claims it's the affluent neighborhoods (where crime was already lowest) where gun purchases have spiked - a matter of fear over reality. It's in the poor neighborhoods (where most crime happens) where gun purchases have been dropping!
And now a cool new website - Stumble Safely - is under development in DC. Say's it's promo:
"Stumble Safely helps you find the best bars and a safe path to stumble home on. You can see some of our favorite spots on these maps …It doesn’t matter when or where you start drinking for Stumble Safely to help you."
In other words, in spite of the crime declines, police tactics, and gun purchases, perhaps in the end it's everyday community folks coming up with innovative new ideas (like setting up their own websites) that can best improve safety.
Jane Jacobs, it seems, was right.
Last spring I mentioned the film Radiant City, a documentary about the plight of kids in the suburbs.
I just watched another about kids in other parts of the city. The film is by Demos a UK-based think tank on social and political affairs. Their YouTube Seen and Heard says it all. Click HERE to view it.
I rarely see young people at conferences, public meetings, or workshops that I attend. When I ask why I'm met with silence. When I ask for their inclusion in a fun and engaging way, I'm usually met by the question: But this isn't for kids!
Really? Then why does so much of our planning, policing, and crime prevention work circle around them?
Demos claims over 70% of today’s adults played outside on the streets as kids. Only 21% of today’s kids do. True, they may be too obsessed with texting, cells, and other virtual places. Then again, a galaxy of creative talent builds interesting and fun adventures in that virtual space. By contrast, only a microscopic dot of creative talent goes into building equally interesting and fun places for kids in our public realm.
Says Demos: Public space is failing our younger generation. "Those responsible for making playful places find it difficult to work together and struggle to engage with children properly".
A month or so ago myself and a half dozen local residents watched a TED.com show at a nearby community high school with 20 teens and their teachers. We listened to experts talk on the environment, education, and other topics after which we took turns sharing thoughts and ideas. They had great ideas, great frustrations, and great energy.
In short, there was no lack of creative talent. All that makes me ask this: If our public space is failing our young people, shouldn't we be asking them how to fix it?