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
Once considered a breeding ground for crime and violence, today New York City is one of the safest large cities in the USA. While this cannot be attributed to any single strategy, there is no doubt establishing close and positive relationships between public and police promises effective problem-solving and quality of life in the long run.
It was not always so! In the past, the NYPD employed a number of strategies to improve public safety. Some of the best-known and controversial tactics include broken windows policing and stop-and-frisk. Between 2005 and 2013, the NYPD relied extensively on stop-and-frisk. Unfortunately, in 2013 the way they applied the tactic was ruled unconstitutional.
In addition, research found no correlation between this tactic and crime rates and, given increasing tensions between the public and police, NYPD rethought their approach.
NEIGHBORHOODS ARE THE KEY
In 2015 NYPD introduced a neighborhood policing model. The focus of the approach is permanently locating an officer - an NCO - within a neighborhood and building personal relations with residents on a daily basis. While this echoes earlier, often criticized, forms of community policing, the New York NCO program attempts to take advantage of the intense personal knowledge of local areas.
It also provides officers with "sector integrity," allowing them time within their beat away from calls for service and assigning them to that neighborhood long enough to develop personal relationships.
NCOs focus not only on developing leads to tackle serious crime, but they also partner with residents for long-term problem-solving. As the NYPD website says: “sector officers play the role of a generalist cop who knows and feels responsible for the sector, and who provides the full range of policing services there.”
In effect, this is a resurgence of the local beat cop of pre-radio days, except with a problem-solving focus and without the old style police call box. The NCO program also resonates with our methods in SafeGrowth where we teach residents how to partner with police, create planning teams, and target unsafe activities to create neighborhood safety plans.
NCOs - NEIGHBORHOOD COORDINATION OFFICERS
The cornerstone of NYPD neighborhood policing are the NCOs - Neighborhood Coordination Officers whose daily presence within the assigned neighborhood and respectful demeanor help build relationships.
I witnessed the positive effect of this approach on several occasions while in New York: residents would greet their NCOs with hugs while NCOs would share their personal phone number with the residents should they need assistance with crime-related issues. The goal is for officers to be part of the community and be seen as an ally as opposed to an enemy.
According to the New York City Police Foundation, in neighborhoods implementing neighborhood policing since 2015, shootings have declined 58% faster and the number of arrests declined 10% faster compared to the rest of the city. In the past two years, NCOs on foot patrol have met thousands of residents in hundreds of meetings, thereby building deeper local relationships in neighborhoods throughout the city.
As NCO policing continues to expand to precincts across all five New York City boroughs, the approach has been recently applied to transit. NCOs will patrol the same subway stations and train lines to provide safety and build relationships, in this case with frequent riders. The beat cop, so common in another era, has now returned to the neighborhood.
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 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 Tarah Hodgkinson
One of the main tenets of SafeGrowth is social cohesion. I recently spent a few weeks in Australia as part of a conference and research trip. During this trip, I spent some time in hostels on the east coast of the country. I was reminded of the importance of shared spaces or third places and their role in encouraging social cohesion.
Third place is a term coined by Ray Oldenberg in his book The Great Good Place. Oldenberg claims that we have three places:
COFFEE SHOPS - MORE THAN COFFEE
Examples of the third place include local coffee shops, pubs, rec centers, barber shops, farmers' markets, community gardens and other places where people can come together, meet and socialize.
Third places are more than just a location outside of work and home to congregate. These places must have certain characteristics in order to become a third place. They should be neutral (no one has claim over them), they should be leveling (no one social status matters more), they should be free or inexpensive, they should be accessible to everyone, there should be regular faces and they should promote conversation over everything else.
Australian hostels get how to do third places. They boast numerous shared spaces including shared kitchens, recreation rooms, seating areas, computer areas and cheap cafes. This is ideal for the traveler trying to connect with others.
This is vastly different than hostels in Canada and some in Europe, that operate more as a hotel, where the only shared spaces are bars and restaurants, which are not only costly but don’t encourage natural conversation.
What can Australian hostels teach us about community engagement? Oldenburg claims third places are the center of civic engagement and civil society and necessitate the steps of social change. They do so because they allow people to come together, to share ideas, discuss issues and mobilize for change.
When I stayed in hostels that had third places, I met fellow travelers with ease, learned about fun, entertainment hot spots and made friends, many of whom I am still in contact with. This did not happen in the hotel-like hostels. In neighborhoods, third places trigger social engagement and cohesion and this is the beginning of how we start changing neighborhoods for the better.
Much to my surprise, I just realized this SafeGrowth blog is now three years old. I have spent little time on philosophy. But If I did, this is how it would go…
Some tell me homelessness has no place in CPTED. Some say you can design out crime and ignore politics, policing, or broken communities. Others want details on CCTV, graffiti-removal and lighting but nothing on privacy, street art and a beautiful starry night.
I just watched Tom Shadyac's documentary, I AM. It's a personal story about the science of connection and unity. Shadyac is the most unlikely storyteller having directed The Nutty Professor and Ace Ventura. Then a bike crash left him for dead. He didn't die. Instead he had one of those awakening moments and I AM was born.
I AM's mission is a global trek to discover what is wrong in the world and what we can do about it. It is named after philosopher G.K. Chesterton's idea. When asked to write an essay to summarize what was wrong with the world, Chesterton wrote: I am.
Other films of this ilk turn flakey and saccharine. Not Shadyac. He interviews luminaries like business guru Margaret Wheatley, archbishop Desmond Tutu, philosopher Noam Chomsky, environmentalist David Suzuki, historian Howard Zinn.
With game-changing elections now underway in the US, France, and Mexico, I AM is timely. As Zinn says, in times of rapid change, homelessness, environmental crisis and violence you cannot stay neutral on a moving train.
COLLABORATION IS IN OUR DNA
I AM shone brightest in the science on connection and unity, particularly how the new biology reveals collaboration as the rule of nature. Nature, it was once thought, is a process of competition and conflict. The early ecology of crime theories suggested that too (gangs fighting for turf). But modern ecology has moved beyond. I AM shows while competition happens, it isn't inevitable and it certainly isn't natural.
Connection and collaboration is in our DNA. Mixed land uses and social spaces do that. Well designed communal places like Portland's Intersection Repair does that too. Gated communities and target hardening does not.
Even if we must occasionally put up a fence or camera, I AM reminds us...starry nights matter.
This week I attended the International CPTED Association's international conference in Calgary, Alberta. Typical CPTED conferences, like other prevention conferences, can be pretty droll affairs rehashing tired old ideas. Old wine in new bottles. The worst? My vote goes to academic conferences where obtuse PowerPoint slides fill sessions like hieroglyphics on an Egyptian Third Dynasty tomb - a theory-bound academese intended more for the academically-heeled than for those who actually prevent crime.
Not this time.
As a regular ICA attendee I was struck by the richness and passion in this year's offerings. We heard presenters from Germany, Chile, the Netherlands, Brazil, South Africa, Australia and North America. We heard police officers from Berlin and Toronto, planners from Washington and Saskatoon, scholars from Seattle and criminologists from Florida. We learned about behavioral based design in Ontario, community-led CCTV in Pennsylvania, safer schools in Holland and how to use public art to tackle domestic terrorism.
My own sessions were gifted by incredibly talented practitioners with whom I co-presented. In one, Saskatoon planner Elisabeth Miller and I coaxed conference participants into an interactive dialogue about overcoming obstacles. In another session I co-presented with computer scientist Nick Bereza from ATRiM Group and Michael Huggett from Australia. We presented the CPTED Continuum - a new way to understand CPTED from target hardening to traditional CPTED and situational prevention to neighborhood planning.
There were too many great presenters to mention them all (forgive me for not).
But there was one speaker who had the right stuff. He captured our imagination. Jim Diers is a visionary and powerful speaker. Currently with the University of Washington, he is former director of Seattle's Office of Neighborhoods. He is also author of Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way.
Jim spoke on participatory democracy and how to strengthen social capital. He is one of those people who finds ways to get people involved creating more livable places.
If you are interested in vital and safe places, and you haven't heard Jim's story you must. If you haven't read Jim's book, you should!