by Tarah Hodgkinson
“The town is called Penguin?", my friend said to me as we drove along the highway in Northern Tasmania. "We have to check that out!” And so, I took the exit.
We came upon the town centre of this coastal community to find a large penguin statue. But not only the statue, everything was penguin-themed. Penguin play areas, penguin posts, even penguin trashcans. All of the stores along the main street were littered with penguin artwork. We had to know more.
It turns out that Penguin, Tasmania is aptly named. Penguins gather in the rookeries along their beachfront. While penguins are pretty interesting creatures, especially to those of us from the Northern Hemisphere, it wasn’t the local wildlife that caught my attention.
What was interesting was the way in which penguins had become a part of their community’s culture. So much so that every placemaking attempt featured the cute little southern birds. There are several areas across the state where Penguins can be found, but this town had dedicated their entire community’s identity to these birds.
I worried that the focus on penguins might solely be an attempt to attract tourists. However, it was clear that the penguin theme was fairly organic and community-based. Each of the small seaside stores had committed to the theme in their own way. Some stores had fun penguin-themed names, others had large stuffed penguins in their windows and still, others had painted penguins on their walls. Even more exciting, the town holds a penguin-themed community market that has been running for twenty years.
COHESION AND CULTURE
If there was any doubt that the town was committed to their shared culture, their reaction to developers trying to capitalize on the town’s proximity to penguin rookeries proves otherwise. When I did some digging about the town’s history, I found that they had prevented some major development plans that would have dramatically changed the landscape of the downtown area and potentially affected their community’s cohesion and culture.
Not only had local residents fought hard against the development, but they also started heritage listing their storefronts. By the end, they had heritage listed 26 sites and prevented the development plans.
Tourism can dramatically impact neighbourhoods in desirable places (see the backlash in Barcelona to increasing tourism). Further, while developers often try to capitalize on these opportunities, it is clear that residents who work together to maintain control over their local history not only can protect their local culture but continue to grow and expand that culture for their entire community. In this way, community-based tourism is often an exercise in building local culture and cohesion.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
Beautiful places inspire us to create, think differently and feel connected to the past. Or at least that is what I heard at a lunchtime talk on beautiful places and why we need to protect them. The speaker discussed how, rather than tearing down older, unused buildings, we could repurpose them for new uses. These buildings would retain their original character and provide an environmentally sustainable way to maintain a connection to the past.
I heard this talk about four years ago. This is a well-known urban planning field called heritage planning, of which one of our SafeGrowth Advocates, Carl Bray, is a recognized expert.
It all came rushing back to me as I stepped onto the property of the Brisbane Powerhouse. The Powerhouse on the Brisbane river was a power station in the 1920s. However, it went unused for decades and fell into disrepair. There was much debate over what to do with it because it would have cost over a million dollars to tear it down.
Additionally, it took over ten years to get support from politicians to repurpose the building. However, rather than tearing it down and destroying the character of the massive building, in 2000 the Powerhouse was recreated as an arts centre.
In 2018, over 680,000 people visited the Powerhouse and it now hosts over 1200 performances annually. Almost a thousand emerging local artists have presented their work on the walls of the Powerhouse. It has two restaurants and bars which allow it to serve the public both on and off show days and hosts weddings year round. In short, it has become a cultural hub, supporting the Australian performing arts market which takes performances out to the entire community.
What are the takeaways? One is that beautiful places (even old ones) are often inspiring. The Powerhouse marries the old and the new to create a place for everyone to enjoy. There are environmentally sustainable and creative ways to make old buildings new again and bring new life to our neighbourhoods.
Another lesson is that change takes time. The artist society fought for ten years before it successfully repurposed the Powerhouse into an arts centre.
In neighbourhoods that are trying to make changes, it can be daunting to realize that change can sometimes take a decade. However, it is also a testament to the perseverance and the power of a small group of concerned (and well organized) citizens.
We discuss Liveability Academies as one part of the SafeGrowth method. Teaching local residents how to create a vision and to organize for what they want is an important part of neighbourhood governance. And, as the Powerhouse demonstrates, it can result in amazing, and beautiful, changes.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
We spend many hours in our SafeGrowth training emphasizing the power of connectedness, social capital, and friendship circles. In her book, The Village Effect, Susan Pinker explains how current research points to a connection with others as the biggest contributor to psychological and physiological health. And this connection cannot be replaced with interactions like a screen (Skype and Facetime cannot replace in-person contact).
Thus, this cult of self-care has it wrong. Playing on your phone or binging on Netflix alone may actually be doing more harm than good.
Every year, at this time, I spend a few weeks leading up to the holidays wrapping presents for a charity gift wrapping station. Every year I ask my friends if they would like to join me. And every year, despite the short time requirements, the fun atmosphere, and the holiday spirit, I receive the following response: Oh that sounds great, but I’m just too busy and stressed.
The holidays are a busy time for everyone. Many people are wrapping up projects at work or school, doing their own holiday shopping or attending holiday events and parties. There is a lot going on. But I wasn’t wrapping alone because others, like me, had found time to come out and volunteer. Why, I wondered, can’t I convince my friends to do the same?
Self-care has become a buzzword for this time of year. Stressed out from the holidays? You need to self-care! And anything can be self care, from treating yourself to week-long retreats to binging on Netflix, drinking a bottle of wine and ordering pizza from the couch. As long as you see your well-being as something you alone control, and spend money doing that, then the self-care market has done its job. Yet, somehow, it doesn’t seem like anyone feels more cared for.
In truth, self-care really has nothing to do with the self at all.
The holiday season often leaves us reflecting on the previous year and looking forward to our possibilities, but we tend to follow a particular script when we plan for the new year. We set new goals about losing weight, getting healthy or giving up a vice. We think “this year will be better, because I will get fit and find love.” We load up on self help books and websites, buy new gadgets like fit-bits and tell ourselves that this will make us happy and fulfilled. Then we do it all again the next year.
If we really want to self-care, we need to be around people, we need connection, and we need to help others. If the holidays are stressing you out, and you need a New Year’s resolution, here’s one: I will spend more effort getting involved in my neighbourhood?
Caring about others might just be the best way to care for yourself.
Happy New Year!
by Gregory Saville
It was November 22, 2017, and a sidewalk sign just went up outside a Denver coffee shop. It read: “Happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2011”. The neighborhood exploded in outrage and the latest Internet meme was born. Realizing his massive gaffe, the owner dumped the sign, apologized, and has suffered a PR disaster ever since.
Gentrification is an ugly word these days. In SafeGrowth we spend much time in troubled places facing reinvestment and redevelopment. What can be done about crime prevention efforts and gentrification?
GENTRIFICATION IS NO JOKE
The cycle is well-known. Older neighborhoods suffering blight and crime turn into run-down wastelands. Groups looking for affordable spaces - artists, students or working class folks - move in and begin to fix them up. They build play areas for kids, bocce ball courts for elders and handball courts for kids, or gazebos in parks for weekend barbeques. Residents patronize local Mom & Pop stores. Artists set up studio lofts and paint interesting murals in alleys and eventually open spaces to showcase their art.
Richard Florida once described this process glowingly and called such groups Cultural Creatives who end up bringing a new life to old neighborhoods.
Then the new life evolves into a cultural economy that triggers waves of consumer spending, especially by real estate investors looking to capitalize on the “cool factor”. Reinvestment displaces low-income apartments as rents increase to accompany investment.
Ultimately the Creatives are forced out, and the area becomes the latest wealthy, unaffordable hangout for Hipsters.
It is called gentrification and it is the real estate version of hostile architecture. In his latest book Florida no longer speaks so glowingly of the process and now claims Creative Class migration ends up becoming a winner-take-all game that makes things worse.
A recent study on gentrification by the Federal Reserve Bank says:
"In its early phases, gentrification may not result in displacement, but over time, in the absence of protections, tenants may be forced to move."
The study concludes that gentrification often leads to exclusionary displacement unless careful planning and protections are put in place. Even in places where cities try to protect affordability, some owners install “poor doors” for low-income residents and other doors for the rest (a practice recently outlawed in New York City).
Obviously we must be vigilant. In SafeGrowth our motto “To-For-With-By” proclaims that we work with residents and enact strategies by residents versus to or for them.
In our new SafeGrowth book Mateja Mihinjac describes the SafeGrowth principle called Neighborhood Activation. It shows how we navigate through the gentrification conundrum because, ultimately, all those engaged in crime prevention and urban redevelopment must be careful to do no harm.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
There has been a great deal of media recently regarding the immigration policies of the United States and the now blocked executive order banning citizens from numerous countries. During this madness, I traveled to attend the Western Society of Criminology’s (WSC) annual conference in Las Vegas.
Academic conferences have become a bit of a ritual. Go, give a talk, see some other talks, network with some new colleagues, catch up with old colleagues, and check out the local city. Unlike SafeGrowth trainings or SafeGrowth Summits where we teach how to address local problems affecting local people and create local solutions, most academic conferences are bereft of any action research and rarely, if ever, engage with the local community.
Rather, they present a string of experts in specialized areas, talking about small and trifling data, without any local voice or real change. Claims of “policy implications” often suffice for demonstrable action.
AT THE CONFERENCE
However, the vibe at WSC this year was markedly different than other academic conferences. It was clear that a number of those attending were shaken by recent political choices. Many of the annual award winners used their acceptance speeches to demand a call to action around what has been called, discriminatory, racist and Islamophobic policy decisions.
Alex Piquero, winner of the Western Society of Criminology President’s Award, gave a talk on immigration that undermined the misconception that immigrants commit more crimes.
On the street, however, it appears these divisive politics are emboldening a new generation of culture jammers. With their rights under attacks, citizens have taken to the streets, various prime ministers have promised to protect those who seek refuge, universities are making statements, staging protests and waiving application fees to those affected.
What can be done?
At this critical time, it seems that neighbourhood engagement is the key. In SafeGrowth that happens by empowering and training citizens to solve their own neighborhood problems and by rebuilding trust, collective efficacy, and social cohesion. These are the actions that help everyday citizens learn practical skills to destabilize the narratives that seek to divide, rather than unite us.
Neighborhoods of excellence and safety grow from tolerance for differences. That old message emerges from urban gurus like Jane Jacobs. Nowhere is the celebration of diversity better illustrated than in parades and festivals.
This year Toronto has accomplished what few other places in the world can claim - a successful pairing of a gay pride parade with the nation's birthday celebrations. I watched that odd spectacle on July 1 when Toronto's annual Pride Parade was intentionally combined with the nation's birthday celebrations on Canada Day.
For many citizens tolerance is no doubt tested in such a pairing. As well, Toronto's Pride parade is not without controversy (the mayor didn't attend). Further, some hate this unique pairing. Then again, hatred is precisely the point.
From what I saw, 100,000 combined Pride Parade and Canada Day revelers had few problems proving that tolerance isn't just acceptable, it is the very definition of diversity.
Over the past few years the Flash Mob has been an odd, chaotic marriage of mobile phones, social networking and Twitter-something kids. I blogged on one that went wrongish on Philadelphia's South Street.
Urban creativity need not be nasty and Flash Mobs are usually fun. If left to the creatives with a sense of civility, they can be downright amusing. As long as they remain unstapled by the self-interested, they represent an urban chaos that makes urban life fascinating.
Example: In April members of the Opera Company of Philadelphia Chorus thought it might be fun to treat the Italian Market Terminal with an impromptu performance of La Trviata.
It's pretty funny. And terrifically creative.
Check it out.
Click here for Market Mob Fun
One of the four principles of Second Generation CPTED explains how neighborhood culture can create a common purpose. That can become the glue that binds people together to work against problems like crime.
Attaching culture to neighborhood safety can be tricky as I discovered this week on a tour of South Dakota. Sociologists say culture is everything beyond genetics passed from one generation to the next. In their view language, religion, values, law, and fashion all fit.
Yet in my experience, it is much more useful for each neighborhood to define its own sense of culture and then build on that common definition. That narrows the list considerably. When that happens music, art, sports, and historical events rise to the surface. One great example is the Intersection Repair programs in Portland.
Another example emerged while I visited an unforgettable and deserted place on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. I'm referring to the haunting, windswept cemetery overlooking the valley when hundreds of Native Americans were slaughtered by 7th Cavalry Regiment in 1890.
I stood looking at the run-down graveyard, where a single faded monument notes the inconceivable tragedy that was Wounded Knee, and I wondered how such a thing happened.
What lesson can such a place tell us about community culture? How can good arise from such evil so long ago? Can a remote, rural place of such political furor offer anything helpful to urban dwellers seeking a cultural touchstone of their own?
Some will say no. Yet I cannot so easily dismiss the lesson of Wounded Knee. It is a lesson worth studying and remembering for its exhibition of human folly. I struggled to make out the fading inscription on the lone monument which recounts the words of Sioux Chief Big Foot "I will stand in peace till my last day comes."
That, more than anything, makes the point of a shared, community culture. At least it should.
Perhaps this is where the truly difficult work of building a community culture begins. Places like Wounded Knee are a warning for civil vigilance - we must not allow prejudice to infect our civility.
As I watch the latest CNN "controversy" about locating a mosque near Ground Zero, I am again reminded this message - standing in peace - is relevant in rural and urban places alike.
Megan Carr is a Livable Communities Specialist interested in SafeGrowth, particularly transportation’s role in shaping vibrant and safe communities. She runs her own consulting firm, Civitae, LLC. Megan recently participated in the AARP SafeGrowth programs in New Orleans and delivered a presentation to transportation authorities regarding safety and bus stops. A longer version of this article will appear in the upcoming ICA newsletter CPTED Perspectives.
Why is it that some bus stops act as hot spots for crime while others can serve as building blocks for community? Two studies by Loukaitou-Sideris in 1999 and 2003 examined the physical attributes of high crime bus stops in Los Angeles. What’s interesting about the findings is that of the nearly 20,000 bus stops, 18 percent of the total incidents occurred at just ten stops.
Findings at these ten stops indicated they were:
• Located at intersections involving inactive land uses such as empty lots and surface parking lots
• Lacked adequate lighting or nearby shops, public phones or police sub-stations
• Located near dilapidated and/or vacant buildings (83%)
Furthermore, movement predictors such as nearby alleys had an almost double crime incidence rate. Crime was also significantly higher at intersections near bars, liquor stores, check cashing establishments, and Single Room Occupancy hotels.
The Other Side of the Coin
In Los Angeles following the Rodney King riots in 1992, Mayor Riordan launched the Los Angeles Neighborhood Initiative designed to restore people’s sense of ownership in their communities. Recognizing that bus stops can function as focal points for communities, the organization developed community plans starting with placemaking improvements at bus stops.
Project for Public Spaces was hired to assist neighborhood groups who were each given a grant to develop a bus stop area plan. Many positive outcomes followed as a result. From the initial $100,000 seed investment, a vacant lot in North Hollywood was transformed into a beautifully landscaped transit park with illuminated bus shelters, matching benches, information kiosks and kiosk art. Eight new businesses were attracted to the intersection filling formerly vacant facilities.
An additional $500,000 was invested in property improvements and $60,000 in private funding was invested in the park. Consequently, 30 new jobs were created in the vicinity of the bus stop.
The project employed a placemaking approach that encompassed what 2nd Generation CPTED calls Community Culture. It included façade improvements, pedestrian walkways, pedestrian-oriented lighting, public art and plentiful landscaping providing needed shade and defining pedestrian areas.
By making improvements to the site, riders today benefit from natural surveillance and amenities from nearby businesses in addition to a more aesthetic and comfortable bus experience.
These examples provide valuable lessons on the importance of site design at bus stops. From reducing the opportunity for crime to supporting local economic development, investing in quality public spaces at bus stops is a worthy focus for community redevelopment.
Football, what North Americans call "soccer", can be unifying, fascinating, incoherent, and thankfully distracting - especially tournaments with global appeal. A good example is today's launch of the FIFA world cup championships in Soccer City, the gigantic stadium in Soweto, South Africa. Considering
Soweto's history, it's an odd twist of social circumstance.
Sited on the fringe of Johannesburg, Soweto was a pretty depressing place 25 years ago when I first visited it. Infected by the twin cancers of oppressive poverty and abundant crime, I have never seen more dismal, sickening slums. We toured the city with a Sowetan human rights organization looking to publicize its plight to the world.
The old apartheid government hid its culpability by calling Soweto a "township". Truth is it was a city with 2 million residents, one small fire station, and no running water. Soweto was a notorious symbol of the former government's racist policy and a former home of imprisoned Nelson Mandela. It needed far more than prevention programs - it needed wholesale political and social revolution. And as we know, that is now underway in one way or another.
Today it is still a pretty poor place and bears the legacy of too much crime. Electricity is still a problem and many roads are still dirt. In an issue of CPTED Perspective last year, my very competent South African CPTED colleague Tinus Kruger reported the difficulties of town life that is set among the magnificent South African landscape.
But modern Soweto contains tidy row houses, high end shopping malls, museums, B&B's, and a growing middle class. It also has a new sports stadium that will launch the beginning of the 2010 FIFA world cup. From personal experience, I can vouch for the outstanding hospitality and friendliness visitors will receive from South Africans.
Meanwhile, footballers ponder every nuance. Will favorites Brazil, Spain or Argentina win? Will the US beat England? And to top the frenetic spectacle of the games, today I came upon a wonderful counter-point, a humorous new book, Soccer and Philosophy, written by modern-day philosophers.
The Wall Street Journal's John Heilpern reports on one of the sketches in Soccer and Philosophy:
...there is a soccer game between Germany and Greece in which the players are leading philosophers… Towards the end of the keenly fought game, during which nothing much appears to happen except a lot of thinking, the canny Socrates scores a bitterly disputed match winner. The enraged Hegel argues in vain with the referee, Confucius, that the reality of Socrates' goal is merely an a priori adjunct of non-naturalistic ethics, while Kant holds that, ontologically, the goal existed only in the imagination via the categorical imperative, and Karl Marx protests that Socrates was offside.
May the inventiveness of such prose morph off the page and onto the streets of Soweto as productive community development when FIFA ends.
CPTED prevents crime by designing defensible space into places - what 1st Generation CPTED calls territoriality. It is a strategy that doesn't always happen with design. It needs help.
Walkability was my theme this past week. A walkable street helps encourage neighborhood vitality, which in turn helps folks take ownership of their public domain. Walkability is the first step towards territoriality and defensible space.
This week I was reminded of another by one of my Philadelphia students in a SafeGrowth course run by the Community Safety Initiatives folks at LISC; The revitalization of public space by citizens.
Betsy Casanas sent me the following story regarding how to do what 2nd Generation CPTED calls culture-making:
Our project is called "Reclaiming Vital Spaces" We have done so much already in the past couple of weeks. We've built 8 new beds with a few guys in an adjudicated program, We've done a workshop with one of the neighboring schools and created permanent art work for the fence with a 3rd grade class. We've just received 2 benches from a neighboring center who is interested in having their kids participate in the garden.
We have organized a group of neighbors to take over several of the boxes and grow there own food. In the coming weeks we will build a steel sculptural fence because we can't afford to buy a real fence. I think this one will be much more amazing anyways. We did get a small grant that will help us buy a tool shed, tools, benches and picnic tables.
How, one wonders, does such a SafeGrowth-like approach ever start in the first place? Betsy filled me in:
As a reaction to the social conditions in North Philadelphia in 2007 artists Betsy Casanas and Pedro Ospina co-founded “Semilla (seed) Arts Initiative” a grassroots initiative that uses art as a catalyst for social change and artistic collaborations as a means of empowering individuals and communities. Semilla’s goal is to unite the community by actively involving them in the process of physically transforming their own neighborhood, exposing them to solutions and possibilities.
I'm very impressed by some of the things I've seen in Philly during this SafeGrowth project. I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next month when we return.
Most encouraging of all is Betsy's conclusion:
The vitality of any community can be found in the strengths and stability of its members and their ability to overcome the complexity of today.
Yes! In a nutshell, that's it!
If walkability is the first step to safety, overcoming complexity is the second.
Community vitality is found in the ability of it's members to overcome the complexity of today!
Thank you to Betsy, Pedro, and their dedicated kin for reminding us where to find yet another key to open safe places.
In the film Field of Dreams Kevin Costner responds to a ghostly incantation: If you build it, he will come. In CPTED we do something similar with territorial reinforcement - also known as turf control (TC).
TC is urban design so that people feel safe through a sense of ownership of that space while offenders feel at risk of being apprehended. TC designers use landscaping, signage, and architectural features to break public spaces into semi-public. When people feel safe they are more likely to use a place in greater numbers and, as Costner discovers, they will come (and stay to enjoy).
At least that's how it works in theory. But sometimes on the street, not so much. Usually it is more complicated.
Design does not guarantee anything. People equally need to feel that they are absolutely comfortable, that they can experience joy and fun, and that a place is playful. Comfort, joy, fun and play - these too must find expression in public places for TC to blossom.
How do we use colorful, interactive design features or even bizarre and fun territorial markers to create TC?
I discovered some answers this week.
TV viewers watching the Winter Olympics see sporting events. There is a whole other Olympic story on the transformed walkways and byways of Vancouver's streets where events are free and people are encouraged to touch public art and sculptures. Kids are told to jump on everything...except for the flaming Olympic cauldron which, for the first time ever, is mounted at ground level. Who knew people actually want to touch fire?
The following photos show some great examples of playable, touchable, and TC-friendly stuff. Will they get vandalized post-Olympics? Probably. But if they continue to work as well as they do now, does it really matter (especially if maintenance funds are set aside for upkeep)? Probably not. Better still, maybe the "adopt-a-highway" program could work to get local groups to clean their favorite public art thereby further enhancing TC.
Apparently building with people in mind produces some outstanding results.
See for yourself.