by Gregory Saville
It is always difficult to know when a good idea in one place is a good idea in another. Some things, like vaccines or mobile phones, transport easily from one culture to another. Covid vaccines from a few countries are now deployed all around the world in all countries and, thankfully, they save billions of lives for those wise enough to take them.
What about neighborhood programs in crime prevention?
Over the past year and a half myself and some of our talented SafeGrowth experts have been working in Helsingborg, Sweden to help residents and officials craft SafeGrowth to their city. It all began two years ago when I delivered a keynote address to the H22 Smart City Expo – a Swedish event to announce their 2022 world exposition of all things futuristic and technological in 21st Century cities.
The Smart City movement is the amalgam of Artificial Intelligence and high technology to all aspects in the operation of city life. My point was that you cannot have a Smart City if you do not have a Safe City.
SafeGrowth training began last year with local neighborhood Engagement Coordinators who, under the on-scene leadership of SafeGrowth expert Mateja Mihinjac, learned the model and began testing it themselves. With the help of our newest SafeGrowth star – Iman Abbas, who is based in Helsingborg – high school students conducted SafeGrowth fear and perception GPS mapping. Then, over the past few months, I worked with Iman and Mateja to train three teams of residents and city officials from the neighborhood of Drottninghög (I’m still practicing my Swedish pronunciation).
This past week the three teams delivered their plans for moving forward to dozens of officials, residents, and students attending their presentations.
What an outstanding event! I was witness to fantastic audience response. I saw broad smiles on the faces of the Drottninghög SafeGrowth graduates as they presented the success of their hard work over the past months.
CO-CREATING SAFE PLACES
Drottninghög now has a number of plans for safety and community engagement in different parts of the neighborhood – some projects involving placemaking around a community garden and others focused on building social cohesion between the immigrant population and Swedish residents.
Their project style included residents working alongside officials and experts. This is appropriate since the H22 Expo theme assigned to Drottninghög is ‘co-creation’ They produced a video describing their co-creation philosophy.
They are now embarking upon months of further planning as they begin to implement their plans. They want to expand their work to more projects in their community and now there is a discussion about expanding their work to other neighborhoods.
HELSINGBORG & THE CPTED CONFERENCE
Next week the Helsingborg SafeGrowth teams will present their preliminary work at the International CPTED Association virtual conference co-sponsored by Helsingborg. Their presentations are viewable to conference participants on Wednesday, Nov 3 at 3:45 PM Swedish time (11:45 AM Eastern Standard Time).
Next year, they will present their results to the world at the H22 Smart City Expo in Helsingborg. Well done to our Helsingborg friends. These are exciting times in Sweden!
POST SCRIPT: SINCE THIS BLOG WAS POSTED, THIS KEYNOTE PRESENTATION WAS PUBLISHED BY THE ICA HERE.
by Gregory Saville
A man walks through a public plaza on a pleasant Sunday afternoon and passes by a CCTV. Minutes later he is arrested by police on suspicion of a crime that, in fact, he did not commit. The man is African American. and, unfortunately, facial recognition software on the CCTV is vulnerable to false positives.
A predictive policing algorithm sends police patrols to the same neighborhood for the sixth week in a row to prevent crimes that have not yet occurred. Based on mathematics from earthquake prediction, this algorithm is hardly the best model for predicting human behavior and crime. It has no way to know that residents of this disenfranchised neighborhood are utterly fed up with over-policing, especially when the police don’t actually do anything except show up in their patrols cars.
I blogged on these stories earlier this year.
The stories are real and they reflect real events. Unfortunately, according to experts, predictive policing algorithms have serious problems with over-policing minority areas. The Los Angeles Police Department is the latest agency to abandon their PredPol programs (they claim it is due to Covid). Similarly, scientists specializing in evaluation have also criticized facial recognition software. They claim it cannot accurately read facial characteristics of black men!
These stories reflect the threat of introducing Artificial Intelligence into crime prevention. Thus far, at least with CPTED, things in the AI world are not going well.
THE 2021 ICA CPTED CONFERENCE
On Nov 3, I will deliver a keynote address to the 2021 International CPTED Association virtual conference, hosted by Helsingborg, Sweden, the Safer Sweden Foundation, and the International CPTED Association. It will be the first ICA conference since the last pre-COVID event a few years ago. The topic of my keynote is Artificial Intelligence, Smart Cities, and CPTED – An existential threat to the ICA.
Based on my own experience with a tech start-up company a decade ago, and an experiment with some predictive critical infrastructure CPTED software, I came upon some fascinating books on AI. One, in particular, AI 2041 by Kai-Fu Lee and Chen Quifan, describes how AI will infiltrate all aspects of urban life – health, transport, schools, entertainment, crime prevention, and safety. They tell us there will be no part of the future city without AI. This is especially the case with the Smart City movement in which scientists and planners envision a city embedded with AI.
THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE
What happens when AI systems go wrong? Artificial Intelligence is at the apex of new technologies and the implications for CPTED are significant.
AI is a potential threat of a higher order. It is a case of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice: An independent system that analyses problems and makes decisions using machine learning instructions independent from us. But when things go inevitably wrong, we end up scrambling like mad to stop the damage from unintended consequences (eg: false arrests and over-policing).
If you’re interested in this topic in more detail, come to the 2021 ICA CPTED CONFERENCE, which runs from Nov 2 – 4 as a virtual conference. The dynamic conference program has dozens of sessions on crime prevention and CPTED from around the world. My keynote runs on Nov 3 at 9:20 – 9:45 PM Central European Time (1:20 – 1:45 AM Mountain Time). A recording of the conference for registrants will be made available for later watching for those who are asleep in their time zones. POST SCRIPT; THIS PRESENTATION IS HERE.
by Gregory Saville
I recently spoke to some senior administrators about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) and how they might use it to cut crime. They knew a little about the concept, but it was clear that they had been victims of fake news. It brought to mind an old question in philosophy: What does authentic actually mean? Why should you care?
You should care because many of the ingredients that flavor a high-quality life depend on authentic products, systems, and technologies that we now take for granted. Consider food and water. Governments regulate and inspect our food/water supply and require that those who produce or ship it must follow standards of hygiene and public health.
Millions of deaths throughout history were caused by infected food or unregulated water systems that transmitted diseases like typhoid. Today, mass deaths from food or water are rare in most of the developed world and, thankfully, increasingly rare in the undeveloped world. Authentic public health matters.
It’s the same in crime prevention. Authenticity matters a great deal for your own livability.
CPTED AND AUTHENTICITY
How does one determine authentic CPTED and effective crime prevention?
Dictionaries describe authenticity as something supported by unquestionable evidence and verified and accepted as real “because of agreement with known facts or experience.”
There is a great Ted Talk by Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and cognitive psychologist, who describes ways to compare authentic facts from fake news. I have drawn on some tips from Dr. Levitin, and applied them to crime prevention and CPTED:
“LIES ARE TUCKED INTO THE TRUTH”
Early writing about CPTED described cutting hedges for better visibility and territorial markers to help residents control their own properties. That was 50 years ago and crime prevention science has learned much since then. CPTED has grown up. It now includes 2nd Generation CPTED to build community cohesion and pro-social activities. CPTED is no longer just surveillance, blight removal or painting murals to enhance community pride. If you want to know the latest, go to the website of the only non-profit, professional and international organization for CPTED – the International CPTED Association (ICA), or the regional affiliate chapters of the ICA.
“WEBSITES MASQUERADE UNDER MISLEADING NAMES”
When searching online for CPTED expertise or training be careful to locate names, bios and expertise of those behind the website or delivering the course. If you cannot easily find those names, bios, or expertise - in plain view - go elsewhere. Never assume because the website claims it is a “national” center or it provides “certification” that is true. Check to see if they are affiliated with the ICA. Check to see if that site is for-profit, or non-profit. Follow the money!
Does that website provide the names of a diverse group of experts with a wide variety of experience, because that is how CPTED actually works. Otherwise, you are probably dealing with a small group of for-profit consultants – usually retired police or security. Don’t misunderstand; I have no problem with for-profit consultants with policing, criminology or urban planning expertise (I am one of them!) But, they come with different qualities, experiences and reputations. As they say – caveat emptor.
“CLAIMS THAT REST ON FALSE SOURCES”
The problem in CPTED today is “authorities” who do not read the source material or the related scientific research. They make wild claims like “lighting prevents crime”. It doesn’t! With the right research and in the right context, it might help! But that’s far from a done deal. Or they offer inauthentic facts and claim “eyes on the street” cut crime. Strategies like natural surveillance or even CCTV might help in the right location, with the right pre-diagnosis. But that is not a definitive fact. Claiming otherwise is not only inauthentic, it’s wrong.
If you want authentic expertise, read historical bibliographies of the science, read the latest studies, or ask a formally certified CPTED practitioner who holds a professional certification from the ICA. Embrace authenticity.
by Gregory Saville
Twenty-five years ago I participated in an experiment. Paul Wong, Barry Davidson, and I decided to sponsor an international conference on crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED). We had no idea if it would work, a vague hope that something bigger would come out of it, but no guarantee that anything would occur.
We met in Calgary with 70 other CPTED acolytes including (among others) Stan and Sherry Carter from Florida, Tim Pascoe from the UK, Tom McKay from Peel Region in Ontario, Patricia and Paul Brantingham from Burnaby, BC, Mike Sheard and Brian Foote from Vancouver. The International CPTED Association (ICA) grew out of that conference.
This year the ICA celebrates its 25th Anniversary with hundreds of members all over the world. The current ICA President is from Chile, the Vice President from South Africa, the Executive Director is from Slovenia, the Secretary, and Treasurer from Canada and Board members from the U.S., Australia, India, Malaysia, Ecuador, Denmark, the Netherlands, Britain, Mexico, and New Zealand.
But things were not always so rosy and, like CPTED, the ICA ebbed and flowed with the political currents of the day. The ICA was born following a period of criminological research in the 1980s, some of which led to new ideas like situational crime prevention and environmental criminology, and others that led to the broken windows theory and routine activities theory.
HOT AND COLD RESEARCH
Some of that research was revolutionary: Situational crime prevention gave us practical prevention strategies; environmental criminology showed how crime clusters along pathways and urban nodes; the geography of crime described crime hotspots.
But not all new theories were helpful. Some were Mr. Potato Head theories – full of holes and bland in taste. Others were saturated with fancy euphemisms that complicated simple ideas. Yet others removed the social aspects of CPTED and replaced them with target hardening.
Then there was broken windows theory, which some consider CPTED. Broken windows transformed into zero-tolerance enforcement – a controversial police enforcement tactic for anti-social behavior. Broken windows back-fired spectacularly, especially politically. While it cut crime in New York, crime also declined by the same rate in San Diego with zero broken windows tactics. Broken windows tainted the original CPTED message. Even today, unwitting activists still claim broken windows is CPTED.
Broken windows co-creator, Professor George Kelling, once told me he could not fathom how his theory went so far off track. In my view, broken windows ended in the hands of police managers suffering institutional autism – an inability to communicate outside their profession and themselves. Distortion comes easy to those who do not read history. The same thing happened in CPTED when practitioners, falling victim to slipshod assertions, adopted target hardening and CCTV cameras and ignored the social world where crime actually happens.
THE ICA AS OCCAM’S RAZOR
Fortunately, the ICA is a practitioner-oriented organization more interested in what works than what sounds good, a kind of self-correcting organizational Occam’s Razor. In the early 2000s, it began introducing more holistic strategies, such as certification programs. ICA conferences travelled from Canada and the U.S. to Australia, the Netherlands, Chile, and Mexico.
Within a decade the ICA had online training resources and a network of experts around the world. Gerard Cleveland and myself introduced 2nd Generation CPTED at ICA conferences in 1997 and 1998, which brought social factors back into CPTED. Since 2017 the ICA has dramatically expanded with webinars, course accreditation, online masterclasses, newsletters, white papers, and new guidebooks. This past year the International Standards Organization published the first-ever CPTED ISO, which ICA members helped to create. In short, the ICA is flourishing.
AND WHAT ABOUT CPTED...?
In some places today CPTED remains mired in target hardening – a buffet of lights, locks, and cameras with hedge trimming for flavor. Poorly trained practitioners still use these methods to exclude groups, thereby promoting what is called ‘hostile architecture'. Social activists have caught on and, rather than figure out the true nature of CPTED and how hostile practices deviate, they label all CPTED as racist using the same biased reasoning that they blame on CPTED practitioners.
In truth, the ICA has a formal code of ethics opposing hostile architecture. Sadly, too many CPTED practitioners are not ICA certified, not all courses are ICA accredited and they are not required to follow the ICA code of ethics. As they say, caveat emptor (let the buyer beware).
In other places, CPTED has grown into community-planning practices called SafeGrowth. On this blog, you will find a rich history of neighborhood development, community-building with social and economic programs, and personal development through neighborhood programs like Livability Academies. Both 1st and 2nd Generation CPTED play a role in SafeGrowth, but the quality of life (what 3rd Generation CPTED called neighborhood livability) plays a bigger role.
Happy 25th birthday to the International CPTED Association!
If you want to learn more about the ICA, or attend the 25th Anniversary ICA virtual conference, Nov 2-4, 2021, check out their website.
by Gregory Saville
As our COVID ravaged cities impose social isolation, working-from-home, and cabin fever, those who live in high-density apartments and housing developments must be confident they are safe from crime and violence. And, more than ever before, residents must feel their home is a sanctuary. Crime prevention through environmental design - CPTED - is an ideal answer for these difficult times, especially 2nd Generation CPTED and SafeGrowth.
Next Thursday, Dec 17, I and some colleagues are running a free educational webinar for property managers, realtors, and housing groups seeking residential safety. The “Virtual Property Management and Safety Summit” is sponsored by real estate safety expert, Tracey “the safety lady” Hawkins.
THE ANTI-CPTED MEME
All this stands in stark contrast to recent calls for the abolition of CPTED from municipal codes and city planning due to the perception that CPTED can exclude minorities from public life. Consider the Vancouver City Planning Commission website or articles by Bryan Lee Jr in Bloomberg City Lab website.
According to Lee:
“While CPTED principles are said to help discourage crime by orienting building windows and entrances to aid in providing “eyes on the street” that monitor activity, in practice this strategy can end up serving the same suppressive purpose as stop-and-frisk policing — to assure that anyone considered suspicious is made to feel uncomfortable.”
The solution, say these latter-day gurus who would protect us from the current Racial Reckoning, is to abolish CPTED, a crime prevention strategy that has brought safety and security to millions of citizens all over the world – as you will discover by reading some of the hundreds of scientific publications regarding CPTED.
ABOLITION OR ACCREDITATION?
In my view, CPTED is not the problem. For example, while aspirin has been an effective pain remedy for over a thousand years, improper use can result in overdose and stomach problems. The solution is not to abolish aspirin. Same with CPTED. It is vulnerable to improper use by poorly trained practitioners. No doubt some practitioners indiscriminately lock and fence properties without regard to alternative options. CPTED can produce racial exclusion if placed into the wrong, untrained hands. But the solution isn’t abolition. It’s proper training and certification through legitimate accredited courses – the very thing the ICA has offered for years.
In his 1972 landmark book “Defensible Space”, architect Oscar Newman wrote
"The question to be asked is how does one initially achieve thoughtful building groupings rather than having to resort to barbed-wire fences and locks after the fact?"
One answer appeared on the International CPTED Association’s “Special ICA Webinar: Exclusion versus Inclusion – In CPTED Everyone Has a role”.
On Thursday, Dec. 17, we will provide another during our Safety Summit.