by Tarah Hodgkinson
A few weeks ago, we decided to take a drive out to Grimsby, a small city on the shore of Lake Ontario for a hike. We found a charming coffee shop, some neat stores, and one of the most interesting examples of community culture I have ever seen.
We parked our car and strolled through the roundabout and surrounding streets to find several houses in the area painted up in the funky colours of Painted Ladies architecture. Many folks who live in Southwestern Ontario will be familiar with the Painted Ladies. These are a collection of houses that feature wild colour palettes and thematic designs.
This now popular tourist destination was once a Methodist camp along Lake Ontario. The neighbourhood then transitioned to beach cottages. When the Methodist camp went bankrupt in the early 1900s, the area was replaced with an amusement park. After that closed in the 1930s, the remaining cottages were built up, winterized and decorated to reflect their interesting past.
Interestingly, homes in the Painted Lady architectural style are not that unusual. Old Victorian and Edwardian houses, or in this case cottages, are repainted in bright colours to enhance their architectural features and embellish their historical heritage.
Other areas of the world also participate in the tradition of painting their houses bright colours including parts of Copenhagen, Ireland, and San Francisco. I would argue that none are as creative, or as individual and unique, like those in Grimsby.
What is great about these houses, besides their fun designs, is that they create a community culture. The space is activated and people are present. Neighbours are out talking to each other and visitors to the area. The sense of place is strong and the houses, while equally bold in their colour choices, represent the individual personality of their residences. The curving and narrow road paths reflect a road network that has prioritized walking over cars. The colours are bright, not worn, reflecting that they are often updated and maintained.
We often speak about the role of second-generation CPTED principles on this blog. These include culture. The Painted Ladies reflect not only a way to activate space (1st generation advanced CPTED), but also bring folks together through a process of constantly building and rebuilding their local sense of place.
Like the painted intersections in Portland, or the penguin art across Penguin, Australia, these traditions not only build culture but also contribute to socially cohesive neighbourhoods.
GUEST BLOG: Lilit Houlder is an urban planner working with a consulting firm in Edmonton, Canada. She is the most recent member of the SafeGrowth team and has contributed a number of guest blogs to this site. This, her latest blog, describes some recent initiatives in her municipality indicating a new reality in a post-Covid world.
Downtown communities around the world have been facing challenges since the start of the pandemic in the Spring of 2020. The work-from-home mandates resulted in deserted or sparse city core areas that left businesses dependent on office workers in a struggle to attract customers who were no longer in the vicinity.
Like other cities, Edmonton’s downtown residential and business community has also been affected by increased crime rates. Edmonton’s downtown crime has increased by nearly 12% in 2021 from before the pandemic.
Within the past two years, we have seen residents relocating away from downtown. Some businesses permanently closed their doors. Additionally, as an update to previous blog posts from Portland and Edmonton on homelessness, Edmonton saw the number of individuals experiencing homelessness double. This has led the city to develop encampment strategies to increase safety.
Those residents and businesses that continue to live and operate in the area are advocating for safety in the neighbourhood and are asking for the local Council’s help. Council recently initiated a program to increase downtown patrolling by bringing together teams of police officers and social service agencies. These patrol groups will target downtown areas and transit stations (where most of the crime increases have been reported) and will focus on crime prevention and education programs for the community.
In the meantime, the Downtown Business Association has been outspoken in putting in serious efforts to aid in the downtown safety efforts.
For long-term goals, Edmonton’s City Council is working on approving the Community Safety and Well Being Strategy and is preparing grant plans for the Edmonton Police Service, call dispatch centres, indigenous-led centres, and other initiatives.
This strategy employed by Edmonton echoes the 2nd Generation CPTED principles of employing an inclusive and relationship-based approach. Community involvement captures the intent of 2nd Generation CPTED principles that are missing from many municipal CPTED strategies.
Employees are slowly transitioning back to the office, and with the Edmonton Oilers in the NHL playoffs, Edmonton’s downtown streets are seeing more activity throughout the day. From lunch crowds at local cafes, to eyes on the street on local patios, it appears there are early encouraging trends.
by Gregory Saville
As Bruce Springsteen writes in his song, it’s easy to get blinded by something you are passionate about. That especially applies to crime theory.
It’s hard enough to implement crime prevention without having to constantly check whether the prevention theory itself is under attack. Of course, prevention practitioners should know the strengths and weaknesses of their programs, including theory veracity. But when theory itself remains unchallenged by scientists, even when emerging data contradicts that theory, it makes the practitioner's job much more difficult.
When that happens, practitioners are unsure whether it is the theory that is wrong or the implementation.
Take crime displacement theory. When a crime happens in one location, will preventive measures move it somewhere else? Traditional displacement theory says crime will not necessarily move elsewhere. Or if it does, it might create benefits in other ways (the so-called diffusion of benefits theory).
Most likely, we are told, the displaced crime will reduce in impact – it won’t get worse! We are told dozens of studies confirm this theory over a number of years.
WHAT IF IT IS WRONG?
Then a British undergraduate thesis on displacement uncovered some disturbing patterns in the evidence.
Catherine Phillip's analysis discovered, “that displacement may, in fact, be more common than is widely claimed, particularly in the case of studies with offenders. Furthermore… the findings of the Kirkholt Burglary Prevention Project, which purport to demonstrate a diffusion of benefits, are shown to be based on questionable evidence.”
Curiously, this was met with deafening silence in the situational crime prevention community. Phillip's referring specifically to the scientific evidence would, one would think, sound alarms to scientific theorists. Not so.
A few years later, Tarah Hodgkinson, myself, and Martin Andresen, conducted a detailed study on displacement over a multi-year timeframe using extensive ethnographic/statistical research in a city where we had delivered CPTED for over a decade. We combined the best qualitative and quantitative research. Our research discovered that, indeed, displacement was not benign, there was no diffusion of benefits, and alarmingly, we uncovered clear evidence of malign displacement in which crime got much worse in two different areas.
We published our study in one of the most prestigious journals in the criminological community – the British Journal of Criminology.
Again, from the displacement research crowd… crickets! Apparently, data and evidence, even in a thorough crime study, were also not enough to sound the alarm about troubles with displacement theory.
For many years, Gerard Cleveland and I have taught our police students emotional intelligence (EI). EI was created by psychologists in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly the work of Yale University’s professor Peter Salovey and his colleagues. The best recent book on EI is Marc Brackett’s, Permission to Feel.
The role of emotions, it turns out, is poorly understood among professionals and, I would add, researchers. Emotions explain why researchers get attached to their theories and, when it comes to criminology, why they refuse to accept new theories or abandon old ones.
The methodology of science suggests that researchers should carefully manage their emotions and follow the data. In displacement, at least, it seems that may not always have been the case. The attachment to theories – this clinging to something when contradictory evidence arises – emerges from poor emotional intelligence and the inability to detach from a theory and look at alternate theories with a clear eye.
SECOND GENERATION CPTED
Take, for example, 2nd Generation CPTED! For years, Gerry Cleveland and I heard complaints from traditional crime prevention practitioners that “if it’s not about changing the physical environment, it’s just not CPTED”.
When we pointed out that the founders of CPTED – Jane Jacobs, Oscar Newman, C. Ray Jeffery – did not limit their discussions to architecture; they also spoke of the interconnectedness between theories, of the role of neighbors in crime prevention, and of social cohesion in neighborhoods. Getting locals to create a sense of defensible space was the mantra in authentic CPTED, yet those practitioners attached to physical target hardening ignored this part of the theory.
This is theory-blindness! It is often triggered by emotional attachments to a particular view and it is known in psychology as confirmation bias – the tendency to search only for information that confirms your prior beliefs of something. It is not surprising we are sometimes blinded by the light of a theory to which we are attached. We are all, after all, human. But ignoring data and cherry-picking evidence that supports only one particular theory is not only unscientific – it obstructs our work to help create safer places. Our communities deserve better.
I spoke too soon in regards to crickets from the criminological community. The situational theory cluster inside the movement might ignore, but not so the mainstream criminology community. The American Society of Criminology just awarded our own Tarah Hodgkinson the prestigious Robert Bursik Award for the displacement study I referenced above that Tarah, Martin Andresen, and I co-published in the British Journal of Criminology. Congratulations Tarah.
GUEST BLOG - Lilit Houlder is an urban planner working with a consulting firm in Edmonton, Canada. She is the most recent member of the SafeGrowth team and in this blog she describes her observations of the urban homeless in the middle of a global pandemic – a situation far too common across the developed world.
Edmonton has the largest number of unsheltered homeless people living within a Canadian city - approximately 1,070 persons.
While there are many support services, there are not enough beds or shelter spaces. This poses a problem for Edmonton, which is a place also known as a winter city. With temperatures dropping significantly below freezing during its long winter season, the city has an emergency plan.
For temperatures below -30 Celsius, the city’s Sector Emergency Response program gets activated to provide free public transportation, essential services, security, and a place to sleep. The city encourages citizens to keep an eye out for anyone in distress during the extreme cold and contact the city response team. The program consists of 25 partner organizations that communicate with each other and share resources. Partnerships such as this strengthen the municipal capacity to address an intractable urban problem.
The city mustered money with support from provincial and federal governments to purchase and repurpose underutilized hotels and to run 24/7 shelters. All necessary supports are given in one place, and people can socially distance themselves to avoid the spread of COVID. This is similar to British Columbia’s legislation last year to use motels for the homeless, as reported in Jon Munn’s blog.
Purchasing and repurposing hotels is an initiative created by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to adopt more non-profit housing for homeless Canadians. Edmonton purchases hotels that would otherwise operate at extremely low capacities and become a financial burden on the landowners.
Some cities like Portland are creating temporary community support shelters, such as those reported by Tod Schneider. But with Edmonton’s much colder weather, another approach emerged that is showing up in cities across North America - repurposing civic facilities.
The city turned the Shaw Conference Center into a 24/7 shelter that offered space for socializing, COVID testing, treating basic medical and mental health needs, and connecting to other support services. What made this venue different is that it was large enough to provide users space for self-isolation if showing symptoms of COVID. Smaller spaces, such as local churches or community halls or community support shelters would not have had sufficient space to accommodate this unique challenge.
2ND GENERATION CPTED
Although deployed across an entire city versus a single neighbourhood, each of the municipal strategies underway in Edmonton emphasize the power of 2nd Generation CPTED principles as a way to respond to municipal social problems.
For example, connectivity tactics included linking to upper-level governments for resources and funding. Finding a civic space with enough capacity to house such a large population is, by definition, the very heart of the connectivity principle. It was the same for connections with the 25 organizations in the Sector Emergency Response program – they had the ability to bring food, health, financial support, clothing, and other resources to alleviate the suffering of people with no place to sleep.
Another example - By educating people about the needs of the homeless during the coldest time of the year, citizens across the entire city participated in watching for vulnerable people during extreme weather. Social cohesion at such a large scale in Edmonton illustrates that, when integrated into part of urban culture, citizens who are organized to work together on a common purpose can go a long way to making life safer for the most vulnerable.