by Gregory Saville
The writing on the shop walls and the floating billboards was Anglo-Chinese. On the street, cityspeak combined English, Chinese and Spanish, a vernacular that served the homeless, the marginally employed and the unfortunate. Pollution and environmental collapse led to constant clouds and pelting rain. The affluent traveled to off-world colonies on Mars and elsewhere, leaving the rest of us behind. Bio-engineered, human-like robots called Replicants used their artificial intelligence and rebelled.
That was the horrific world described in Philip K. Dick’s book that became the 1982 sci-fi classic, Bladerunner. I blogged on Bladerunner architecture last year. When I watched Bladerunner in the 1980s it seemed like an impossible future. And it was set for such a long way ahead – 2019!
That's next year! With only a month left, how close is that future?
UNFOLDING AS WE SPEAK
It doesn’t take much imagination to see a Bladerunner vision unfolding. True, we are nowhere near that specific dystopia. We still don’t have flying cars (but we have self-driving ones!). Yet, one wonders...
This week I watched NASA’s exciting landing on the planet Mars. Space X CEO Elon Musk says he’ll get people to Mars within six years. How long before off-world colonies evolve?
This year I watched the fruits of some incredible advances in artificial intelligence and bio-engineering, including the world tour of the remarkable Sophie, the first thinking and speaking robot to attain citizenship. Sophie tells us not to worry; real robots are not like Bladerunner.
Then there is the decades-long Chinese economic miracle and the environmental mess we watch with increasing regularity in hurricanes, wildfires, species extinction and climate chaos.
Philip K. Dick, it seems, was on track. How might we derail that particular future? The usual formula is to rethink geo-politics and create a new macroeconomics. Nevertheless, the maxim ‘think global, act local’ has special relevance here. Take, for example, Philadelphia!
ONE NEIGHBORHOOD’S STORY
Over the past few years we brought SafeGrowth to Philadelphia. We now have some great advocates working for the neighborhood association, HACE. This year they began implementing their latest 10-year 2025 Neighborhood Plan.
For years HACE and friends have been diligently working to transform the blight, drugs and crime into a greener, socially connected, economically vibrant neighborhood. Now their new, SafeGrowth-infused 2025 plan is underway and they’ve been making strides.
They installed new, clean walking trails where garbage was once strewn.
They instituted Philadelphia’s first SafeGrowth Livability Academy, a collaborative on-going workshop with 30 neighbors and police during which they developed problem-solving strategies for their neighborhood.
The HACE plan envisions greener areas, community gardens, better resourced neighborhood hubs, safe intergenerational and affordable housing. HACE has already built over 200 units of affordable housing and leveraged over $100 million in redevelopment and improvements. A host of community-building strategies are already underway.
For example, they, and their partners, shut down a drug infested, homeless camp along a railway underpass. That naturally displaced addicts to street level, resulting in a public outcry (after decades of inaction). Ultimately, that led to a more coordinated city response to treat drug users, expand homeless beds and increase shelters.
There is a long way to go and resources and shelter beds are still scarce (one estimate suggest Philadelphia has 50,000 opioid addicts, many of whom end up here). But at least action is finally underway.
That is the hard community-building work that cuts crime, improves livability, and gets neighbors engaged in shaping their own future.
Too many mayors get caught up in a fear-based echo chamber that makes them vulnerable to peddlers of security technology and promises of a bright, high-tech future.
Too many city leaders act as obsequious errand-boys for the technologists, embracing the faint promise of hostile architecture, public CCTV, automated security robots, predictive algorithms seeking crime, and audio software to track gang gunfire. (Wouldn't it be better to prevent the gunfire in the first place?)
They do this with the ill-informed hope that technology will prevail. But in doing this, they snatch defeat from the hands of successful action-based community projects right in front of them. They invite a Bladerunner future.
May they fail.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
On a recent walk in Burnaby, British Columbia, what was normally an uninteresting and car-dominated street, offered a surprise. As I turned a corner, I was delighted to see a major change since my last visit. The city had built a vertical park! A beautiful walking space including bike lanes, areas to sit, green spaces and artistic architecture.
What was most interesting was the way in which they city had treated the neighboring houses. Along this vertical park, the city had installed decorative visibility fences. Essentially these fences are neither wooden fences with no visibility nor chain-link fences with visibility but a hideous look.
These fences are particularly interesting because they address an important issue for corner homes and homes on edges of land-use changes, in this case, residential to commercial. Homes in these locations are often at increased risk of burglary and vandalism.
Tall wooden fences can simply block the external view of an intruder once they are over the fence, making it easier for these individuals to commit a crime. Additionally, residents cannot see if a threat exists on the other side of the fence. Chain link fencing, however, often gives the impression of “fortress” mentality and can increase feelings of fear, making the neighborhood appear hardened. Chain link fences are also quite easy to climb.
These decorative visibility fences provided visibility to both residents and surrounding eyes. At the same time, they create a beautiful linear space for folks to walk through. They are also difficult to climb.
This vertical park and the accompanying decorative visibility fences are a great example of finding beautiful ways to address privacy and safety in neighborhoods on the edges of commercial use.
By Mateja Mihinjac
Last week I outlined why the problem of vehicular attacks on pedestrians demands thinking beyond target hardening. These incidents cannot be simply eradicated through design, but some of the alternatives below offer possibilities for reducing negative social impacts that accompany hyper-security.
One way to avoid perpetuating fear and altering aesthetics of public spaces is to transform overt, obtrusive security to less visible (or invisible) security. Instead of fortressing our cities and increasing mass surveillance, target hardening practices can be integrated into the environment (e.g. street furniture, layout, paving styles, use of special materials).
Multiple cases of concrete bollards painted by local artists and activists show that citizens care about the appearance of their public spaces and the message they convey to their users. Other less obtrusive strategies include natural barriers such as rain gardens, ponds, bridges and Ha-Ha walls.
Successful experiments have also demonstrated how altering pedestrian movement through playful and non-obtrusive designs such as floor markings and mirrors prompts people to use a designated safe route and foster their connection to both place and their users.
Congruent with the smart city movement, new invisible technical solutions are also possible. Sweden is now testing geo-fencing on a large scale before the country may be the first to implement this approach in a fight against heavy vehicles attacks. In the U.S., architects are designing safer schools.
Another popular option includes altering zoning practices in city centers such as special downtown zones that limit vehicle use to light-weight and slow-speed vehicles or pedestrian-only areas. Such zones have a life of their own. They provide opportunities for people to explore and enjoy them. Concurrently they help reclaim public space through reprogramming a restricted area into a positive land use. They also demand improved pedestrian infrastructure and street networks that support easy and safe movement.
The ideas about walkable and human scale design have culminated in practices such as the Barnes dance intersections. The World Resources Institute also provides a detailed overview of measures that prioritize a safe and human scale transport design.
Security professionals, designers and planners can balance security and socially-appropriate measures by providing safety and support connections as well as interactions between people. Obtrusive security measures divide and create barriers between people. There are better alternatives.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
A few years ago, a scorned lover walked onto a public housing project and shot his ex-girlfriend. She lived but has suffered terribly with her injuries ever since. The man did not live there, so how was he able to get onto the property and shoot his ex? Was this a fluke, spur-of-the-moment occurrence that might have been prevented?
In a journal article coming out this year, myself and some colleagues describe how we used crime mapping and analysis to examine questions about such crimes in public housing. We compared the police calls for service over a 7 year period at four nearby public housing facilities of similar size and occupancy. The housing where the shooting (and many other crimes) occurred went through a massive reconstruction during this time. This construction was intended to upgrade the living facilities and improve the overall livability and security of the location.
CPTED DONE WRONG
However, after the construction, we found not only did calls for police service start going back up, but they did so dramatically. In fact, the trend was increasing at a rate that surpassed previous levels of calls for service. This seems counter-intuitive. Why would a place that had made improvements to the image and maintenance of the property, as well as security, see an increase in calls for service when the other public housing developments didn’t?
We conducted field research that provided some context. While interviews with property managers demonstrated knowledge of security measures, particularly CPTED principles, some of these principles were not properly implemented in the redesign.
For example, they constructed a large fence around the perimeter but failed to replace access control gates and security at key points. The redesign had major openings with no gates or doors to restrict outsiders from entering or exiting. While the entire site was fenced, there was no real access control in or out of the property. Unlike other locations we examined, not only did this facility not have security at the entranceways, it lacked a strong community presence. Thus, there were very little natural surveillance opportunities or proper access controls at the entry points where it mattered most.
Clearly, the lack of proper security measures in public housing, like access control and surveillance, can increase the risk of victimization. In this case, it is unsurprising that an outsider was able to walk right through the front entrance, unchallenged, and shoot his ex-girlfriend.
The implications of poorly implemented CPTED are clear, particularly for responsibility and accountability: accountability for competently implementing CPTED principles in a high-risk location, and responsibility for adequate security in public housing facilities to protect vulnerable residents.
Security robot on patrol - Video Washington Post
Luddite: (adjective) one of a group of early 19th century English workmen destroying laborsaving machinery as a protest; broadly: one who is opposed to especially technological change - Merriam-Webster
by Greg Saville
The story of the Luddite resonated last week with word from San Francisco about a controversy surrounding the K-5 Security Robot. We blogged on the K-5 a few years ago - On the threshold of a robotics revolution.
Since then the journey of the security robot has not been straight; it has been drowned in a Washington DC fountain and it has mistakenly run over a toddler's leg at a Palo Alto shopping center.
And last week, according to Newsweek, the security robot was removed from duty after deterring homeless encampments near the San Francisco SPCA. Apparently homeless people vandalized the SPCA robot, angry about being singled out by the SPCA and the security robot.
LUDDITE OR TECHNOPHILE
The issue is layered. On one hand, security robots are the latest technology and like all new technologies, they can be applied in ways both sacred and profane. There are places, such as underground parking lots, where an automated security patroller with surveillance tools can keep watch and help make isolated places safer.
In the San Francisco case, SPCA representative Krista Maloney says“staff wasn't able to safely use the sidewalks at times because of the encampments… since the SPCA started guarding its facilities with the robot (known as K9) a month ago, the homeless encampments have dwindled and there have been fewer car break-ins.”
But beneath the surface lurks a darker story.
THE DARK SIDE
This blog has reported on the so-called hostile architecture movement, especially CPTED tactics used to dehumanize places to exclude certain groups over other groups. Dealing with homeless encampments, which by definition means dealing with homeless people, with a security robot, is a questionable tactic. And the homeless have been outraged. Since the security robot began patrolling in front of the SPCA, the Washington Post claims it has been "allegedly smeared with feces, covered by a tarp and nearly toppled by an attacker."
Are there better, more humane, solutions? In some communities, Housing First programs, seem to work. In fact, the Canadian city of Medicine Hat, population 65,000, claims to have eliminated homelessness with the Housing First strategy. Why isn’t San Francisco helping the SPCA and the homeless with such a program?
by Gregory Saville
Last week the sci-fi film Bladerunner 2049 opened worldwide to rave reviews. In artistic circles, this is known as exceptional neo-noir filmmaking, or more accurately 80s style cyberpunk. Bladerunner 2049 follows the original Bladerunner film from 1982, now considered a masterpiece. It is based on a book by award-winning sci-fi writer, the late Philip K. Dick.
Dick’s themes included dystopian futures, authoritarian corporations, and government conspiracies. Bladerunner occurs on a future Earth poisoned from environmental collapse where cops (Bladerunners) are assigned as bounty hunters to search and eliminate a minority group of human-like androids called Replicants. Written 50 years ago, Dick’s tale foreshadows the environmental crisis, immigrant-purging, social turbulence, and police violence on our streets today. In short, he nailed it!
ART REFLECTS LIFE
For evidence, take a look at the street architecture of the future Los Angeles in Bladerunner and compare that with what is emerging in our biggest cities. Art, clearly, reflects life!
Very seldom are artistic and cultural movements restricted to galleries and magazines. Even the most outrageous art and music seep out into politics, daily life and, most importantly, ways of thinking. That is because artistic and cultural movements do not arise on their own; they are a reaction to - or against - current affairs. That is why they are a barometer of things to come.
Consider how 1960s counter-culture morphed into environmentalism, civil rights, and equality for women, concepts in common parlance today. Or consider the artistic movement called modernism in the early 20th Century that evolved into the International Congress of Modern Architecture and the global planning disaster we now call urban sprawl.
Bladerunner is art that tells a story: Philip K. Dick’s cyberpunk story of urban dystopia! For real-life examples look carefully at the cores of our most modern cities to see the worship of architectural cyberpunk.
If this analogy holds, then what about last week’s horrific mass murder in Las Vegas, the on-going trouble with police shootings, political turbulence, and environmental disasters of late? Are they signals that the Bladerunner story is unfolding as predicted? Never has there been a more appropriate time for a better model of neighborhood safety and urban growth.
I have been pondering the security technology encroachments into public life, particularly regarding CCTV monitoring. There was a time, it seems now very long ago, that the UK was awash in CCTV. Hundreds of millions of dollars, and over four million (and counting) CCTV cameras later, the UK is the most surveilled society on earth.
We were assured that would never happen in the US, or other developed countries. Violate our civil rights? No way cried the libertarian and democratic pundits in unison.
Still, if you have nothing to hide…
Today, London and Beijing have over 400,000 CCTV each (proving politics is no guarantee either way). In the US there are over 30 million CCTV cameras, mostly in private hands. But there are now CCTV on streets in every major US city (Houston and Chicago lead the way with over 14,000 in Chicago alone) and public support is growing.
APPLAUDING OR BOOING?
On one hand, we applaud when police apprehend the Boston terrorists due in large measure to public CCTV. We also later watched those same terrorists as they planted and exploded the devices - prevention was not a result of those cameras.
I always applaud traffic intersection CCTV to cut car crashes, especially in my city where drivers spend more time in narcissistic self-obsession beating the red light rather than watching where they are going.
THE NEW REALITY
Recently I’ve been reviewing the latest in CCTV analytics, intelligent tracking and real-time scene analysis - CCTV on steroids. The thing is no longer motion detection or auto tracking (so old school). The latest is intelligent video analytics, a major evolution from facial recognition software in yesteryear. Video analytics is made possible by exponential increases in processing power and so-called ‘intelligent’ algorithms.
And now it is part of security and public safety, watching for suspicious movements, packages, behaviors. Watching you! How does the computer know what to look for? It uses algorithms based on past behavior. In future, it may use artificial intelligence to learn on its own. And that is where things get interesting.
Wired magazine puts it this way:
“voice, image, and motion recognition will transform human-computer interfaces into a seamless interaction between the user and all the computing devices in that person’s life.”
A few years ago I blogged about economic theorist Jeremy Rifkin, his forecasts, the Internet of Things and his predictions for disruptive technologies. It seems he was right. Should we be worried?
- Gregory Saville
Tonight is Halloween - that ancient Celtic harvest festival where children turn into goblins and threaten mere mortals with tricks or treats. Not really the stuff of serious nightmares, more the frivolities of fun.
Last week the International CPTED Association ran another successful conference with exceptional speakers from around the world. Presentations are online at the ICA website.
Saskatoon planner Elisabeth Miller, criminologist Tarah Hodgkinson and myself delivered our research on something that represents a real nightmare for 1st Generation CPTED practitioners – the return of displacement.
THE RETURN OF DISPLACEMENT?
Displacement is an old enemy of 1st Generation CPTED. Moving crime from one place to another violates ethical practice and the promise every crime prevention practitioner should make to do no harm.
Over the years a body of mainstream research has grown up around the idea that displacement isn’t inevitable and that crime levels are cut through displacement.
Research by Catherine Phillips at the Nottingham Trent University questions the orthodox view.
This year Elisabeth, Tarah and myself were able to test this for real. We examined a well-known disorder hotspot at a fast food restaurant in downtown Saskatoon. We were able to track disorder in years before and after the restaurant was demolished.
This is where a real-life nightmare begins.
OFFENDERS FIND A NEW PLACE
The mapping results suggested displacement to a nearby homeless shelter. Street interviews confirmed many of the same offenders moved there. But then results got scary.
While calls for police service declined throughout the area, this particular displacement did not seem to reduce calls nor create benefits. Instead it appears to have triggered an eruption. The homeless shelter calls increased nine-fold!
If our further research bears this out, displacement research will need a re-think because our findings suggest something very scary. Not the frivolities of Halloween fun but the stuff of serious nightmares.
R2D2 patrolling the street in modern day California?
Whenever I read the classic sci-fi Oath of Fealty I think of that mirror world where privileged insiders reside behind their technology fortress and the rest of us are the mob at the gates. Except we forget that in Niven and Pournelle’s novel their technology fortress was modeled on an arcology, a real-life creation of walkable, ecological, and community-based cities where people collaborate to survive.
Such is the paradox of security; exclusion vs inclusion is hardwired into the beast.
Ultimately intention is the key. It fits no one except cynics to claim human nature makes every invention retrograde. Aerial flight may allow militaries to bomb, but planes also allow millions to travel world-wide and experience cultures in every global nook. That arguably brings us closer together.
ENTER THE K5
K5 is an autonomous data machine - aka, a security robot. Advertised by Knightscope as an autonomous neighborhood crime watch, the K5 appeals to both corporate and community. Tackling the high turnover in the security profession (by some accounts up to 400%), the K5 provide more reliable eyes-on-the street for everything from asset protection to identifying threats like armed intruders in schools. It then contacts police with real-time, reliable data and does so 24/7 without sleeping on duty.
The online promo describes automatic license plate recognition (for stolen cars), CO2 and temperature sensors (for fire), facial recognition with cameras, and low-light video sensors for night-time property monitoring. The gizmos on this robot are impressive; LIDAR, GPS, inertial and odometer sensors, geo-fencing for autonomous control, directional microphones, proximity sensors, and the list goes on.
I don’t really know what to make of K5: Big Brother’s Techno-Bride or R2D2’s charming bleeps? I suppose, ultimately, intention is the thing. True, removing humans from eyes-on-the street is scary. No doubt the robo-phobics will sound alarms.
On the other hand, who said people had to be removed just because they have their own K5 in their neighborhood?
Knightscope warns us about epidemic crime. While rates are increasing in some places, crime science and police statistics say the opposite, all of which is beside the point. Even in a time of record-breaking crime declines security needs remain high. What bank doesn’t have security cameras?
Whatever the case, for some reason when I look at K5 I am not reminded of Schwarzenegger’s cyborg in Terminator. I’m reminded of Huey, Dewey and Louie, those cute robot drones from the 70s enviro-sci-fi flick, Silent Running. And they end up saving us from ourselves.
There are these new urban regeneration schemes called malls-without-walls, one example being the Liverpool One development in the UK. They bring to mind Oath of Fealty, a science fiction by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. They raise a thought worth pondering.
The Liverpool One land development is owned by the British Duke of Westminster. It privatizes 35 downtown streets and spans 42 acres all controlled by a private security force and CCTV. Of course big shopping malls are not new but they are usually relegated to the suburbs far from the downtown core. Not this one.
The Liverpool One land development project turns a new corner. Costing up to $2 Billion it is a central city shopping mall on steroids - hotels, plazas, shops, golf course, apartment towers, open air designs all policed by private security.
Decades ago Oath of Fealty prophesized a massive high-tech, city-in-a-city called Todos Santos, constructed following race riots and walled away from the chaos of Los Angeles surrounding it.
A thousand feet tall, single-structured super city, Todos Santos residents lived with constant surveillance in return for safety away from the grime, crime and bedlam that was a future Los Angeles. (Imagine the opening sequence of the film Bladerunner). Residents gladly offer up their Oath of Fealty for the benevolent Todos Santos security blanket.
Liverpool One is nowhere near that. It is a mega mall on steroids, not as sophisticated as the futuristic arcology, Todos Santos. It looks like a well-designed, upscale mall. Its private streets are subject to regular city by-laws.
Yet it is more interconnected than most open air malls and has abundant private security and pervasive CCTV. And like all evolutionary trends it exists in a context.
Consider the fear triggered from watching the Ferguson mayhem this week, dozens of riots in cities around the world in recent years and, in spite of declining crime rates, millions who now live in gated communities.
In all these contexts there is one constant. Fear! Who wouldn't want to live in a beautiful, secure place of the future?
Consider the comments about Liverpool One by Roy Coleman, criminology faculty at Liverpool University: "The rules for the newly privatised city centre fabricate an ideal citizen - aspirational in consumption and thinking big with urban pride."
That sounds very Todos Santos. It leads me to ask some elephant-in-the-room questions: If we have the resources and desire to build safe mini-cities within cities where people can freely choose to live, is that a good thing? Or if it is such a bad thing, why are so many of them showing up?
I enjoy watching the fictional TV cop show NCIS where Gibbs and the gang use omni-present CCTV to catch crooks doing crime. What fun! What fantasy! I hated watching the Boston Marathon bombing where CCTV caught the real act, live.
For years I've been writing about CCTV in public places in the United States and in Britain. Never shy to adopt barely-studied methods elsewhere, Canada's now in on the act. Yesterday's Leader-Post reports that "downtown Regina will be protected by 33 closed circuit (CCTV) cameras" during the upcoming Canadian Grey cup football championship game.
Let's see if I remember…
Seven months and 6 days ago the radicalized Tsarnaev brothers carried pressure cooker bombs in backpacks in plain view of CCTV along the route of the Boston Marathon. An hour after police swept the area for explosives, they blew up their bombs killing and injuring bystanders. The whole horrible thing was caught live on CCTV.
For a decade UK has led the world with thousands of CCTV in public places. Now a recent UK government study tells us 80% of CCTV images are ineffective and that "cameras are mostly used to trap motorists rather than catch criminals."
I'm glad cops use CCTV to catch crooks after the fact. But keeping the Grey Cup festival safe? All I see here is journalistic Alzheimer's.
I cautiously stepped into a glass chamber at a recent security trade show to test a unique anti-burglary device. At the simulated moment of alarm activation I was blasted by a non-toxic, non-staining fog blanketing the chamber. I could see nothing. It's supposed to scare off burglars who cannot see their way to the loot. Devices like burglar foggers supposedly contributed to crime declines. So I'm told.
My last blog, Line on a Map, asked why the murder rate is so different in Washington State versus British Columbia (2.9 versus 1.5 per 100,000 - a ratio of 2:1).
The answer to that is buried somewhere in falling crime rates; falling under liberal and conservative governments, falling in peacetime and war. Until recently, falling like a stone in all but a few places.
Criminologists have multiple theories. Few agree.
Some say it is better security devices like burglar fogging or just more private security generally.
Unfortunately, while more security might explain some of that, the "better security devices" theory cannot explain declines in domestic violence, sexual assaults, and schoolyard bullying. Few of those victims are protected by better technical devices. Yet those rates too are also falling.
MORE COPS, MORE PRISON
Some say it is more police per capita, new policing tactics like Compstat, stop-and-frisk, or stricter prison sentences?
During the 1990s, the first crime decline decade, those were American tactics. Canada had no changes in sentencing, no Compstat, no stop-and-frisk, and no more cops. Crime in Canada dropped just the same.
Aging population? That works better than other theories since older populations span most countries with crime declines. Since young males dominate prisons and court dockets, when they decline as a proportion of the whole population, crime drops. So the theory goes.
Yet none of that explains the Washington/BC gap until you factor that it is murder that is higher in Washington; property crime, especially burglary and theft, are not.
Then factor that most Washington murders involve handguns, in abundance in US cities and scarcer in Canada. True, crooks can always get guns on both sides and responsible gun owners don't leave their guns unsecured (gun rights folks…chill)!
Still, there are just more handguns around. For example, when a burglar breaks into a Washington home with a 1 in 20 chance of finding a handgun versus a 1 in 500 chance in BC, that handgun gets into more abundant criminal circulation. It then shows up more frequently during robberies and assaults. More shootings result in a much higher murder ratio in Washington vs BC - in this case a ratio of 2:1. Gun advocates who think more guns will protect them are in a burglar fog. Look north for proof that they won't.
Nothing - not demographics, per capita police, economics, nor security devices - explain that difference better than handgun availability.
It truly is that straightforward. Solving it, sadly, isn't.
Years ago a police chief told me he planned to hire a renowned criminologist to compare the murder rate in Vancouver to Seattle. He was tired of hearing Vancouver was so much safer. He knew there was a gang war in Vancouver and didn't believe the numbers. Both cities are similar in size, economic wealth, relative policing strength, and age demographics. They are only a 3 hour drive apart.
A murder gap? No way.
That criminologist never showed. Depending on whose version of the story you believe, either the data wasn't available, the criminologist wasn't available, or the study was done but unavailable for public view.
I have a simpler explanation for the Vancouver-Is-Worse-Than-Seattle theory.
Nor is BC versus Washington State. British Columbia has a population of 4.6 million; Washington State 6.9 million. In 2012 BC suffered 71 murders (1.5 murders per 100,000 people) while Washington State suffered 203 murders (2.9 per 100,000, twice that of BC).
On the U.S. side of the border lies majestic snow capped Mount Baker. The view is magnificent from both Vancouver and Seattle. For hundreds of miles beyond the border posts, BC and Washington are separated by only the 49th Parallel - nothing more than a line on a map.Yet if you view Mount Baker from the U.S. the stats suggest your risk of being murdered doubles.
Washington State has a history of innovative prevention programs.
The Office of Crime Victims Advocacy and Community Mobilization Program (defunded next year due to cutbacks) are considerably more advanced than what BC offers by comparison.
True, BC's CPTED is deeper (Washington lags considerably) and BC's Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers receive more advanced basic training called problem-based learning.
But can that explain the homicide gap?
Next blog: Why the difference
If Boston proves anything it proves we need more CCTV, right? Yet police, CCTV, and the community working together caught the terrorists, not CCTV alone. We presume CCTV will cut crime and make things better. Crime might drop (which is good), but things don’t always get better.
The CPTED 3-D method (I don't teach it) states the design of a place should reinforce its designated use so that "illegitimate" users are kept at bay. Yet Jane Jacobs wrote that, if given the chance, people make spaces work in their own unique ways. That is what makes them safe.
Similar questions were posed a decade ago in Keith Hayward’s "Space, the final frontier: Criminology, the city and the spatial dynamics of exclusion."
SPACE: THE FINAL FRONTIER
Hayward threw down the gauntlet to the Criminology of Place crowd- situational crime prevention, environmental criminology and by association (not mine), CPTED.
Unfortunately Hayward wrote in the gibberish of post-structural"Foucauldian" prose, an academic fad popular among a small group of academics in the UK and Canada. Tragically it delivers little to those preventing crime except unreadable text. That's a shame because Hayward has a brilliant mind with important things to say.
He attacked theories of the then-emerging community of crime analysts and crime mappers. Today crime analysts populate every major police department. They desperately need this message.
One part of that message: Spatial patterns - robbery hotspots, burglary densities, crime displacements - miss the point. More accurately, they are such a small part of the point that they distract attention away from the keys to prevention - causes behind criminal behavior.
SECOND GENERATION CPTED
Hayward's corrective is theoretical: link the individual experience of victims, offenders, and other citizens with the urban, social and cultural facts that create conditions for crime.
I think it is simpler. It’s the corrective Gerry Cleveland and I offered a decade earlier in Second Generation CPTED. Blogs on descriptive symbols and articles on Second Generation CPTED spell this out in detail.
Here are some starting places:
A friend of mine likes to quote T.S. Eliot: "We had the experience but missed the meaning." Let’s not miss the meaning of Boston.
That quote above is by Robocop from the classic 1987 sci-fi by Paul Verhoven.
I have written about the Pythonic thinking driving UK police privatization and the transformation of police culture from community cop to combat cop. Lately things have accelerated into an economic and social earthquake for policing. Am I the only one noticing? I don't see it in the press. The blabbering heads on Talk TV/Radio are too IQ-starved to notice.
Then I thought of a story:
In a not-too-distant dystopian future Gotham City faces financial ruin. The national economy is in shambles and municipal budgets to pay for skyrocketing costs of overtime, pensions, and medical expenses are gone. Represented by unions clinging to 19th century collective bargaining dogma, cops are being laid off in droves.
Fears of crime cause thousands to hide behind the walls of gated communities and metal bars on windows. Their homes are prisons where they cower, too afraid to walk downtown at night. The police chief advises people to arm themselves.
Sound like Robocop? Nope. It's us.
Proof #1: The municipal financial crisis trickling down from the Great Recession. Consider thousands of police layoffs in the US and police privatization in the UK. Consider how this whole mess heads north as the Canadian economy tanks.
Proof #2: Police layoffs in;
East Greenwich, NJ,
Los Angeles, CA,
San Jose, CA,
Proof #3: Across California the FBI reports over 4,000 officers werelaid off from 2008 - 2011.
Proof #4: Increasing numbers of municipalities are in financial ruin such as Detroit, or claiming bankruptcy such as Stockton, CA.
And now the latest aftershock; Due to police layoffs a Sheriff in Milwaukee is advising residents to purchase guns and take safety courses.
Is it just me noticing this or has visionary leadership truly gone AWOL?
Friendy gangs, stealing kisses and music addicts. Now that's my kind of crime.
Thanks to Coca Cola, the band Supertramp and my ever-astute friend Paul Cleveland (who sent this video), here is another way to view security cameras.
It's proof of something cops and prevention folks forget; For every ugly act caught live by CCTV, there are many more beautiful acts that rarely make the news.
I just attended the International Problem Oriented Policing conference in Providence, Rhode Island, the showcase for exceptional police work. Over 500 cops from all over the world gathered to share innovations for cutting crime.
This year's winner of the Herman Goldstein problem solving award was the property crime squad from New South Wales, the first-ever win by police in Australia. They tackled an epidemic of ATM "ram raids" in shopping malls. All over Sydney criminals are using vehicles to smash through mall doorways at night. They'd then ram ATM machines and drag them off to a safe location for looting.
This unique brand of theft and burglary is now world-wide. In Sydney it resulted in millions of dollars in theft and damage.
Their analysis showed access control bollards outside the mall doors were ineffective, yet no ram raids occurred where bollards were inside the mall at ATMs. That led to installing internal bollards across the city. They added enhanced reporting, crime prevention education, and other CPTED target hardening to improve their response. Within two years this cut the yearly number of incidents from 68 to zero.
A year later when offenders by-passed bollards and used sophisticated gas explosions to break into ATMs, police employed their analytical approach. In this case the private sector installed gas detection and disabling equipment. Again they cut the attacks to zero from a peak of 54. Except they did it in half the time.
We may not always be able to predict new crime methods. But when they arise, old solutions won't work. Analysis does. That’s why we insist CPTED practitioners spend more time in problem diagnosis and not waste time in guesswork.
While governments in the UK are taking the remarkable step of hiring security to privatize police, something equally remarkable, and almost unnoticed, is unfolding in Detroit.
Resident groups, fed-up with declining resources, a cash-strapped police department and crime and disorder, have decided to take advantage of a recently updated Michigan law - the Home Rule City Act - and hire their own private security to police their neighborhoods. Council has yet to approve the proposal.
The Act allows neighborhoods to levy a service fee on residents for private security. In America, neighborhood's hiring their own security is not new. Allowing neighborhoods to tax themselves to fund it…that is!
Drastic times call for drastic measures! Really? Without clearly thought out public policy? Without proper hiring benchmarks? Without quality control for training and selection? Who will do that? The Detroit police? How can Detroit police monitor, control, or audit quality of neighborhood security when they are too cash-strapped to deliver services themselves?
In a stunning leap of Monty Python logic, I'm told the British Home Office thinks it can do all that quality control, monitoring and auditing of UK police privatization themselves. After all, as this Pythonic thinking goes, they did it for public police…that is to say the same "inefficient" public police the government is now privatizing.
In other words, more bureaucracy to control outsourcing due to funding shortfalls for inefficient policing from government funding. Blimey! That circular logic makes one's head spin. It's the Ministry of Silly Walks through and through.
And how's that working for them? I just read news that a former division of Hallibuton Inc was a leading bidder to privatize UK police services. That's Halliburton - the same military-industrial giant of Iraq infamy. The same Halliburton implicated in the Gulf Oil spill a few years ago.
There is nothing wrong with private security (in fact the opposite) as long as it is administered properly and monitored for quality by qualified experts. But does Detroit really want in on this game without well-thought policy mechanisms?
Is it just me, or does the dystopian RoboCop future seem just a bit closer today?
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.
I like the crime triangle. It is popular among crime analysts. It helps analyze crime hotspots. It is also part of problem-oriented policing. Sometimes too it is part of the prevention practitioner’s toolbox. It has elegant utility and simplicity.
The crime triangle emerges from "routine activity theory" (RA) in the early 1980s. RA explained some behavior quite well, like predatory crime (stalking). It did so with a simple premise: crime converges at the intersection of likely offenders, suitable targets and an absence of guardianship (or, more recently, "handlers").
In lay terms, picture the three sides of a triangle with an offender, a victim, and a target/place. When those things come together, so the theory goes, crime goes up.
The crime triangle is useful. Break the triangle and you prevent the crime. Want to increase guardianship? Get property managers to keep better control of their properties. Improve bar management in bars that over-serve. Simple. Elegant.
So far, so good. Except for one thing; that is where it typically ends in the RA world. The crime triangle does not dig deeper into the causes of crime.
Why? Because routine activity (and its crime triangle progeny) is one of those crime and place theories.
RA is less a causal theory explaining why and more a descriptive symbol predicting when, where or how. It ignores why someone becomes motivated in the first place. RA assumes an endless supply of motivated offenders. They are motivated for some reason; we just don't know why. The only "explanation" of motive falls back to rational choice theory.
Rational choice assumes offenders are rational actors who weigh risks against rewards. From the window of RA (and the crime triangle), crime looks like a "normal" condition of life.
True, some criminal behavior is “normal” in the sense that as events, products, and social affairs change, so too do crime opportunities. But as a causal theory, that’s rather trifling. It’s a bit like saying with enough water, sun and moderate temperature, certain environmental conditions will produce rain.
Then again some criminal behavior is not normal at all and RA just doesn’t work. Consider the story of the Connecticut mass murder in the news today.
As the NY Times says, this is “the latest in a series of American workplace tragedies”. It is a sad story about a workplace shooter who killed numerous workmates and then himself. He may have snapped from perceived workplace injustice. Perhaps he was clouded in a drug stupor. Maybe he was insane.
Routine activity theory might suggest how to remove opportunity for future incidents like this. That is a good start. Baby steps.
But RA theory will never actually know why because it will never ask. In cases such as this, the risk and reward assumptions of crime-and-place theories look rather silly. What does a suicidal shooter “risk”? What “reward” was this shooter gaining? Vengeance? (If so, we’re back to motive.)
WHAT CAN THE TRIANGLE DO?
What will the crime triangle tell us in cases like this?
1. Capable guardians - cameras, plentiful supervision, and so forth. Unfortunately this shooting occurred at shift change when there were lots of employees and supervisors about. As for CCTV, how often do we watch nighttime news clips of robbery/shootings on corner-store CCTV? Cameras don’t stop shootings.
2. The time/workplace environment – preventing guns in the workplace. Will metal detectors work? Perhaps, but how difficult is it for shooters to become bombers. What then? Bomb sniffing dogs? At some point Orwellian paranoia replaces civility. Where do we stop? Body cavity searches?
3. The offender – modus operandi (not motive. Remember, RA is motive-neutered). The crime triangle asks if "handlers" like armed security might have intervened (that actually might have helped). Or maybe we could have prevented the shooter from getting guns in the first place? Others can argue 2nd Amendment rights. I won't bother here.
Crime triangle questions just don't do it. Instead, we must also ask this: Why did the shooter shoot? What can we learn about motive to prevent such tragic events in future?
The crime triangle is a useful and elegant baby step. I like it and I use it. But it is veneer. It is short term. It is not enough.
Our analysis of neighborhood crime must include a more robust analytical dialogue. If our analysis does not encompass action to move social life forward, it is not robust. Ultimately, if our theory fails to include motive, we are cluttering our dialogue with junk and the analysis of junk.
How many times have you turned on TV news and watched security camera images of crooks robbing a convenience store? Or CCTV images of street violence broadcast on the evening news? Security cameras have been with us for many decades, usually inside buildings and vulnerable underground parking lots.
Ever since the UK installed thousands of cameras on public streets a decade ago debate has raged whether they prevent crime or infringe on our privacy. Or both. Offical eyes watching our every move!
Since the early 1990s the UK has led the way. Today over a half million cameras have watched public places all around London. This is the so-called ring of steel. Orwell would roll over!
Obviously we cannot consider city safety until we look at the issue of CCTV in public places. Does it work? Are there better answers?
The most authoritative voices I have found are David Farrington and Brandon Welsh. Most of their UK research shows conflicting results. Half the time public CCTV can have a positive (but small) impact. The other half the time, no impact at all.
Read the Farrington study
Later they report street lighting has equal crime prevention impact to cameras in downtown areas, but these effects were greater in the UK than in North America.
Read the Camera vs Lighting research
This is all music to the ears of those practicing Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design - CPTED. The CPTED folks have said for years building a livable and vital downtown, where a wide range of people spend their leisure evening hours, is the best way to improve the natural visibility.
I remember when public cameras were installed in in Sudbury, Canada over a decade ago following some downtown bank robberies. I recently read a Washington Post article on a similar trend in US cities
Read the Washington Post article
None of which answers the questions: Does CCTV really work to prevent crime downtown? Are there better ways to prevent crime?
One thing we know for sure:
Every time we watch a robber or street violence on CCTV, the crime is already underway. Cameras might help police catch bad guys later. But those cameras did nothing to prevent crime in the first place.
If they did, we wouldn't be watching them on TV!