Wow, what a week its been. I had a few ideas for this week’s blog, but it feels negligent not to write about what is affecting all of our communities right now. And that is COVID-19.
We are in an unprecedented time for this generation. The world is shutting down and a highly contagious flu is spreading like wildfire across our increasingly connected world. Indeed, we are witnessing a global pandemic.
Here in Australia, universities are closing their doors and classes are going online. Residents are being encouraged to stay home and avoid social gatherings. Many are panic-buying toilet paper and other necessities, leaving shelves totally empty. Grocery store chains are being forced to limit the purchase of numerous items.
More importantly, and almost completely against our ethos at SafeGrowth, people are being told to socially distance themselves from others. Major public health authorities are encouraging people to work from home (if they can), stay home if they feel sick at all and avoid large social gatherings to “flatten the curve.”
And this is the right advice. For highly contagious viruses like COVID-19, the risk of exposure is huge for people who are older, have weakened immune systems, respiratory issues, or other preconditions. Social distancing will reduce the demand on already over-burdened hospitals and their staff who, like Italy, will quickly run out of treatment facilities.
But, as we know, social distancing is not an option for many of our fellow SafeGrowth communities, who do not have access to paid sick leave or are living from paycheck to paycheck and have to work to survive. Never have these issues seemed more pressing.
Furthermore, social distancing can also lead to social isolation. By staying home and away from others, we can feel disconnected and lonely. And while social distancing is an important part of protection from viruses, as we know from research, social isolation isn’t good for our health. Just yesterday I received a message from one of my close friends at home. She has been instructed to work from home and is already feeling alone and isolated.
PARADISE BUILT IN HELL
What do we do? Well, we have many accounts of what humans do in disaster to help guide us. Eric Klinenberg’s book Heat Wave details how older women survived one of the worst heat waves in Chicago in 1995. They called each other. Every day, they sat is tubs full of water or under air conditioning or fans and called to check in on each other and stay connected.
Rebecca Solnit’s book Paradise Built in Hell, reminds us throughout human history, in disaster situations, humans engage in incredible acts of altruism. They donate more, set up relief shelters, check on their neighbours and prepare meals for those who can’t.
In this time of uncertainty, instability, and fear, we encourage our fellow SafeGrowth community to reach out and check in with each other (phone, skype, facetime, letters!) and share those extra items you may have bought with those who may be struggling.
Most importantly, be kind to one another and don’t forget to wash your hands!
by Mateja Mihinjac
In the previous blog, I presented the extent of vacant storefronts. This blog looks at how they impact crime and fear, and proposes some possible measures that could be implemented to tackle the problem.
Vacant storefronts may impact safety and perception of safety in two major ways. First, vacancies signify lack of ownership over the stores, especially if defaced, and can become crime generators or areas that trigger undesirable street behaviours.
This can be especially problematic if the number of vacancies within a defined area reaches its tipping point and becomes blighted, the concept from the Second Generation CPTED.
Second, decreased street usage from vacant storefronts impacts perceptions of safety. Street users are strongly influenced by others around them that they perceive as non-threatening. This is why streets that focus on pedestrians and entice them with active storefronts and street vendors increase street activity and make the users feel safer.
Thus, if parts of the city communicate isolation or activities by undesirable groups, they will cease to be a place the general population visits, or visits only for a limited time.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
There are three main categories of possible responses: urban planning; economic development; rent and regulations.
LAND USE PLANNING
COMMERCE AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
RENT AND REGULATIONS
Any initiatives targeted at boosting business and providing incentives for business owners and shoppers are futile if safety concerns are not addressed.
I disagree with the perspective that urban regeneration should start only when crime drops. Waiting for problems to arise only perpetuates the vicious cycle of crime while citizens stay away from downtown areas. When that occurs, shop owners are left with few options except to purchase expensive and obstructive security measures. This is why safety is an integral part of successful and liveable neighborhoods.
Despite claims to the contrary, reclaiming livability from neighborhoods with entrenched crime and blight is much more difficult and costly than preventing it in the first place. Integrating land uses, zoning, economic activity, regulations and rents, in collaboration with local stakeholders, is the key to livable active streets and what we now call Third Generation CPTED.
by Mateja Mihinjac
Local shops and offices that occupy storefronts of downtown and suburban streets inject life into those places. Without them, these areas would not attract local residents or visitors and that would leave downtown areas barren and vulnerable to crime. Vacant storefronts communicate messages to passers-by such as an economic downturn, unsafe conditions, or a lack of care. These were some of the responses shared by the participants in a field study I conducted last year.
THE EXTENT OF THE PROBLEM
While an increase in storefront vacancies appears almost universal across western countries, the extent of the problem varies between countries, cities and even within the neighborhoods:
Some cities, such as Melbourne, have experienced reductions in their downtown vacant rates but have observed more issues with suburban areas. A scan across 11 suburban retail strips uncovered a vacancy rate of 8.4% with the highest at nearly 17%.
Given a commonly cited 5% “acceptable” vacancy rate, it is not surprising that vacant shopping corridors are a growing worry of commercial experts, CPTED practitioners, and criminologists who study such matters.
REASONS BEHIND VACANCIES
Vacancies are not uniformly distributed across cities and suburbs for a number of reasons. Some include:
Other possible reasons for vacancies include rezoning, gentrification and shifting consumer preferences. Ultimately, vacant storefronts not only influence the economy, but they influence safety and social life. In short, when vacancies arise, conditions also arise for street crime and worsening fear.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
In our Third Generation CPTED article last year, we pinpoint the importance of social, economic, and environmental sustainability as protective factors against neighbourhood decline. Active local shops and robust local economies are paramount for a decent quality of life. This is a core principle of our vision of liveable 21st Century cities.
The next blog will explore how vacant storefronts impact crime and possible solutions for addressing them.
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 Gregory Saville
Today I write about my friend and mentor, retired University of Wisconsin Law School Professor Herman Goldstein. Today, Herman Goldstein died at home. He was 89.
When I first met Herman 25 years ago, I was impressed by how he so seamlessly dissected arguments, one logical piece after the other, and reconstituted them into a much clearer picture. He did this in his scholarship and, when I asked him personal advice, he did the same. It was a clarity I found refreshing in an academic world rife with politics and insecurities. He helped steer me through a sea of misdirection. It was that kind of clarity that led to him winning the Stockholm Prize, criminology's Nobel, in 2018.
A CAREER ASKING QUESTIONS
Herman’s career goes back to the foundations of modern police reform. In the late 1950s he was a staff investigator for the American Bar Foundation’s 10 year study of criminal justice, where he began riding with and observing police officers. It led to the earliest-known reflections about the nature of police discretion, a seminal finding that influences policing today. In the 1960s he worked on the President’s Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice and in the 1970s, the New York City Knapp Commission on Police Corruption, following the Serpico scandals.
Few were more central, and influential, in writing about the police than Herman Goldstein. However, in my mind the single most formative idea by Herman – and one that resonates today more than ever – emerged from his 1977 book Policing a Free Society:
“The strength of a democracy and the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens are determined in large measure by the ability of the police to discharge their duties.”
How many other policing scholars have the insight to study the reality of street policing and discover that a healthy democracy lies in the quality of our police?
In 1979, and then in 1990, he wrote about Problem-Oriented Policing (POP) as path to a safer community and a new relationship between police and community. It has dozens of guidebooks, annual conferences, and publications, coordinated today by the Center for Problem-Oriented Policing directed by Mike Scott.
I recently read Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces and Vitale’s The End of Policing. These authors offer salient points about the inherent flaws in policing, but they miss one essential message – they say nothing about what policing does right. They ignored decades of problem-oriented policing that has cut crime and bonded neighborhoods and their cops. They provided not a single reference or hint that problem-oriented policing even existed!
That is irresponsible writing. If they had done their homework, they would know, as Mike Scott once wrote, “that police accountability is intricately linked to society’s understanding of the police function.”
THE BEST IDEA AROUND
Thirty years after the publication of Herman’s Problem-Oriented Policing, and in spite of the persistent crashing of one trend-wave after another, the POP model still floats atop the ocean of police reform movements. There is simply nothing quite like it and I’m stunned when I teach police academy instructors, field training officers, or police leaders, and they know very little about POP. Shame on them! For goodness sake, get a little Goldstein in your life and wake up!
One elegant message that Herman taught me – and that all crime prevention and policing people should learn – is that if you want to make things better, look to where things are done better.
Problem-Oriented Policing is such a place. Herman Goldstein was the thought-leader who created it. It’s now up to courageous leaders to make problem-oriented policing happen beyond the piecemeal lip service we see today, hidden behind the armored personnel carriers, night vision goggles, and predictive algorithms.
Herman Goldstein showed us how to make policing better. We owe him a debt. I know I certainly do.
by Gregory Saville
It’s useful to learn from history because – as Santayana said in The Life of Reason – those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. Or, in some cases, maybe they are wise to repeat it! Sadly, when it comes to crime, it often seems amnesia afflicts those tasked with preventing it.
Consider the case of Britain’s National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal (NSNR) in 2001, a holistic approach for fixing troubled neighborhoods! This program had multiple threads with a long-term goal to rebuild what criminologists now call collective efficacy, what we call SafeGrowth.
In the 1990s crime in countries throughout the developed world was declining, with the exception of homicide in Britain. Criminologists prefer tracking homicide statistics since those data are among the most accurate. And in the late 1990s and early 2000s, homicide in the UK was bucking the trend elsewhere and was going up for reasons poorly understood.
WHY WAS UK MURDER INCREASING?
One theory is that social conditions and economic problems in deprived areas are at the root of the crime tree, hence tackling neighborhood structure should make a difference since most homicide incidents occurred in troubled neighborhoods. Crime has always festered in such troubled places; it’s the reason we locate SafeGrowth directly within neighborhoods.
Then, a few years into the leadership of Britain’s former PM Tony Blair, the government launched a neighborhood program called: National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal: A Framework for Consultation. At the time it was a very big deal! This was in the heady days before the Global Recession of 2008 and long before Brexit.
The NSNR dealt with unemployment, housing, education and crime, and it was aimed at local, neighborhood-level strategies. A few years later the government evaluated the program and asked: Did the NSNR schemes revitalize neighborhoods? Did it work?
The evaluation reads like a master class on failed implementation: Neighborhoods were not targeted properly, implementation was spotty, and some violent crime increased! Community empowerment was promised, but too often top-down planning resulted. So much for government-run programming!
And yet a strange thing happened: preliminary results were mostly positive!
The headline findings of the evaluation are that during the lifespan of NSNR there has been some narrowing of the gap between the most deprived neighbourhoods and the rest of the country...the most deprived neighbourhoods are doing better than they were! (NSNR Evaluation)
Now, almost two decades later, another remarkable trend showed up: In the decade following that evaluation, the persistent British homicide rates changed direction and began a rapid decline! Was the NSNR directly responsible? Hard to say, but it’s difficult to rule out. The homicide charts seem to indicate it was at least partly responsible.
This is a history worth remembering. And it's a history we've written about before in this blog, such as the Chicago Area Projects of the 1940s, re-evaluated in the 1980s, still preventing crime today and still underfunded in that suffering city.
Capacity-building embedded directly within troubled neighborhoods, supported and resourced by the city, informed by community development practices, employing the latest in CPTED, SafeGrowth, and prevention science. Let’s repeat that history!
by Martin Andresen
GUEST BLOG: Martin Andresen is associate professor at the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia. He is Chair of the Crime and Place Working Group at the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy and an associate editor at the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. Martin recently joined the SafeGrowth Network and offers this guest blog, our first blog of the new decade.
Over the last several years there has been a lot of debate about the link between immigration and crime. Do immigrants commit crime? Yes, but so do a lot of people! This is not the right question to ask because what really matters is: Do immigrants commit more crimes than those born in the country? With so much news linking immigration to crime, it is not a surprise that many people believe that it is true. But is it?
Research over the past 20-30 years provides a definitive answer – No!
In fact, research often demonstrates that immigrant populations commit fewer crimes. If this is the case, why does the myth persist?
IMMIGRATION A CENTURY AGO
At the turn of the 20th century, most immigrants to North America were poor or had very few resources. They moved into poorer areas of cities, areas with higher rates of crime. Criminologists Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay wrote about this phenomenon decades ago in one of the most famous studies in criminology: Juvenile Delinquency and Urban Areas.
Shaw and McKay found that when immigrants had the means to move into better (more stable) neighbourhoods, they also committed less crime. As such, immigrants changed their behaviour based on where they lived: it wasn’t that people (the immigrants) were related to crime, it was that places tended to produce crime.
ARE IMMIGRANTS CRIME-PRONE?
Recent studies also show that immigrant populations are no more prone to crime than those who are born in the country. Some researchers suggest that there are two explanations for this: immigrant revitalization and ethnic enclaves.
Immigrant revitalization refers to immigrant populations moving into those same poorer areas described above. Ethnic enclaves are places with concentrations of immigrant populations from the same region of the world who shared a common set of language and culture – immigrant groups have been doing this for over 100 years. Rather than moving out of those areas, these populations are revitalizing them, making them places where people want to live. Most immigrants move to a new country for a better life and often create better places as a result.
What is really going on with immigration and crime? As immigrants move into an area, they develop relationships with people and attachment to places. Over time, these areas become neighbourhoods. And once people come together to build something, why would they partake in activities to destroy it?
by Mateja Mihinjac
As we enter a new decade, I can’t help but wonder: How might my work and the work of other safety and crime prevention professionals be affected as temperatures continue to rise and weather conditions become even more extreme?
I am fortunate to have lived and worked in various countries, including Australia and Canada. People often associate the first with hot weather and beaches and the latter with cold winters and snow. This is especially true at this time of year when large parts of Australia are experiencing extremely high temperatures and devastating fires while Canada may be bracing for the next polar vortex this winter.
Are these two countries, on the opposite sides of the globe, struggling with contrasting environmental conditions that relate directly to contrasting crime and safety concerns?
There is long-standing research on violence and the thermal environment, or what is sometimes called the seasonality of crime. It reminded me of research I came across a few years ago about the possible association between temperature and crime.
That research found a correlation between warmer weather and various forms of crime and incidents and attributed this to an increase in outdoor activities during warmer days. The researchers of this study in Philadelphia also suggested that extreme temperatures, especially extremely cold, have the opposite effect as people are discouraged to go outdoors.
However, there is Canadian research contradicting that view and suggesting violence can also increase at the opposite end of the thermal scale.
One 1995 study in Canada’s Arctic Nunavut Territory reported that violence rates among the Inuit in the north were far higher in Baffin Island villages (most of which are above the Arctic Circle) than those in the warmer cities over a thousand miles (2,000 kilometers) to the south.
THERMAL EXTREMES AND VIOLENCE
While the Arctic study is explained through cultural and sociological causes, the Philadelphia study falls into a group of opportunity-theories that suggest comfortable weather conditions at any time of the year (warm gentle summers, balmy winters) are associated with the increased number of people outdoors resulting in increased concentration of both targets and potential offenders.
Other studies suggest the rise in alcohol consumption during the hot months of the year contributes more to murders and sexual assault, as well as other crimes such as road rage. This is especially a problem where temperature variations are large. Therefore, in these instances, it appears extremes in high temperatures or mango madness might be behind violent and aggressive behavior.
The homicide data in the State of Queensland, Australia for the past 22 years show a somewhat increased homicide rate during the hottest months of the year: December and January. This association was especially strong for the tropical north where temperatures are most extreme.
A NEW PATTERN EMERGES
However, when the data were examined for the Brisbane City police division for both homicide and all crimes respectively, they found no identifiable monthly patterns. This suggests that while temperature conditions may be part of the crime puzzle, we cannot draw conclusions about crime based on this single variable.
Perhaps thermal effects on violence apply to both high and low-temperature extremes, as the Canadian research suggests? It seems that the opportunity-theory does not always explain why some places are less safe than others, especially in relation to temperature.
This has been our experience during SafeGrowth programming in neighborhoods throughout the world. Even with extreme temperatures, healthy and vibrant neighborhoods with plenty of pro-social opportunities tend to be safer. Could it be that, whatever temperature extremes a community suffers, opportunities for pro-social behavior are a powerful prescription for building healthy communities with fewer crime opportunities?
THOUGHTS FOR THE NEXT DECADE
In 2014, Harvard trained economist and statistician Matthew Ranson made a bold prediction:
"Between 2010 and 2099, climate change will cause an additional 22,000 murders, 180,000 cases of rape, 1.2 million aggravated assaults, 2.3 million simple assaults, 260,000 robberies, 1.3 million burglaries, 2.2 million cases of larceny, and 580,000 cases of vehicle theft in the United States."
Sobering words as we begin a new year!
And yet, as we have seen over the past few years, there are solutions at hand if we choose to adopt them. Collectively we can find effective answers to both halt the progression of global warming and to address community safety challenges that may be associated with the temperature effect.
by Gregory Saville
As the year ends, I’m remembering the air of electricity and innovation emerging at the Helsingborg 22, Smart City Summit in Sweden that I attended in November. It was a remarkable event! It triggered a thought that sticks in my mind…
By 2030 over 60% of the entire world will live in urban centers. Most of the leading industrial countries of the world are already predominantly urban: over 80% urban in the U.S., Canada, Australia, UK, Chile, Sweden, South Korea, Mexico, and Brazil.
It’s similar in India, that historically so-rural subcontinent of villages and farms. A decade ago, I recall listening to India’s Minister for External Affairs describe the rapid urbanization of his country, a billion-person behemoth soon to top China as the most populous country on the planet. Today it has some of the world’s largest cities.
We’ve also seen the eruption of the megalopolis – the megacity once prophesized in Sci-Fi fare. The latest UN statistics now say it’s real:
SMART CITY IN SWEDEN – THE ANTIDOTE?
This brought to mind the H22 Smart City Summit. Unlike the Smart Growth planning program, the Smart City movement is of much more recent vintage. It talks of artificial intelligence, how Internet-of-Things data devices might better manage transport, power, water supply, schools, hospitals, utilities, and even crime. It proposes a new age of connectedness and livability.
Just imagine… no garbage trucks, massive cuts in energy use, increased quality of life, smart LED street lights with sensors to watch street conditions, faster routing for self-driving cars, smart drone shopping that avoids parking lots, automatic air pollution elimination, faster emergency response for medical and fire emergencies, and so forth.
Helsingborg is taking a close look at all this. It is spending time and money to test new Smart City ideas and it plans to take neighborhood quality of life, urban planning, and urban governance to a new level. In 2022 it will show the world in the H22 Exposition.
In November, I joined Ifeoma Ebo from the New York Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, to present our work on SafeGrowth and CPTED in 15 high-crime New York public housing projects. The approach of our talented SafeGrowth team members was decidedly low-tech with plenty of community involvement. Summit participants seemed to see a link in our project to Smart Cities of the future.
Some think Smart Cities are a utopian dream that will destroy democracy.
Maybe that’s true! When we wrote about Smart Cities in our SafeGrowth book last year, the last chapter, A Vision for the Future, described one vision – except that was a dystopian, not utopian, vision.
I’ve also blogged here about another Smart City innovation – computer algorithms that try to predict crime, the so-called predictive policing. Since then, I’ve followed it in two cities that tried, and abandoned, predictive policing - one in California and another in my own home city. It seems we have a very long way to go.
Either way, Smart City concepts deserve careful monitoring and thinking. And given the explosive rate of urban growth around the world, we might have no better choice but to get the Smart City idea right. Helsingborg's H22 Smart City movement gives us a chance to do just that.
by Gregory Saville
How do you know if someone knows what they are talking about or whether they are just making stuff up? If an unqualified plumber hooks up your toilet improperly, you’ll know real quick they are not qualified. Ewww. Please…no more leaky toilets!
What about a practitioner in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design? CPTED has been around for 48 years and there have been many strategies practiced around the world. Do CPTED practitioners know that history and what strategies work best? In the past 23 years hundreds of case studies and presentations have been delivered at the International CPTED Association (ICA) conferences. Do practitioners know that work?
A few years ago, I gave evidence as a CPTED expert in court cases involving homicide and gang shootings. The lawyers asked me to carefully present my credentials. To help courts in the future, I later published “The evolution of spatial forensics into forensic architecture: Applying CPTED and criminal target selection” which outlined some legal criteria for CPTED evidence in court.
But what about CPTED consulting? How do you know if someone has basic CPTED competencies? What about “certification”?
What is certification? In some places, it is called professional designation or trade certification. You can be certified in anything from Pilates to architecture – though the differences are vast.
Certification means a practitioner has a level of knowledge and expertise in a particular field. It cannot be offered by an individual consultant or a private company (even if that company calls itself a “certifying organization”), since that is hardly a credible or unbiased source. Instead, it means that a person has obtained some formal, third-party acknowledgement of competency. For many years, that was a problem in CPTED. There were no third-party organizations to certify anyone, not until the growth of the International CPTED Association.
As Josh Brown, the former Chair of the ICA certification committee described years ago:
“Certification also serves to lock out charlatans claiming to be trained or certified by merely attending a course or taking a test.Unfortunately, crime prevention practitioners just learning about CPTED may feel the bar raised a bit too far. Certification in the field of one's choosing is a way of indicating to yourself that you have arrived”
Some confuse certification with a professional “license” – such as a license to practice medicine. Governments are responsible for licenses whereas, as Wikipedia states, “certifications are usually awarded by professional societies or educational institutes.”
This month the International CPTED Association launched its latest program, the CPTED Course Accreditation Program (CAP).
It is a program designed to allow CPTED curricula writers and trainers to submit their programs to ensure they teach and evaluate 11 core CPTED competencies within their course. This program follows the original CPTED Certified Practitioner (ICCP) program for individual practitioners 15 years ago.
The reason the International CPTED Association chose to launch certification programs is that, unlike engineering or urban planning, CPTED is not a formally recognized profession. While it does have scientific evidence that supports its foundations, much of that evidence emerges from academic criminology and it is not yet quite scientific, despite claims to the contrary. That is why an independent group of third-party, experienced experts in practical CPTED represented the ideal place to start the process of professionalization.
FIRST OF A KIND
The ICA represents the first, and only, international association of practitioners, professionals, and academics dedicated to the advancement of CPTED around the world. Fifteen years ago a few dozen leading CPTED experts spent a few years crafting the parameters of what certification in CPTED actually means. That was the first major step forward.
The launch of CAP in the past month is the next big step. It’s not yet a “license” to practice since only a government can legislate professional licenses through law. But since CPTED is not yet a full profession, that isn’t realistic anyway at this point.
Today, anyone can claim CPTED expertise after a few days of training. The ICA certification programs now lay some firm groundwork for minimal standards that the public should expect when they ask for CPTED advice. It’s a giant leap forward. No more leaky toilets, please!
by Tarah Hodgkinson
5:15am – SLAM! CRASH! BANG! That is how I wake up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning. Three days a week, when the garbage and recycling truck comes to empty the bins below my second-floor window. It’s been three times a week for 5 months now. They start at the ungodly hour of 5:15am. Always waking me up.
The first time I heard it I nearly jumped through the wall. When I first moved into one of the units of the six-story apartment, I was told that the truck came twice a week.
I know I sound like I’m complaining. You might suggest I go back to sleep after they are done (not possible), or that I close my window (I do) or I turn on the AC and blast a fan and wear earplugs (check, check, check). You might say “calm down, you chose to live in the city” (try using public transit outside of a city).
But noise pollution (excessive noise caused by machines, transport and other humans) has a harmful impact on humans and animals. Numerous studies have examined the effect of increased noise levels on health. Noise pollution has been found to affect the nervous and endocrine systems and can cause numerous health issues from anxiety and heart disease.
Most importantly, it disrupts sleep, which can be a catalyst for all of these health issues, as well as low birth weights for pregnant women. Additionally, sleep disruption caused by noise pollution can also reduce focus and harm productivity.
NOISE AND CPTED
As Mateja and Greg described in their recent blog introducing 3rd Generation CPTED, there is more to neighborhood livability than fear and crime. Noise pollution and its impact on public health is part of 3rd Generation CPTED because of its critical role in creating successful, peaceful neighborhoods.
While crime and noise have very different consequences, both fear of crime and noise pollution impact neighborhood livability. If people do not feel comfortable in public areas due to noise, they will not spend time there. It’s difficult to get legitimate “eyes on the street” (1st Generation CPTED calls it natural surveillance) when residents are hostile towards their streets.
Fortunately, communities all over the world are starting to pay attention to noise pollution. New technologies are helping to better discern the impacts of noise pollution, and laws and regulations already in place are beginning to expand. In fact, organizations like Noise Free, have made it their mission to reduce noise pollution as part of a larger public health mandate.
However, many suggestions for responding to noise pollution are individually focused on encouraging the consumer to buy expensive noise-cancelling headphones, rearranging their furniture in their house or purchase other muffling agents.
Even more extreme, some suggest that people just move. But moving to a quieter neighborhood is not an option for most people, in particular, because noise pollution tends to be worse in poorer neighborhoods.
Not surprisingly, those poor neighborhoods are often where crime and fear flourish and where we end up working to introduce SafeGrowth.
There have to be better local solutions to reduce these risks and protect those most affected. Planners and developers already use highway barriers to reduce loud traffic, but this is not enough. For example, one solution might be educating policymakers on how to create local noise mitigation legislation, especially the sleep-interrupting version. It might be possible to better notify (and enforce) noise violators, improve tree coverage that can block noise, or create “no horn zones”.
Creating safe and livable neighborhoods isn’t just about reducing crime, its also about ensuring that city designers and decision-makers, and residents themselves, treat all neighborhoods fairly and ensure all forms of health and well-being are part of the 21st Century neighborhood.
by Gregory Saville
Tick tock…the clock is ticking.
I recently watched 16-year old Greta Thunberg glare at global leaders and chastise the United Nations for not doing enough about the Climate Crisis. Record numbers of wildfires burn around the world. Floods, hurricanes, and extreme weather dominate the news. And, says Greta, (and legions of scientists), because of climate deniers, Big Oil, and dallying politicians around the world, time is running out.
In truth, it isn’t from those living today that the Climate Crisis was born. It was born in the belching factories of the Industrial Age, weaned by a century of exploding (and irresponsible) population growth, and befriended by decades of poor environmental choices. Some of those poor environmental choices emerged in how we built cities – sprawl, acres of parking, carbon eating suburbs.
The result? Tax money spent on sprawl left the inner city vacant, sleepy, and blighted. Downtowns were vacated by shoppers looking for regional malls. The guts of the city were emptied into the box stores of the burbs. Studies about such development show that “living in a city can alter our brain’s architecture, making it more vulnerable to… social stress.”
So not only does pollution and smog harm our lungs and bodies, but neurophysical research suggests that poor urban living conditions negatively affect our brain biology, particularly the part that affects moods – the amygdala – such as anxiety disorders and mental conditions like schizophrenia.
However, while time runs out and Greta says we aren’t doing enough, it isn't true that we are doing nothing. Some innovations do break through.
FIGHTING BACK – H22 IN HELSINGBORG
This week I co-presented our SafeGrowth project work from New York at the H22 Summit in Helsingborg, Sweden, a conference on Smart City innovations and how they combat climate change. Delivered with my colleague Ifeoma Ebo from the New York City Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice, our message showed how tactics in SafeGrowth and community empowerment in high-density housing can humanize residential towers and reduce victimization. If we are to densify in the future, we must know how to do it well.
The conference was in preparation for the H22 Smart City Exposition in Helsingborg. Smart Cities is a concept to dramatically expand data networks and sensors into city operations and embed information and communication technologies via the IoT (Internet of Things) for more efficient use of resources. The idea is if city officials can interact better with residents and monitor city life, they can more efficiently improve infrastructure and services.
It is, in effect, a technical battle against inefficiency and climate change. In the past, I have been skeptical of some smart technologies in policing and crime prevention that have not seemed so smart. So I was curious how the European smart city movement – particularly this one in Sweden - differed from what I’ve seen thus far. I was not disappointed.
CONNECTING SMART GROWTH TO SMART CITIES
The earliest battle against the environmental crisis began in the 1960s with the counter-culture warriors, triggered by Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring on the insecticides poisoning our water.
Those early warriors grew into environmentalists who created, among other things, Smart Growth to confront sprawl and reimagine urban villages that offer more friendly places to live, and transit-oriented developments.
Smart Growth is another front in the climate battle. It’s an urban planning rebellion against ecological waste and carbon waste. For 20 years it has promoted new kinds of planning and zoning to improve the environment and create walkable streets. Sadly, most politicians are still ignorant of Smart Growth and few in the public have the slightest idea how it reduces sprawl thereby cutting pollution and carbon emissions.
In the 1990s I worked with a design team on one of the earliest Smart Growth projects in Vancouver – the Collingwood Village community near the Joyce/VanNess Skytrain Station. Touted today as one of Vancouver’s most successful neighborhoods, the Collingwood story has appeared in this blog. Twenty years later we now see how smart growth/transit-oriented development can last.
TICK TOCK – SPRAWL FLOURISHES
In spite of all this, anti-Smart Growth critics hope to turn back the nostalgia clock. They restrict multi-family units, spend billions on expressways, ignore efficient commuter trains, and they fight for low densities. Want proof? Look at the outer suburban rings of Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Sydney, Perth, etc.
I should know; I live in one! An unpleasant fact I learned the hard way is that owning or renting an affordable home requires a wide range of housing options and, in most larger cities in the developed world, those options are limited by decades of single-use zoning that encourages lower densities. Without more affordable choices, we are left with housing from existing housing stock - and that means suburbs.
There is much to be done, not the least of which remains convincing the business-as-usual crowd that, frankly, things have changed and time is running out. Greta is right. We must do better. Sooner!
By Mateja Mihinjac
I had a fairly happy childhood. The suburban village my parents adopted as a family home offered the necessary amenities - two small grocery stores, a bakery, fresh produce store, kindergarten, primary school and a small library. And they were all within a ten-minute walk. We also had a home garden, we could play on the street and I was surrounded by the green fields and nearby hills that became my beloved recreational spots.
Most importantly, this was a safe neighbourhood.
However, as I grew older, my needs and wants also increased. Village life no longer satisfied my yearning for exploration, learning, working and socialising, and the surroundings and facilities felt outdated and bland. It was as if time in the village had stopped.
THEORY OF HUMAN MOTIVATION
I later realized it was me who had outgrown the village. It continues to satisfy basic needs, but it hasn’t evolved. It has failed to adapt to the reality that, more than ever, humans strive for more than simply surviving and addressing our biological needs. We have higher-level psychological needs such as feelings of belonging, self-esteem and social connection. We have needs for personal growth and self-fulfilment. Abraham Maslow outlined this in the Theory of Human Motivation nearly 80 years ago.
Moreover, we crave a meaningful existence by being able to contribute to the experience of others. Maslow explained this highest level satisfaction in his later work using the term self-transcendence.
It should therefore not sound unusual or extraordinary for people to expect that their neighbourhood should offer a high quality of life by providing opportunities for realising those high-level needs.
THIRD GENERATION CPTED
This is the message that Greg Saville and I convey in our recently published article Third Generation CPTED.
The main premise of our new theory is that for the highest quality of life, a 21st Century neighbourhood should offer more than minimum services and necessities. Good transport, proper sanitation, a healthy environment, ample food, adequate shelter, and local safety are critical, but not enough. Recreation opportunities and social activities too are necessary, but they still don't reach the highest level of motivational satisfaction. So residents drive away and abandon their neighbourhood to find something they cannot locate nearby.
Applying the Neighbourhood Liveability Hierarchy we propose that residents should be able to strive for more advanced opportunities to satisfy their highest needs, while all the basic and modest provisions exist in every place. Such an advanced neighbourhood planned in a holistic and strategic way will help it evolve to support the needs of its inhabitants.
In SafeGrowth we offer the hub concept as an epicentre for such developments under the ownership of neighbourhood residents.
The main premise of the concept is participatory democracy and decision-making potential of the residents who would continually assess and address neighbourhood needs thus help it maintain a high quality of life.
Our SafeGrowth advocate and friend Carlos Gutierrez has recently also offered a view of networked community-driven hubs in the violence-stricken nation of Honduras. His story is remarkable because it showcases how community-driven neighbourhood hubs drive local progress and offer opportunities for high-level needs, which concurrently aim to address violence and promote safety.
NEIGHBOURHOODS OF THE FUTURE
As our basic needs are met, we must create places that allow us opportunities to grow towards higher-level needs and uncover innovative and exciting ways to satisfy them. If we can’t find those opportunities in our living environment, we will look elsewhere and alienate ourselves from our neighbourhood and its inhabitants in the process.
Unfortunately, so many amenities are concentrated in large downtown centres, or in huge, disconnected retail box stores surrounded by acres of parking, that they restrict the opportunities for satisfying high-level needs in suburban areas like the village of my youth. The suburbs become places that excel in basic services and residential use, but where opportunities for self-actualization and transcendence are rare.
Our neighbourhoods must respond to the needs of 21st Century lifestyles and they need opportunities for their inhabitants to flourish in local life and participate in meaningful neighbourhood decision-making. Perhaps then, as neighbourhood attachment grows, residents will enjoy their neighbourhood not only because it’s their living environment but also because it helps them fulfil their potential.
GUEST BLOG: Macarena Rau Vargas
Macarena is an architect from Chile and the President of the International CPTED Association. She has a Ph.D. in architecture and urbanism and has led urban safety projects all across Latin America and the Carribean. She currently heads PBL Consulting, is an associate consultant with AlterNation LLC, and has led the evolution of 2nd Generation CPTED throughout South America. As a citizen of Chile, Macarena and her fellow citizens have suffered weeks of violent protests on the streets of Santiago. In this guest blog, she has a message for policymakers and citizens alike - a message that resonates in other countries around the world.
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Rioters are burning factories, 11 people are dead, and over 10,000 police and troops are on the streets attempting to quell violent protests. These are times of social unrest in many countries and Chile is not immune. This very phenomenon was described in the first chapter of the SafeGrowth book: “We now see a resurgence of grassroots social movements calling for change… Do these increasing incidents of social unrest prophesize an impending future shock?”
In Santiago, it all started on October 18 when, as the result of a 4% Metro transit ticket hike, there was a spontaneous explosion of social discontent on the streets of Chile’s capital city. Even though wages in Chile have been slightly increasing and poverty falling, the rates of inequality remain high.
At this very moment, it is important to reflect and ask what will lead us to a sustainable social peace both during crisis scenarios like this and in everyday life in Chile and throughout Latin America? Is there a methodology that allows us to realize that social peace?
THREE POINTS FOR CHANGE
The first point to establish is that public security is not improvised; rather it is the methodical result of concerted public, private and citizen efforts. And those efforts must be sustained to be able to deal with crises like those we suffer today in Chile, and in other Latin American countries. Creating stable and sustainable public policies is not a simple matter – they must integrate and articulate many parts of community justice and safety: control, prevention, reintegration, and victim care actions.
The second point is that before the public explodes in a burst of social discontent, a government must have the tools and capacity to diagnose socio-environmental pathologies that destroy the quality of public life. It must know how to diagnose, with the help of citizens, the possible threats to public life, whether those threats are internal or external. Governments are not always complicit in the creation of social inequity – it often happens because they are unaware of the full implications of even the simplest social policy – like a fare hike in a transit ticket! Again, this brings us to the need for a methodology to guide us forward.
We know from 20 years of work with both 1st and 2nd Generation Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) that we now have such a methodology. In Latin America, we call this the CPTED® methodology and it offers a social diagnosis that is co-produced with local communities. A CPTED® methodology diagnosis is not similar to the surveys, polling, or social research that governments too frequently rely on for information (and as we see in Santiago, often with disastrous results). The CPTED® methodology allows the diagnosis to be rich, relevant and up-to-date; it captures the pulse of community members and their real needs.
Our experience has taught us the more hyper-focused the diagnostics, the better the solutions. For example, we know from international evidence that the proportion of those who trigger violence during peaceful protests (resulting in riots) are a minority – often an organized and concerted minority – compared to the mass of citizens they claim to represent. No doubt social unrest and frustration exist. But few public citizens want to harm people, to burn stores, or destroy property. Few want people killed.
What citizens actually want is a solution to inequity, poverty, and a decent quality of life.
The third point is that public security policies must be in concert with various members of the community, both institutionally and socially; that is why citizen dialogue is fundamental. Dialogue must involve the citizenry, the armed forces, government, universities, civil society organizations, the church, and many others.
THE BACKBONE OF PEACE
Citizenship is the backbone that links both the SafeGrowth planning method recently introduced in North America and the broad style of CPTED® that we have developed in Latin America. Both methods employ citizenship at our core because we recognize its importance in developing public policy. Citizenship and the involvement of the public empowers citizens! That is how we end up with sustainable policies and avoid crucial public policy mistakes.
Likewise, in crisis scenarios as we see today, we must avoid polarizing talk that fractures people apart from a common ground. As the city of Bogotá demonstrated in the 1980s with its "Garrote and Carrot" policies, the balance between hard enforcement control was combined with the comprehensive social actions of the citizenry. This eventually cut the homicide rate in half.
Achieving sustainable social peace for Chile is possible, but it requires methodical changes based on evidence in public policies. This crisis is a call to turn the national helm in another direction. We expect both the government and the citizens of this country to walk in that direction.
GUEST BLOG: Carlos Alfredo Gutiérrez Vera
Carlos is a Chilean architect/urban planner and a SafeGrowth Advocate residing in Honduras. He is a director of the International CPTED Association and one of the initiators of CPTED in Latin America. He has conducted CPTED throughout Central America and is co-author of the first Latin American CPTED manual. He works for a Consortium of three German companies (INBAS-SANIPLAN-SUM) giving Technical Assistance to the Honduran government with the Secretary for Community Development, Water and Sanitation, to implement the CONVIVIR program.
Freddy is a young man from the municipality of Siguatepeque in Honduras. His greatest passion is to practice bicycle motocross (BMX) on his bike, however he and his friends did not have a place to practice. For Freddy and his friends, this is not only a type of recreation, but it’s also a way to socialize and a way to avoid getting involved with illicit and dangerous activities.
Two years ago, Freddy found out a Community Hub Center was being built that would incorporate a space to practice BMX. The program was CONVIVIR, a social intervention initiative implemented by the Government of Honduras and German International Cooperation through the German Development Bank KfW, in alliance with the municipality of Siguatepeque.
CONVIVIR aims to improve living conditions for young people in Honduras living with violence, forced migration, teenage pregnancy, poverty among other problems. The Community Hub Project was called Center for the promotion of Quality of Life in Barrio el Carmen.
Excited by the idea of having a place with a BMX track, Freddy approached the municipality to see how he and other BMX practitioners could contribute. He was surprised to learn that the Hub would be built and managed by the community itself, using the PEC methodology (Projects Executed by the Community). It was an even bigger surprise that he and his friends could participate in the design of the BMX track and work as a team with a group of specialized designers.
In community meetings, Freddy and his friends came to see how CONVIVIR builds violence prevention through the recovery of public spaces, strengthening social and labor skills of young people. It accomplished that through the Center for Quality of Life using strategies like CPTED applied by the community itself.
During the planning process, Freddy was able to meet and interact with other members of the community and participate in actions that would carry out the construction of the project.
It was motivating for Freddy to know that the residents of Barrio San Juan will have access to training programs while promoting coexistence among neighbors. They will achieve a sense of belonging, be linked to democratic processes, and participate in decision-making for projects that benefit the community.
COMPLETION OF THE HUB
The Quality of Life Center in the San Juan neighborhood was finished in mid-2018. Now Freddy and his friends have a place to practice BMX and have also joined other community projects. They feel integrated into their neighborhood and have begun a process of personal growth through activities carried out on a regular basis.
The CONVIVIR Community Hubs have fulfilled their role as urban centers that promote and strengthen neighborhood construction projects. In recent years, the CONVIVIR Program has built 10 Community Hubs in three cities in Honduras; five in the city of Siguatepeque, three in the city of Gracias and two in the city of La Lima.
In each city, the Community Hubs work closely with the municipal government, thus creating a synergy between community and local government. Ideas and new community projects are born and then begin to link to other infrastructure projects.
The program has evolved into a neighborhood network linking projects in one Hub with other community infrastructure projects such as sports centers, youth houses, libraries, and urban walks, vocational training centers, and others also built by CONVIVIR.
This linking is now creating a network of interconnected hubs, in effect a practical example of the ecosystem of neighborhood hubs as described in SafeGrowth – and highlighted in chapters 4 and 5 of SafeGrowth: Building Neighborhoods of Safety and Livability.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
Once the sole institutions that controlled knowledge, universities must confront the reality that today's internet has made most knowledge accessible to anyone who looks online. And while universities are attempting to adapt to change, they are doing so poorly. Short of making more courses available online, most of the material continues to be something that could be easily found somewhere else and is leaving current and potential students wondering what is the point of going to university at all.
We have written about a better style of teaching in the university classroom in Canada. We spoke about how students, disheartened by their current learning structures, flourished when they were given the opportunity to take control over their own learning and address real-world problems.
I have since moved to Australia and started teaching at a large university here. If North Americans feel like the university system is decaying, Australia is watching it happen at warp speed. Instructors are not expected to change their courses every semester and are often given courses that someone else created. Most lectures are recorded and available online. Colleagues complain that fewer than 20 students attend lectures, despite over 200 students being enrolled. And a month ago, at the University of Melbourne, Professor Danny Hatters posted a photo of an empty lecture theatre.
It is easy to blame this on students these days. We say things like – “they don’t even realize how lucky they are!” “They are just lazy and addicted to their phones.” But this is not reality. I’ve been teaching at the university level for almost ten years. When I started as a teaching assistant, I was barely older than the students (in some cases they were much older than me). The students aren’t lazy, disinterested or unaware of their privilege. Rather, they realize that the current university system isn’t working.
This year, I had the opportunity to take over a third-year capstone course. My students were expected to take all of the learning they had gained over the past three years (assuming they showed up), apply it to a crime problem and then address neighbourhood safety.
The course was one of the few designed with problem-based learning principles in mind. The students were grouped by where they lived and spent twelve weeks addressing a problem in their neighbourhoods. At the end, they had created incredible prototypes that they presented to industry partners and faculty. Many of these presentations led to connections to applying their ideas more broadly.
SKILLS FOR THE FUTURE
More importantly, they learned the soft skills they need to work in the future. They were provided with tools to support teamwork, presentation skills, and emotional intelligence. They practiced these by managing a project with four other people over twelve weeks.
These skills are becoming ever more necessary in both the working world and in creating meaningful change in neighbourhoods, just as we teach in our professional SafeGrowth training. Emotional intelligence and teamwork skills are core to creating citizens of future neighbourhoods. These skills are what students need to be learning more than anything else.
Many instructors and programs are hesitant to include teamwork courses because students complain. And yes, the students did complain! But they also showed up EVERY WEEK. University is no longer about translating knowledge. It is about training students to be active and engaged citizens with emotional intelligence and teamwork skills to make meaningful change.
Students won’t always get what they want in the universities of the future, but if we pay attention to teamwork, real-life learning, and life skills, they just might get what they need.
by Gregory Saville
A few weeks ago we ran our SafeGrowth Summit just before the annual International CPTED Association conference. Both events were held at a sunny beach resort in beautiful Cancun, Mexico, and they were a study in contrasts.
The SafeGrowth Summit included an intimate group of a dozen SafeGrowth Advocates who ran informal workshops in person (and online) while the ICA conference featured over 500 delegates in formal presentations. Yet both events brought people from around the world and both were smashing successes.
This was the 6th SafeGrowth Summit comprising small, brainstorming sessions where those of us in the SafeGrowth network share successes and failures and also develop new strategies to move the concept forward. We reflected on project work this past year and examined the politics of change. We saw architectural renderings of neighborhood hubs designed by one of our Latin American members and we learned the results of a recent beta-test of our new GPS digitized field observation software.
There were inspiring accounts of the Philadelphia Livability Academies now underway and we discussed a new methodology to track our success after neighborhood projects. We talked, discussed, ate, swam, planned and, best of all, laughed.
The ICA conference followed immediately after at the same venue and produced the largest audience in ICA history. Over 500 delegates came to share successes and failures, but they focused their work on different versions of crime prevention through environmental design. While SafeGrowth uses both 1st and 2nd Generation CPTED, it does this through the lens of planning safer neighborhoods, community development, and social capacity-building.
The ICA conference featured the first-ever, commercial Expo, as well as case studies from cities around the world. Many of our SafeGrowth Advocates delivered presentations at the ICA conference. Best of all, two of our SafeGrowth Advocates, Mateja Mihinjac and Carlos Gutiérrez, won international achievement awards from the ICA.
Congratulations to all for great work to make neighborhood lives safer and more vibrant.
by Mateja Mihinjac
This summer, I led a team of eight city planners and set out to explore how the physical and social environment in downtown Saskatoon, Canada influences perceptions of personal safety. This was the first-ever micro-level, fear and safety project to use a specially tailored, digitized software app to map and analyse downtown safety in Canada. This is something geographers of crime and environmental psychologists have been studying for decades, but often without the precise measurements that we were about to uncover.
MEASURING PERCEPTIONS OF SAFETY
Perceptions of safety have been understudied in the field of criminology despite knowing that they may affect people’s use of the public realm more than actual crime. Moreover, from Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design - CPTED - we know that features on the streets, parks, and neighborhoods where we live may promote or reduce fear in that environment. Yet, we rarely measure this association.
As a criminologist specializing in SafeGrowth and CPTED, the City of Saskatoon planning department hired me for the summer of 2019 to develop and pilot this downtown project.
The first step included the development of the field data collection survey, a modified version of the Neighbourhood Safety Audit that incorporates the principles of CPTED. The survey was then digitized in a GPS location-based data collection app called Fulcrum, that allowed us to capture and record data with our mobile devices for use in subsequent analysis.
We formed two research teams of four participants from the Saskatoon Planning & Development Division. Each participant had undergone CPTED/SafeGrowth training and was knowledgeable about urban design and safety. Teams collected night and daytime data within the downtown area over 13 days.
Because we were interested in perceptions and fear at a very micro-level, the study area was confined to the blocks and laneways within a four block area. We used our new app to collect information from 108 micro-spatial locations within a radius of 30 meters (100 feet) of each location, and then we also collected 596 additional intercept surveys with members of the public on the street at the time.
Detailed fieldwork like this is laborious and time consuming, but teams were diligent and we were able to gain invaluable insights, in some cases uncovering findings about fear that were previously unknown.
What did we learn?
In our SafeGrowth training we often say: Once you learn CPTED you’ll never again look at the environment the same way. However, CPTED novices often forget that the environment encompasses both physical and social. This research provides evidence about the interplay between the physical and social environments on public perceptions. Clearly, physical and social CPTED strategies are equally important and must be part of all planning and prevention.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
When we think about crime, we tend to think about the city. We think about robberies, gangs and guns and we imagine dark alleys or vacant lots. We don’t tend to associate rural areas with crime. We often romanticize them as idyllic places where life is slower, people know their neighbors and crime is rare.
However, the data does not support these imaginings. In Canada, for example, with only two exceptions, the top 20 highest crime rate communities are all towns or small cities in rural areas.
Imagining crime beyond the city can be difficult. While the overall number of incidents are lower in rural areas, crime rates in rural Canada and Australia are often higher than their urban counterparts. In the U.S., although large urban cities like New Orleans, Atlanta, and Chicago compete for the title of crime capital, the States with the highest crime rates are among the most rural – Alaska, New Mexico and Nevada.
WHY IS CRIME RURAL?
Rural issues are different as well. The recent research reveals high rates of theft and violence, particularly domestic violence, impaired driving and the use of crystal methamphetamine. In areas of drought, water theft is a major problem.
Rural crime is intimately linked to changes that have affected rural communities such as a reduction in job opportunities, poverty, few opportunities for youth, and a lack of access to mental health and addiction treatment services. Additionally, many rural communities are ethnically homogenous, but rural policies often alienate indigenous populations.
Further, increases in immigration have led to increasing tensions and scapegoating onto these already marginalized groups. This is in spite of the reality that legitimate research on immigration and crime reveals that immigration leads to a decrease - or zero effect - on crime.
Rural crime also poses unique problems for prevention. For example, building local capacity in rural communities is much different than in urban areas. While rural areas account for approximately 17% of the population in North America, developing crime prevention strategies is no easy feat where distances are not walkable, services are difficult to access, and local stakeholders are few.
These problems are exacerbated when most research on the causes and solutions to crime comes from studies in urban areas. It is no small matter that CPTED was a product of large cities and none of the original writers spoke of rural areas.
Rural criminology is a new branch of criminology trying to better understand these issues. There is now a rural criminology division at the American Society of Criminology and a Centre for Rural Criminology at the University of New England in New South Wales, Australia. However, these groups are relatively new and their ideas are still emerging.
Only in recent years have we seen research emerging in the conferences of the International CPTED Association about crime prevention in rural areas.
At this point, there are no easy answers to preventing crime in rural communities. We have seen some success in smaller communities in Canada where SafeGrowth has been adopted wholeheartedly by local leaders, such as in North Battleford, Canada. However, as we gain a better understanding of the rural correlates of crime, we continue to adapt our methods and strategies to these new contexts - what SafeGrowth has always done.
by Gregory Saville
I just watched the latest TV reality cop show. There are now almost 50 such programs on television screens around the developed world, most jumping on the bandwagon of the successful Cops program from 1989 ("what you gonna do when they come for you"?).
To those of us living in the active-shooter-killing-field that is modern America, it’s tempting to see cop reality shows as, well…reality. This is especially so considering the horrific news of 32 innocents fatally shot by domestic white terrorists over the past week in Texas, Ohio and California. Cop reality shows must be real! Right?
But the truth about cop reality shows is quite different and to those working to reduce crime in the long term, they don’t do us any favors. Distortions of the truth are never the truth.
Reality shows have become to television what professional wrestling is to martial arts: entertaining, absurd, filled with predictable characters and laden with inevitable storylines. We all know it’s fake – or at least half-true – but it’s like when you see that copy of some trashy grocery store tabloid: you know Queen Elisabeth did not tell Prince Charles to dance naked holding a cup of tea in the lobby of Buckingham Palace. Yet it’s just gross and gratuitous enough to attract us in a comic-book fake way that we just can’t resist.
REALITY THAT ISN'T REAL
The cop version of those reality shows are the silliest. True, they show real people and the tragedies in their lives, but they show us only the worst moments. (To be fair, the higher quality shows state exactly that).
Unfortunately what they don’t state is that we see little of what led up to the events on screen and nothing whatsoever of what will happen afterward.
They show no dull driving on routine patrol. No waiting for calls. And certainly no paperwork – the common-place drudgery that occupies the real cop’s life and takes up far more time than the TV snippets on screen. In other words, reality shows present far less than the real story of real police work. They show a snapshot.
We don’t even get the before/after story about the officers whom the cameras follow. We know nothing of their life, the emotional impact of those calls on their families, or even what they do after their shift (where many of the real stories unfold). While the stories of the victims and suspects in the show might be an uninvited open book, the behind-the-scenes police stories are too personal and verboten to the producers. It is not that they should be included! It is more that because they are not, the real “reality” is hidden.
But these shows have a much more insidious impact on the crime prevention story.
Reality TV producers say nothing about the long-term crime and safety in the neighborhoods in their programs, because they don’t really care about that. Has life worsened for people in those places? The officers respond, arrest, and patrol and, while the impact of such strategies is clear to criminologists (they don’t work), that evidence isn’t part of their TV reality.
If the evidence was somehow included about the truth of crime in modern-day America (and many other developed countries), it would appear as it actually is - in a steep decline.
Cops reality shows reveal moments of tragedy and crisis because, frankly, that’s what brings viewers to advertisers.
That’s not reality. It’s commerce.
by Tarah Hodgkinson
Gender-neutral washrooms are popping up all over metropolitan areas, including universities, government buildings, community centers, and trendy cafes. Many of these washrooms existed long before they were labeled “gender-neutral.” They were simply single-use washroom facilities in places that didn’t have room for more than one washroom.
There has been a lot of concern over the last few years regarding gender-neutral washrooms. Are they more dangerous? Are they putting women and children at risk of potential predators? What does the research say and how we can move forward in making safe spaces for everyone?
We’ve written in this blog before about how bathrooms are a basic human right. However, for many non-binary and trans people, proposed anti-trans laws in the United States make a simple, human action a political and personal minefield.
WHAT THE RESEARCH SHOWS
The research doesn’t support the concerns around safety issues. Gender-neutral washrooms (or even washrooms that allow you to choose based on your self-identified gender) do not make bathrooms unsafe for women or children. Incidents are rare in the first place and have been found to be completely unrelated to legal decisions.
Second, gender-neutral washrooms improve safety for those who identify as trans or non-binary. These individuals suffer much higher rates of intimidation and harassment than the general population and, therefore, creating safe washrooms can improve safety for the trans population while not increasing risks for others.
Third, gender-neutral washrooms benefit more than the non-binary and trans community. These washrooms improve accessibility issues and reduce wait times for women since women spend slightly more time in the bathroom than men.
Women who attend large events, like a concert or the theatre, are acutely aware of the long lines for women’s washrooms. In fact, some sporting facilities have increased the number of washrooms for men, creating further disparities in access to washrooms for women.
Some might laugh off the problem of women’s washroom lines, but if you are dealing with an invisible disability or you are pregnant, the lack of easily accessible washrooms can lead to some major issues.
The fact is, from all the available research, concerns about safety and gender-neutral washrooms are not based on the empirical evidence. Instead, they appear based on the politics of exclusion! And even with all the available evidence, decisions about safety should not only be based only on research; they should also protect those who are the most marginalized and at-risk in our communities.
Sometimes that means just changing the sign on the door.
by Mateja Mihinjac
A couple of weeks ago a North American native man sat next to me while I was enjoying my lunch and observing the busy downtown street that had been pedestrianized during a special event in Saskatoon, Canada. I greeted him and asked how he was doing. This initial interaction led to a conversation I did not expect.
As we started chatting I soon learned he was homeless and unable to get back to his home on a First Nation’s Reserve, so he’s been sleeping in downtown streets. I offered him the rest of my lunch and a soda drink, which he accepted with gratitude.
Then he shared the words that touched my heart: “I’m just lonely.”
He explained that he often walks up and down the street to kill time, trying to get some money and just trying to survive. This day was no exception. He said he’s never seen this many people in this street, usually occupied with motor vehicles. Despite the business of the street, however, he felt lonely because he had no one to talk to. I felt honoured to have had a chance to make a connection with him and offer him what we often fail to show to street people: attention and respect.
It brought to mind two essential steps we have learned in SafeGrowth that underlie meaningful relationships and the ability to establish trust with those most vulnerable.
STEP ONE: ESTABLISH INITIAL CONNECTION
Years ago, psychologist Abraham Maslow described the importance of human connection and sense of belonging in the famous Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs.
As social beings we have an innate need to connect with fellow humans and, in its absence, we crave social contact. Even more, loneliness has been identified as a growing health and social concern that reduces longevity and quality of life.
Yet, especially in public places, we often ignore opportunities for social bridges or are afraid to establish the connection because we feel too vulnerable, are distrustful of “strangers”, or we fear or stigmatize them. Some people vilify groups or individuals whose lives and choices they poorly understand without offering an opportunity to get to know them.
Establishing a connection with a smile and hello can be a simple initial step to building meaningful relationships. Some think this can be misinterpreted, but in truth, it isn’t difficult to be straightforward and honest.
STEP TWO: BUILD MEANINGFUL RELATIONSHIPS
Meaningful relationships and human connectedness helped us survive in tribal communities and those same values can now help us survive and thrive in neighbourhood communities as well.
Our work in SafeGrowth hinges upon residents and local communities establishing trustful relationships and working together in common purpose - prerequisites for building the social glue for neighborhood problem-solving and change-making.
Having had a chance to live in different countries and meet people of various backgrounds I have learned to appreciate the importance of establishing connections with strangers. I make the effort to acknowledge, establish eye contact, smile or say hello to anyone I meet, regardless of their background or appearance.
Because of this I have been able to establish meaningful relationships in my personal and professional life, and am very fortunate to do so. I hope I will never have to say those three scary words: “I am lonely”. No one should.
by Gregory Saville
Some high crime neighborhoods seem to remain that way forever, like a horror film that won’t end. Grandparents in those places share flashbacks with their grandchildren about ‘the old days’ of gangs and guns, while their grandkids still face those same neighborhood profanities decades later!
There is a theory in criminology called ‘deviant places’ that goes something like this: High crime neighborhoods persist for decades regardless who, or what generation, lives there.
Yet the San Romanoway apartments in north Toronto, a place we revisited a few months ago, is living proof the deviant places theory needs rewriting. It should be called the ‘reclaimed places’ theory because, if you know the incredible success at the San Romanoway neighborhood, you’d know that those chanting ‘it will never change’ are wrong.
SAN ROMANOWAY - HISTORY OF CHANGE
Read the history of SafeGrowth and you will learn that in 1999, not long after we created 2nd Generation CPTED, Gerard Cleveland and myself were asked to work with an urban design and crime prevention team to review conditions at a high crime apartment complex in the infamous Toronto Jane/Finch corridor. This was the San Romanoway apartments, a story that I published a decade ago, and now consider an embryonic version of SafeGrowth.
Since those early years, plenty has happened at San Romanoway where 4,000 residents live in 3 huge apartment towers. Most significantly, the crime and violence that plagued that troubled community has subsided considerably. It hasn’t vanished – last year they had a homicide. But, as SRRA program manager Cathy McCulloch told us, that was a rare event. In fact, on whole, crime is down and livability is up. It's a far better place than what we found 15 years ago during interviews and surveys. San Romanoway is no longer a horror movie; it’s a coming-of-age film about turning night into day!
Credit goes to the residents and the local organizers who have done all the hard work to transform the neighborhood, especially the non-profit, San Romanoway Revitalization Association (SRRA) – a group that still chases funding dollars but, somehow, keeps many of the programs running. Sadly, it hasn’t kept them all running and it hasn’t been easy! They have faced financial cuts, labor disputes, and defunded programs. As one of Canada's most successful crime prevention and community-building projects ever accomplished, they still don't get nearly the funding they deserve!
In spite of it all, somehow, the SRRA persists and residents, along with leaders from the property owners, community leaders, and police, keep disproving the ‘deviant-places-never-change’ theory. As the photos from our site visit illustrate, places can change.
Toronto basketball fans just celebrated the 2019 national championship Toronto Raptors with a “We The North” chant. I’m reserving my chant for the supporters, leaders, and members of the SSRA. You are truly "We The North"! You rock!
by Tarah Hodgkinson
Oakridge Centre is an area rezoned for a new development in Vancouver, Canada, the largest in the city’s history. It promises advances in urban design and affordability, with numerous public amenities.
It will be a transit-oriented development with futuristic apartments complete with advanced home technology and custom furniture. It will contain shared spaces in each tower that assure a combination of “private life and common life to be a true community.”
The Centre has been receiving kudos for advancements in design, its focus on transit, mobility and accessibility. Oakridge Centre boasts it will have a mix of market and affordable housing, with 25% of its new housing developments allotted for social and non-market housing.
For a city that has been suffering a housing crisis for several years, this should be a huge improvement.
IS IT REALLY AFFORDABLE HOUSING?
Sounds great, doesn’t it? In a country where a quarter of all households spend more than 30% of their gross income on shelter and in a city where the average one-bedroom apartment requires a $84,000 yearly income, or about $2,100 a month - the current Vancouver median household income is $65,000 - obviously, there is a desperate need for affordable housing.
But what about affordability at Oakridge? How is it defined? The documents on Oakridge Centre do not offer a metric for “affordability.” They rarely offer any measure of cost or percentage of household income. However, to qualify for BC’s Housing Income Limits rates, household income can not exceed $41,500 for a bachelor suite, $48,000 for a one-bedroom, or $58,000 for a two bedroom.
As such, the competition for these units would be extraordinarily high and do little to address the current housing crisis in the city. For those who earn beyond the Housing Limit qualifiers, the market rates are untenable. Condo pricing starts at $800,000 and peaks at $5.5 million.
WHAT DOES “AFFORDABLE” ACTUALLY COST?
Assuming a 10% down-payment, the average person would need an income of $105,000 per year for the cheapest condo, over $30,000 more that the median household income in Vancouver in 2015. Considering figures like these, a review of the available material suggests that social housing is not integrated into the development at all.
Social integration is a large contributor to social capital and it helps the poor move out of poverty, but this example seems to pay little more than lip-service to affordable housing and diverse community-building. It caters to luxury clients while offering self-congratulations for exceeding city targets of 20%.
We have been writing about the housing and homelessness on this blog for several years. Cities and residents cannot continue to accept development that prides itself on offering a percentage of “affordable housing” while the other 75% is considered luxury and completely unaffordable to the average citizen. Affordability is more than just cheap rentals and social housing. It is a human right.
When the median household income is almost less than half of what is necessary to afford the cheapest unit in a new development, no amount of transit-oriented development, public amenities, or brilliant design will prevent financial desperation or homelessness. If Vancouver, and cities like it, want to build futuristic cities, they need to build cities for everyone.
by Mateja Mihinjac
The public bench has become an indispensable part of city life. It represents a primary seating option for taking a rest, conversing with a friend, having a coffee or a meeting, or simply observing the theatre of the street.
However, occasionally a bench is blamed for drug dealing, panhandling, loitering, vagrancy, or homelessness. This has led to calls for eradicating them or revamping them to reduce their attractiveness for prolonged occupation.
This knee-jerk reaction is not uncommon. We’ve written before about target-hardening approaches, hostile architecture and even vilifying the trees for crime problems and safety issues.
Criminalizing loitering, especially when perceived as acts of lower social class, is a common example that diminishes use of public space.
These simplistic decisions are often underthought, short-lived, and are notorious for dehumanizing particular groups of people.
The question of removing benches extends beyond the presence street furniture. It is also about civility, ethics and inclusion. This sentiment comes from our New Zealand SafeGrowth Advocate, Sue Ramsay, who argues that the public debate around city planning should not only evolve around walkability but also sitability. Consider, for example, the needs of the elderly and less able groups in public space.
BEYOND THE BENCH
In a bid to address undesirable uses cities should encourage positive uses of their downtowns if they don’t wish to surrender them to vilified groups. Installation of benches, in particular, is often part of downtown revitalization programs because they attract diverse users and communicate to them they are welcome to use public space.
Importantly, we should be aware that disorder and undesirable behaviors are a symptom of a social problem greater than design.
Before vilifying the bench, how about clearly understanding what underlies the problem and targeting collaborative programs that help? How about work programs and skills programs for those with nowhere to go but benches? How about revitalizing downtowns through festivals, activities, local shops and cafes that focus on desirable activities?
A public bench is the epitome of public life. It allows one to both socialize and be alone, yet remain connected to the social world around them. It is the symbol of access to communal outdoor spaces.