Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the shoulders of giants

Pruitt-Igoe, 1972 - Demolition of crime-ridden public housing triggered a rethink

CPTED is 40 this year.

Professor C. Ray Jeffery's book "CPTED" was published in 1971. Oscar Newman's "Defensible Space" in 1972. That's four decades of preventing crime. In an age before prevention was situational, crime was designed out, policing was intelligent or activities routine, CPTED led the way.

Of course Newman and Jeffery stood on the shoulders of giants. A decade earlier there was Jane Jacobs, Elizabeth Wood and Schlomo Angel. By 1971 Jacobs had already invented territoriality and eyes on the street. Wood had already written on the merits of lively diverse neighborhoods (and flower-growing contests to brighten them up).

All this...decades before the broken windows theory reinvented that wheel.


CPTED wasn't the first kid on the prevention block. Police have always done prevention (still do), most of it unevaluated, superficial and generic. None of it place-based or specific.

Scholars made contributions to prevention, especially 1930s sociologists like Robert Shaw at the University of Chicago who created the Chicago Area Project. (Still running, still successful.)

Giants also came from geography. From 1968 geographers began writing books on place-based crime. Led by Harries in the US, Scott in Australia, and Herbert in the UK, the geography of crime later became environmental criminology.

It probably didn't prevent much crime. But it added to our understanding and moved the place-is-important debate squarely into CPTED turf. Which brings us back to CPTED and its birthday. It's worth learning what the pioneers actually said.

Then I came across this rare, and oddly haunting, film of Oscar Newman speaking to the inaugural session of the United Nations Habitat conference in 1976 Vancouver.


Click here to view it.

A ghost from our past talking about our world today.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Laneway Chic - enlightening with paint and color


Sharing street lighting ideas on Facebook recently it occurred to me how often we forget that to be truly safe a place must not be lightened. It must be enlightened.

Big difference.

Example: the work sent to me recently by my friend Lorraine Gamman from London's St. Martin's College of Art and Design. Lorraine sent links to alleyway projects done by Doug Tomkin and Mark Titmarsh at the Design Out Crime centre at Sydney's University of Technology.

Apparently they are hanging out on street corners. They call it Living Laneways. I call it Laneway Chic.


Their rationale? (Graffiti and lighting people, Listen Up): "Too often measures against crime…can have almost as unpleasant an effect as the things they prevent. The Living Laneways project set out to deter graffiti without alienating those who were responsible for creating it (through) the involvement of respected artists in the street-art community…"

Clearly, simple and chic laneway painting can enlighten a space. Elaborate murals are not always needed.

Mark Titmarsh has a web document called Living Laneways - City Life. It explains some DOC work in Sydney.

Check out his tagline - "respect, express, enlighten!"

If street beautification and prevention means anything, it means that.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Preventing crime. Like going to the doctor?


Apologies for some overindulgence. No stories this week. No new observations. Just a rant about calling a thing for what it is.

"Where does it hurt?" asks the doctor.
"Stomach".
"Let me see if I can feel where the pain is."
"It started this morning after breakfast."
"What did you eat?"
"Eggs, Here, I brought leftovers."
"I'll send them to the lab. When tests come back, we'll prescribe the right medicine."

It's called allopathic medicine. Symptoms - Diagnosis - Prescription. It's based on symptoms.

Same in crime prevention. Crime shows up. Cops or prevention folk do analysis. A strategy emerges and they try it out. Allopathic crime prevention. We all do it, me included: situational prevention, CPTED, problem-oriented policing, Design Out Crime. Symptoms first! Makes sense, right? Except for what's missing…

...prevention!















Allopathic prevention prevents subsequent incidents and that's good. Just like going to the doctor. But it's not really "prevention" when it hasn't prevented it.

Medicine is growing out of its allopathic adolescence. It is evolving into integrative medicine - nutrition, stress management, alternative therapies (good family medicine probably always did that). It teaches us how to live a healthy lifestyle to prevent illness.

Meanwhile, far too much crime prevention still envisions safety as a product of strategies applied to a problem. Just like allopathic medicine.

Here's the thing; most serious crime emerges from dysfunctional families, broken neighborhoods, and personal troubles like drugs. You prevent it by getting into those places to help neighborhoods help themselves.

Let's call allopathic prevention what it is - crime repression. It represses what emerges and hacks at the branches. Prevention digs at the roots.

Rant over.

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Tragedy of The Commons - in reverse


Pondering the Occupy Wall Street protests this week I re-read a fascinating book: Capitalism 3.0 - A Guide to Reclaiming the Commons.

Places are unsafe when no one cares about them. Or when people are too afraid to walk there. That's why graffiti writers target abandoned spaces. Implied territorial ownership of public places is a very big deal, which is why CPTED practitioners spend so much time reinforcing it.

Capitalism 3.0 provides another way. Author Peter Barnes begins by updating Tragedy of the Commons, an old planning motif stolen from biology:

"our current operating system gives too much power to profit-maximizing corporations that devour our commons and distribute their profit to a sliver of the population."

In short, corporations pay little, if anything, for using our commons. Says Barnes, we pay for the commons. Corporations get a free ride.

He then offers a fascinating idea; hold corporations accountable and return value to citizens in a market-based, citizen-owned, legal entity called a commons trust.


An Alaskan trust called the Permanent Fund already does exactly that. Each citizen owns shares in the Permanent Fund which uses oil revenues to invest. Every year those investments pay dividends to each citizen of the state. How many governments give money back to their citizens?

Barnes thinks the commons trust will work for all kinds of commons.

Think of the possibilities:

* 700 community gardens in New York alone.
* 4,000 farmers markets across the US.
* Large retail malls with acres of parking but no social or cultural value

Read Capitalism 3.0. It's like putting on a new pair of glasses.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Galatea Effect - a latitude to act


I came across this statue of Galatea in a downtown public fountain this week. Occasionally "decorated" by locals having fun, reality can reflect myth. After all, Galatea is the ancient Greek myth of the statue brought to life by her creator. Neighborhoods and streetscapes too can come to life when residents have, or seize, the latitude to act.

Neighborhoods decline when the people who live there lose their connection and no longer feel part of their community - The Great Neighborhood Book

Streetscapes appear in a prior blog titled Beauty, eh? From the beginning of CPTED we've known the importance of streets and sidewalks. Professor C. Ray Jeffery, author of the first CPTED book stated the obvious: "People must have some reason for using the sidewalks; otherwise they stay indoors."


Jeffery mapped out CPTED 40 years ago in two simple equations:

"Crime can be controlled through urban design, wherein safety and security are designed into streets, buildings, and parks."

"Cities can also be designed so as to increase human contact of an intimate nature. Loneliness and alienation need not characterize our urban life."


The first idea of design is 1st Generation CPTED. The second idea of contact (culture and cohesion) is called 2nd Generation CPTED, reintroduced in 1997.

This week I searched my town for streetscapes that fit both ideas and found great examples of design and culture. In a few cases residents modified public spaces on their own.

Apparently when given (or when seizing) the latitude to act, residents can create lots of beautiful and fun reasons to use the public street. Galatea can come to life.