Friday, October 26, 2012

The un-planning of crime coolspots

Graffiti and murals at home together - Toronto's Annex

Sometimes a successful neighborhood just grows organically with gentle nudging from planners. It isn't really planned. In fact, Jane Jacobs tells us, the best neighborhoods rarely are.

At this week's International problem-oriented policing conference I mentioned to my audience they should begin understanding prevention not by analyzing high-crime hotspots, but rather by looking at low-crime coolspots. Those are the places where we learn what to do right.

Toronto's Annex neighborhood, where I strolled today, is the proof. Well-known in the city, it is a busy, sometimes gritty, and successful neighborhood. It is neither trendoid and expensive like The Beaches in the south, nor coiffured and rarified like wealthy Forest Hill to the north.

Bikes dominate, cafe patrons keep an eye

There are street people and graffiti. But the graffiti is artistic and interesting and the street people seem less desperate than elsewhere. It's certainly not a crime hotspot.

Shops, restaurants and bookstores line the street for students and tourists. Grocery stores, postal stations and dentist offices mix in for locals. There are street watchers from sidewalk cafes, proliferate bike racks, and lovers glancing down from rooftop perches between smooches. There's just enough disorder to make things interesting and just enough eyes on the street to make it safe.

This is where Jane Jacobs lived most her life. I can see why.

Lovers gazing on the sidewalk between smooches

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