Sunday, June 22, 2014

Spiking anti-social behavior?

Activists dressed as city workers use rapid cement to cover spikes - photo by Vice 
Homelessness in England is up and news reports now call it Anti-Social Behavior. In the UK, Design Out Crime has had success reducing ASB, but not always. Some solutions, unfortunately, have been a disaster. Case in point: Anti-sleeping spikes to deter homeless transients.

Bench dividers and seating spikes have long been used by target hardeners as a loitering deterrent. Now some properties in London use spikes to deter the homeless from sleeping on windows and doorway entrances near their stores. Even the Mayor of London hates the idea. Public outrage agrees.

Anti-spiking activists

Anti-spiking groups have now taken action and poured cement over spikes. They complain that spiking is unethical when program budgets to house the homeless are cut to the bone.

One online petition to remove anti-homeless spikes reached 120,000 names in a single week.

Not that it needs repeating yet again on this blog, but opportunity reduction by itself is insufficient. Singular strategies that attack crime and place alone - and not the conditions that give rise to them - divert attention from long-term solutions. They lull us into believing the problem is gone when it isn't.

This is an important lesson for target hardeners. Fail to use collaborative solutions and targeted social strategies - or do so without a coherent plan to apply 2nd Generation CPTED - and risk a backlash of unintended consequences.

The Irony

Less than a mile from this latest controversy are the buildings of the award-winning Design Against Crime Centre at Central St Martin's College. Professor Lorraine Gamman and her talented team have led socially responsive crime prevention design projects for ages.

Why don't the target hardeners just ask experts like Lorraine's group how to work with the homeless and build more inclusive and safe environments?

My favorite Lorraine quote:"Spikes are part of an outdated fortress aesthetic not welcome in communities, where there is recognition that urban design needs to be inclusive."