Saturday, January 28, 2012

Peter Pan kids - The Next Great Generation?

(photo Wikipedia Commons)

According to those over 40, the Millenial Generation (people born after 1982) are spoiled brats, living in their parents basements, addicted to video games. Supposedly, Boomer parents coddled them too much and now they wear entitlement attitudes like a badge of honor.

Police recruiters tell me that Millenials resist authority. Police trainers tell me Millenials keep asking "why". They don't blindly accept what they are taught. They seek understanding before they buy into something.

Hm. Do we want cops who know why something is so? Do recruiters even know how to market to Millenials?

In Millenials Rising, Neil Howe and William Strauss call them Peter Pan kids because they defer passage to responsible adult-hood as long as possible. Interestingly, they claim Millenials are more civic minded than the X Generation before them.

There is another trend worth noting; from the mid-1990s to mid-2000s many Millennials became teenagers, an age criminologists call the start of the crime-prone years. Prisons are filled with young men who started their criminal careers in their teens. When the crime-prone proportion of the population increases, so too does crime.

For example not long after the Boomers were teens, (1960s) crime rates exploded. But not today! Under Peter Pan's tutelage, crime has been declining. Millenial parents might have produced high crime rates, but their kids don't.

Maybe Millenials are too busy texting and cybersurfing to get into trouble?

Anyway, the brats - the one's with technology in their DNA, who challenge authority and question why, the one's who trigger less crime - they are what Howe and Strauss call the latest Great Generation.

Given what's ahead, I certainly hope that's true.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

"We just don't want to get involved"

How useful is natural surveillance for crime prevention if people see, but don't care? If crooks know people don't care, or are too afraid to act, why bother with street lighting and eyes on the street?

The video above shows by-standers in New York having fun with a free mega-phone. True, there's no crime in-progress. Still, it does sound like they care. The cynically-inclined might predict mega-phone abuse, or theft. Maybe, but not here. On this day altruism rules.

It wasn't always so.

On another New York day, actually the evening of March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was stabbed to death on the street near her home. Her murder was the random act of a predator.

The New York Times reported 38 people watched out their windows and did nothing. For decades, "we don't want to get involved" became the motto for urban decay and alienation. It laid the foundation for a whole new social psychology - proxemics. Oscar Newman built defensible space out of it. Today we call it CPTED.

Now the by-stander effect is understood. In a twist of irony it turns out the 38 witness theory is probably false. Reinvestigation revealed only 3 people saw small portions of Kitty's murder, some called police immediately and, due to poor lighting, most misunderstood what was happening.

I wonder...with better lighting and territorial control of semi-public space on that street, would Kitty Genovese be alive today to play with street megaphones?

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bike corrals for safer streets

Making Brooklyn Streets Safer With On-Street Bike Parking from Streetfilms on Vimeo.

A few years ago, when Richard Florida suggested whole new urban forms will grow out of the Recession, it seemed far away. A half century ago, when Jane Jacobs suggested active and diverse streets can cut crime, who knew it would take so long to catch on.

Bike corrals are among the first bits of evidence suggesting both are well underway.

Bike corrals are on-street parking strips with parking for up to 20 bikes in parking spaces normally used for one or two cars. They bring more customers to their street than car parking provides. They pollute less and cut gas costs. For CPTED, corrals provide better natural surveillance and less opportunity for theft.

Bike corrals in Portland, Oregon

Brooklyn, NY has just opened its first bike corral (sometimes called parking swaps). Portland Oregon has over 70.

My urban design friend Megan Carr has just put me on to Streetfilms. It's a fantastic organization with over 400 free educational films about inspired transportation like bike corrals. Check them out HERE.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

21st Century police: Times, they are a-changing

Watching police leadership is like entering a Ringling circus of word games and non-sequiturs. That's because you never know what you're going to get. Leaders come in all shapes.

There's lion tamers who attempt to pacify police unions and manage unrealistic public expectations. There's clowns who entertain with their cult of personality but leave nothing behind but good feelings. There's acrobats, skilled in their craft, balancing forward-thinking and leading-by-example.

Given the current system of service delivery and the morphing of roles, policing and it's leadership cannot be separated from safety in our cities.

Case in point: Seattle papers report two controversies (common in many large cities).

1. Recent studies show over 30% of young males in America by age 23 are arrested for something more serious than a traffic violation. Are crime declines a fiction or do arrest practices need fixing?

2. There is widespread public distrust when police investigate themselves - especially when police unions get involved. This is particularly acute in Seattle after a Department of Justice probe cited a pattern of excessive force.

Last fall I created search links on the right side of this blog. Google analytics tells me policing trends belong there as well. Dylan said it best: "Times, they are a-changing".

Here are past entries on policing and leadership:

Can research help cops prevent crime
SMART Policing and the power of few - Part 1
Transforming the police - Part 2
Transforming the police - Part 1
Solving the city with math
New chairs at the compstat table
Reforming police = bending granite
Urban warriors and city cops
The guardians and the vanguard
Preventing crime in LA