Monday, November 24, 2014

Exciting times in Middle Earth

Gollum greets visitors at Wellington, New Zealand airport - photo Mateja Mihinjac
Arriving in Middle Earth you might expect Frodo Baggins, not surprising if you land at Wellington airport where a monstrous Gollum sculpture reaches for a salmon instead of the One Ring. Tourism promoters here are on a roll.

New Zealand is a lyrical land with people not quite Elven and certainly not Orc, yet totally marvelous. No wonder the Lord of the Rings was filmed in this beautiful country. And there is reason for jubilation beyond tourism, this time from SafeGrowth innovations in Christchurch.

Reopening the trolly line in downtown Christchurch - photo by Nathan
Following the devastating 2011 earthquakes, Christchurch adopted a forward-thinking redevelopment plan. Central to the plan was a belief that “good urban design creates attractive, safe and functional environments” and “careful design…can help make places less susceptible to crime”. How true! My favorite was their commitment to neighborhoods as the best way to organize development - exactly the philosophy of SafeGrowth. 

Then, amid the massive rebuilding efforts, CPTED expertise arose in the form of a Crime Prevention Team led by Sue Ramsay. In harmony with the redevelopment plan, Sue launched SafeGrowth programming. I reported some early work last year in a blog post.

The SafeGrowth work in Christchurch has been exceptional. Two neighborhoods – West Riccarton and Phillipstown - now have multiple projects underway.

Phillipstown community centre - police and citizens together in SafeGrowth teams


One team created a model asset map. Another, the Paeora Reserve team, found funding to install solar tables and couches to activate a public park. In Phillipstown, SafeGrowth followed a neighborhood policing team who conducted successful problem-oriented policing to cut crime (winning a national award for policing excellence). That cleared the way for SafeGrowth strategies to build cohesion and establish sustainable community development so problems don’t return. Now the team is cracking negative stereotypes of their neighborhood.

In West Riccarton the Harrington Park team concluded; “Most of the recommendations can be owned by the people of the neighbourhood who can then develop their utilisation of the park easily and without major financial input.” 

That's the difference between a resident and a responsible citizen!

West Riccarton team members planning improvements to a local park

This is impressive work! Christchurch seems to have learned an essential lesson – that the hackneyed phrase community development has little meaning without legs. It cannot materialize without a coherent planning method like SafeGrowth. Without that, it is filled with fail.

More importantly, community development cannot really happen without attention to safety and perceptions of safety. The SafeGrowth efforts in Christchurch reveal a city rising from the ashes of a tragic earthquake! These are exciting times in Middle Earth!
Community members and police collaborating on walkway safety

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Yarn bombing as placemaking - Adventure in Adelaide

Mall's Balls - popular meeting place in Adelaide's Rundle Mall

GUEST BLOG – Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia completing her doctoral research on CPTED implementation. She is a member of the International CPTED Association. She recently attended the Asia-Pacific ICA CPTED Forum and kindly submitted this blog.

In mid-October, the ICA hosted a 2014 regional Asia-Pacific CPTED forum themed Better CPTED - Multidisciplinary Design for Safer Places.

The participants came from many different backgrounds thus bringing to the table a rainbow of strategies. Despite the differences we all agreed better and safer places emerge from the special features that make places more attractive and the people who use those places. I found great examples on the streets of Adelaide.

The nicely maintained Victoria Square offers numerous opportunities for social activities, meeting spots and sheltered seating areas. Walking down the pedestrian Rundle Mall I found The Mall’s Balls   - a common meeting point for people in the mall.

Dame Roma Mitchell statue
Looking for examples of people being users and co-creators of such special places I discovered some yarn bombing - dressed-up Rundle Mall Pigs and a statue of Dame Roma Mitchell on the North Terrace. They instantly attracted my attention and reminded me of the yarn bombed road barrier from Melbourne in a blog from a few months ago.

Turns out that the pigs and the statue were not isolated cases and that yarn bombing is popular throughout Adelaide, especially since 2012 when even the statue of Queen Victoria received a makeover. Yarn bombing is now part of Adelaide’s community events and it all started from local people aiming to create better places for and by themselves.

Rundle Mall yarn bombed pigs
Yarn bombing and its “softer” version known as yarn storming (in the UK) manifests community pride and provides a personal touch in public places. It is  widely considered a feminine form of graffiti or artistic vandalism.

Creative approaches such as knitting are one channel for the public to express and partake in public life. What I find neat about this approach is that it empowers those who traditionally wouldn’t participate in public activism and allows them to have a say in their own communities.

Placemaking surely comes in many forms.

Sheltered seating in Victoria Square

Monday, November 10, 2014

Enforcing a higher standard

Nowhere have I seen a better example of the gulf between combat cops and community cops than in these two recruiting videos. A friend recently sent them to me with the comment "Police recruitment videos speak volumes about livability of a place…"

Yes, they do.

Both cities are low crime and only one murder has occurred in either community over the past few years. Both have higher than average income levels with similar demographic mixes.

Newport Beach, California has 85,000 residents and Decatur, Georgia has 20,000, although both are adjacent to large cities (Los Angeles and Atlanta). While Decatur is smaller, the relative police strength is similar with both cities under 200 officers per 100,000 residents.

In social science this is gold! Social conditions are never the same and cross-jurisdictional comparisons are always imperfect. But it would be difficult to find two communities that are more apple-to-apple similar for comparing police services.

Except they don't compare. At all!

Who knows if policing reflects recruitment videos. But culture often shows up in videos like these. After all, each department had to approve them for public release so they obviously think these are the best images that represent what they are all about.

That is a frightening thought!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Time for a little common ground

Mark Lakeman at Ted Talk last weekend. 
Neighborhood collaboration infers there is a reason to do so and a place to do it.  In SafeGrowth the reason is simple; crime and safety. But why do we need a common place to collaborate and how do we get that? Aren't community halls enough? Don't we have adequate common places for that now?

No we don't!

In  the Ted Talk below my friend, Portland architect Mark Lakeman tells us why. Mark has appeared on this blog before about Safety With a Potluck. Here he is on a roll! It's fascinating how he starts slow and builds tempo to such an obvious conclusion that somehow escapes how we currently build neighborhoods.

I remember sitting next to a colleague last year when Mark presented this idea during a keynote address. My colleague, clearly uncomfortable with the unconventional method in Portland's  Intersection Repair program, whispered: "What about the home owners near the intersection who don't want to participate?"

"Oh," I should have answered, but didn't, "do you mean the one's who prefer isolation and alienation? Or do you mean you don't understand how intersection repair accounts also for their need for privacy?"

Mark answers this when he describes Monopoly as the economic motif for how we plan cities and a game we all grew up with. We don't even question the logic of Monopoly as a way of doing business. Mark does! That's an idea worth spreading.