Saturday, November 28, 2015

Watch out for the bears - words from a Mountie

A CPTED town with nature next door. Monkman Provincial Park near
Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia- photo Peace River District

“You know your CPTED designs work when bears use the walkways.”

Mike Clark, an old friend and retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police Staff Sergeant, spoke those words with a smirk and a twinkle in his eye when he began his CPTED lectures. No one knew what he meant because no one knew the wit of the storyteller.

Some may remember my blog about Tumbler Ridge, the world’s first CPTED town built in northern British Columbia. When planners and architects crafted plans for this new town in the mountains they visited Canada’s first CPTED course in Vancouver in 1982.

Former RCMP Fairmont Academy (now closed). Site of Canada's first CPTED courses.
- photo Creative BC
Police students and instructors on that course helped redesign the land uses and pedestrian walkways using CPTED. To my knowledge, CPTED had never before been implemented into an entire town at such an early stage with such depth.

Mike Clark was a student in that initial class. Eventually Mike was promoted and his first posting was commander of the detachment in that very same Tumbler Ridge, the town that he helped design. How many CPTED practitioners get to live in a town they themselves helped plan? Another first.

I met Mike years later when I ran that CPTED course and Mike became one of our best trainers. He often began his lectures about the success of CPTED in Tumbler Ridge with that bear story.

He would tell us that, not only did residents frequent those well-designed walkways (thereby deterring burglars), but so too did local bears. While residents met in the safety of groups to socialize and walk, burglars worked alone. What happens when a lone burglar meets a bear while searching for a burglary target?

Unsurprisingly, Tumbler Ridge had low burglary rates, an irony not lost on my jocular friend.

Mike died a few weeks ago. Over the years I have written about well-known architects and criminologists, but none had the authentic, real-life spirit and pioneering CPTED experience of Mike Clark.

I am sad there will be no more CPTED bear stories from our affable Mountie Sergeant from Tumbler Ridge. Goodbye Mike - Maintiens le Droit.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tactical Urbanism in Cairo

Photo Joseph Dana Next City

GUEST BLOG: I met Angela LaScala-Gruenewald during work in New York City and she later attended our Philadelphia SafeGrowth training. Angela is a recent college graduate with research currently focussing on criminal justice initiatives and public safety. She offered this blog on tactical urbanism in Cairo, Egypt.   


The image above depicts what appears to be a strategic piling of dirt and trash; it serves multiple purposes -- an informal structure, a small seed of resistance, a necessary public good.

I first learned about this Do-It-Yourself highway exit ramp while taking a class at the University of Chicago. A teacher’s assistant flashed this photograph on the lecture hall wall and launched into a discussion on the control of space in Arab urban centers, and the tension between private and public, formal and informal, recognized and subversive movements – all motivators of the endless conflicts in the Middle East.

Take for example the use and transformation of public squares, from Tahrir Square to Yemen’s Freedom Square on the doorstep of Sana’a University. While there is nothing new about protesting in squares and fighting for control of space during periods of political change and popular uprisings, the significance of the transformation and importance of these spaces still hold.

The highway exit ramp in the peripheries of Cairo plays a role in this narrative as much as the large downtown plazas. While thousands of protestors fought for control of Tahrir Square, smaller transformations took place across the city through growing informal construction projects in these peripheries and informal areas known as ashwa’iyyat (slums).


The ashwa’iyyat contain over 60% of Cairo’s population, but are largely ignored by Egypt’s government and denied access to public goods, such as highway exit ramps.The Cairo highway ramps served as examples of innovative urban design, part of the Do-It-Yourself movement, but less couched in the concept of the political.

Meshing these two perspectives together highlights the importance of informal transformations of public space, especially in communities fighting for access in the face of a negligent regime. The highway exit ramp in Cairo’s ashwa’iyyat brings the two together. It is a quiet protest simultaneously delivering a necessary public good. It is political and it is practical. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Century of the Neighborhood

Taking a break from deliberations at the 2015 SafeGrowth Summit
Engaged citizens from around the world
Four months ago I posted about President Obama’s eulogy following a racial massacre in South Carolina.

This morning we heard news of another massacre, this by terrorists in Paris. In today’s global village a tragedy for one is a tragedy for all. From that view, these are times of storms.

“When you come out of the storm,” said novelist Murakami, “you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.”


Last week a small group of SafeGrowth advocates and some likeminded friends from around the world mapped a new way out of these storms in the first-ever SafeGrowth Summit.

One of the SafeGrowth work teams - two day of visioning the future
We met encircled by Canada’s Rocky Mountains in Canmore, Alberta. Hailing from different countries and cities small and large, participants included residents, artists, planners, police officers,  architects, criminologist, activists, but mostly active and engaged citizens.

Our task? Search for practical paths that build community resilience and lead away from crime and violence.

Four diverse teams found their own ideal visions. One crafted neighborhood hubs, a 21st Century shared public gathering space far beyond today’s community center. Another began building a tailored style of hands-on curricula to educate a new generation of neighborhood leaders.

Each team resonated with the idea that it is within the geography of the neighborhood where solutions arise.

Local graffiti artists running their first-ever art show for Summit participants
Following the Summit participants shared their ideas with residents of the 12 CSI Neighbourhoods at a social event on Calgary’s International Avenue, an event punctuated by the inspiring art show of local graffiti artists and music from a youth quartet from Calgary's Multiculural Orchestra.

We are writing Summit results to publish a book in the spring. For now teamwork continues; it continues to frame a way out of the storms of violence, crime and intolerance facing us in the years ahead. And it continues to verify, once and for all, the 21st Century belongs to the neighborhood.

Last day performance by a youth quartet from the Calgary Multicultural Orchestra