Sunday, January 31, 2016

SafeGrowth moves north

North Battleford, Saskatchewan - photo Creative Commons
This week we delivered SafeGrowth training in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, a Canadian city of about 15,000 in central-north Saskatchewan. Over the years North Battleford has had its share of troubles, including a top crime ranking for Canadian cities a few years ago.

This week city officials, police, and residents teamed up to expand their crime prevention and community development work. SafeGrowth training is now underway in a range of projects throughout the city. As well, representatives from three other nearby northern cities joined the training - the cities of Lloydminster and Prince Albert in Saskatchewan and Red Deer, Alberta.

SafeGrowth training class - photo Steve Woolrich
My co-instructor Elisabeth Miller and myself worked with this impressive bunch, committed as they were to learn how to improve community life. Next month we will see what they produce.

I grew up in a northern Canadian city and I have a soft spot for the people who call them home. The best northern places boast a strong sense of community, industries like mining and lumber with well paying jobs, and outdoor adventure activities in unspoiled forests. The worst northern places suffer high unemployment with boom/bust economies, social unrest, substance abuse and the high crime so often accompanying that social dysfunction.

Walking out to winter parking on the morning commute to SafeGrowth training


There was recently a somber reminder about the seriousness of crime prevention work in northern communities. One week ago in the small aboriginal town of La Loche, 300 miles north of North Battleford, four people were gunned down in a multiple murder - two were teachers at the La Loche high school. A few years ago a gang shooting killed one resident directly across from the La Loche RCMP police detachment.

Perhaps lessons from the SafeGrowth work in North Battleford will ripple out to other northern communities suffering violence and crime like La Loche? We can only hope. Clearly, there is much work to be done!

Monday, January 18, 2016

CPTED in transit - Connecting people, not just places

GUEST BLOG - Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia completing doctoral research into CPTED. She has co-taught SafeGrowth and CPTED and is a member of the International CPTED Association. She kindly submitted this blog on her recent research on CPTED and public transit.

I was recently asked to conduct research on CPTED in a transit environment. When I surveyed the academic literature I expected to find articles focused on physical modifications and security features alone — this has been a constant in most transit agencies. I ended up pleasantly surprised.

There were numerous references to social elements in crime and perception of safety. Many authors recognised that the physical environment alone had limited effectiveness in managing risks of crime and perception of the riders’ safety.


For example, in the waiting environment Loukaitou-Sideris study in 1999 identified that negative land uses and deteriorated surroundings contributed to crime prone bus stops in Los Angeles. In London research by Newton, Patridge and Gill in 2014 showed that crime proneness at underground stations was characterised by its above ground social environment.

As early as 1991 Saville published research regarding how the shortage of human presence posed increased risks for riders in the walking environment. A few years earlier Van Andel discovered the same on the en-route environment for both bus and train locations.

Melbourne train station - beautiful well-lit architecture, active social spaces 

In 2010 Yavuz and Welch found that the simple lack of people on the platform induced fear for train users and that presence of CCTV did not mitigate this perception. Finally, research by Delbosch & Currie in 2012 and by Cozens and Can der Linde in 2015 demonstrated that social characteristics surrounding the waiting environment were more influential in perception of safety than characteristics of the physical design alone.


This research reinforces prior blogs regarding the importance of community culture and opportunity-based connection in the transit environment.

Improving social conditions at the micro-environment is a major theme of 2nd Generation CPTED and SafeGrowth, identified in 2001 by Lusk as social bridges in the transport environment. Social bridges reduce anonymity amongst the riders and make them more likely to assist one another in case of an incident, a phenomenon now known as the by-stander effect.

Next time when you catch a ride downtown put your mobile phone away and have a conversation with a stranger. It may change your life for the better.