Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Lessons from the lands of ice and fire

Glaciers, fires, storms, and heat -
the link between extreme weather and urban violence
by Mateja Mihinjac

As we enter a new decade, I can’t help but wonder: How might my work and the work of other safety and crime prevention professionals be affected as temperatures continue to rise and weather conditions become even more extreme?

I am fortunate to have lived and worked in various countries, including Australia and Canada. People often associate the first with hot weather and beaches and the latter with cold winters and snow. This is especially true at this time of year when large parts of Australia are experiencing extremely high temperatures and devastating fires while Canada may be bracing for the next polar vortex this winter.

Are these two countries, on the opposite sides of the globe, struggling with contrasting environmental conditions that relate directly to contrasting crime and safety concerns?

Brilliant sunsets can indicate air particles from distant forest fires


There is long-standing research on violence and the thermal environment, or what is sometimes called the seasonality of crime. It reminded me of research I came across a few years ago about the possible association between temperature and crime.

That research found a correlation between warmer weather and various forms of crime and incidents and attributed this to an increase in outdoor activities during warmer days. The researchers of this study in Philadelphia also suggested that extreme temperatures, especially extremely cold, have the opposite effect as people are discouraged to go outdoors.

However, there is Canadian research contradicting that view and suggesting violence can also increase at the opposite end of the thermal scale.

One 1995 study in Canada’s Arctic Nunavut Territory reported that violence rates among the Inuit in the north were far higher in Baffin Island villages (most of which are above the Arctic Circle) than those in the warmer cities over a thousand miles (2,000 kilometers) to the south.

Climate stress and crime is a distant meditation -
until it appears in front of us


While the Arctic study is explained through cultural and sociological causes, the Philadelphia study falls into a group of opportunity-theories that suggest comfortable weather conditions at any time of the year (warm gentle summers, balmy winters) are associated with the increased number of people outdoors resulting in increased concentration of both targets and potential offenders.

Other studies suggest the rise in alcohol consumption during the hot months of the year contributes more to murders and sexual assault, as well as other crimes such as road rage. This is especially a problem where temperature variations are large. Therefore, in these instances, it appears extremes in high temperatures or mango madness might be behind violent and aggressive behavior.

The homicide data in the State of Queensland, Australia for the past 22 years show a somewhat increased homicide rate during the hottest months of the year: December and January. This association was especially strong for the tropical north where temperatures are most extreme.


However, when the data were examined for the Brisbane City police division for both homicide and all crimes respectively, they found no identifiable monthly patterns. This suggests that while temperature conditions may be part of the crime puzzle, we cannot draw conclusions about crime based on this single variable.

Perhaps thermal effects on violence apply to both high and low-temperature extremes, as the Canadian research suggests? It seems that the opportunity-theory does not always explain why some places are less safe than others, especially in relation to temperature.

This has been our experience during SafeGrowth programming in neighborhoods throughout the world. Even with extreme temperatures, healthy and vibrant neighborhoods with plenty of pro-social opportunities tend to be safer. Could it be that, whatever temperature extremes a community suffers, opportunities for pro-social behavior are a powerful prescription for building healthy communities with fewer crime opportunities?


Climate change and crime in the future
A new kind of city-building
In 2014, Harvard trained economist and statistician Matthew Ranson made a bold prediction:
"Between 2010 and 2099, climate change will cause an additional 22,000 murders, 180,000 cases of rape, 1.2 million aggravated assaults, 2.3 million simple assaults, 260,000 robberies, 1.3 million burglaries, 2.2 million cases of larceny, and 580,000 cases of vehicle theft in the United States."
Sobering words as we begin a new year!

And yet, as we have seen over the past few years, there are solutions at hand if we choose to adopt them. Collectively we can find effective answers to both halt the progression of global warming and to address community safety challenges that may be associated with the temperature effect.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The making of a smarter city

by Gregory Saville

As the year ends, I’m remembering the air of electricity and innovation emerging at the Helsingborg 22, Smart City Summit in Sweden that I attended in November. It was a remarkable event! It triggered a thought that sticks in my mind…

By 2030 over 60% of the entire world will live in urban centers. Most of the leading industrial countries of the world are already predominantly urban: over 80% urban in the U.S., Canada, Australia, UK, Chile, Sweden, South Korea, Mexico, and Brazil.

It’s similar in India, that historically so-rural subcontinent of villages and farms. A decade ago, I recall listening to India’s Minister for External Affairs describe the rapid urbanization of his country, a billion-person behemoth soon to top China as the most populous country on the planet. Today it has some of the world’s largest cities.

Megacities are invariably tall cities
We’ve also seen the eruption of the megalopolis – the megacity once prophesized in Sci-Fi fare. The latest UN statistics now say it’s real:
  • 43 megacities now have over 10 million people, including the metropolitan areas of New York City, London (within the M25), Los Angeles, and Paris;
  • 6 megacities have over 20 Milion - Cairo, Mumbai, Beijing, Dhaka, Mexico City, Sao Paulo;
  • 2 have over 26 million - Shanghai and New Delhi; 
  • 1 has a staggering 37 million - Tokyo, the world’s largest city.
It seems too obvious to state that the key to our future is creating sustainable, livable and healthy cities. Not so obvious is the key to habitability: safety from crime and fear of crime.

Experimenting with lighting a public toilet
in Smart City Helsingborg - Tardis of the future


This brought to mind the H22 Smart City Summit. Unlike the Smart Growth planning program, the Smart City movement is of much more recent vintage. It talks of artificial intelligence, how Internet-of-Things data devices might better manage transport, power, water supply, schools, hospitals, utilities, and even crime. It proposes a new age of connectedness and livability.

Just imagine… no garbage trucks, massive cuts in energy use, increased quality of life, smart LED street lights with sensors to watch street conditions, faster routing for self-driving cars, smart drone shopping that avoids parking lots, automatic air pollution elimination, faster emergency response for medical and fire emergencies, and so forth.

Helsingborg is taking a close look at all this. It is spending time and money to test new Smart City ideas and it plans to take neighborhood quality of life, urban planning, and urban governance to a new level. In 2022 it will show the world in the H22 Exposition.

In November, I joined Ifeoma Ebo from the New York Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, to present our work on SafeGrowth and CPTED in 15 high-crime New York public housing projects. The approach of our talented SafeGrowth team members was decidedly low-tech with plenty of community involvement. Summit participants seemed to see a link in our project to Smart Cities of the future.


Some think Smart Cities are a utopian dream that will destroy democracy.

Maybe that’s true! When we wrote about Smart Cities in our SafeGrowth book last year, the last chapter, A Vision for the Future, described one vision – except that was a dystopian, not utopian, vision.

I’ve also blogged here about another Smart City innovation – computer algorithms that try to predict crime, the so-called predictive policing. Since then, I’ve followed it in two cities that tried, and abandoned, predictive policing - one in California and another in my own home city. It seems we have a very long way to go.

Either way, Smart City concepts deserve careful monitoring and thinking. And given the explosive rate of urban growth around the world, we might have no better choice but to get the Smart City idea right. Helsingborg's H22 Smart City movement gives us a chance to do just that.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

To certify or not to certify? CPTED today

Good or bad CPTED?
Competent practitioners should know the difference

by Gregory Saville

How do you know if someone knows what they are talking about or whether they are just making stuff up? If an unqualified plumber hooks up your toilet improperly, you’ll know real quick they are not qualified. Ewww. Please…no more leaky toilets!

What about a practitioner in Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design? CPTED has been around for 48 years and there have been many strategies practiced around the world. Do CPTED practitioners know that history and what strategies work best? In the past 23 years hundreds of case studies and presentations have been delivered at the International CPTED Association (ICA) conferences. Do practitioners know that work?

A few years ago, I gave evidence as a CPTED expert in court cases involving homicide and gang shootings. The lawyers asked me to carefully present my credentials. To help courts in the future, I later published “The evolution of spatial forensics into forensic architecture: Applying CPTED and criminal target selection” which outlined some legal criteria for CPTED evidence in court.


But what about CPTED consulting? How do you know if someone has basic CPTED competencies? What about “certification”?

What is certification? In some places, it is called professional designation or trade certification. You can be certified in anything from Pilates to architecture – though the differences are vast.

Decent sightlines. Clean bench in plain view. Does the practitioner
truly know why this is terrible CPTED?

Certification means a practitioner has a level of knowledge and expertise in a particular field. It cannot be offered by an individual consultant or a private company (even if that company calls itself a “certifying organization”), since that is hardly a credible or unbiased source. Instead, it means that a person has obtained some formal, third-party acknowledgement of competency. For many years, that was a problem in CPTED. There were no third-party organizations to certify anyone, not until the growth of the International CPTED Association.

As Josh Brown, the former Chair of the ICA certification committee described years ago:
“Certification also serves to lock out charlatans claiming to be trained or certified by merely attending a course or taking a test.Unfortunately, crime prevention practitioners just learning about CPTED may feel the bar raised a bit too far. Certification in the field of one's choosing is a way of indicating to yourself that you have arrived”
Some confuse certification with a professional “license” – such as a license to practice medicine. Governments are responsible for licenses whereas, as Wikipedia states, “certifications are usually awarded by professional societies or educational institutes.”


This month the International CPTED Association launched its latest program, the CPTED Course Accreditation Program (CAP).

It is a program designed to allow CPTED curricula writers and trainers to submit their programs to ensure they teach and evaluate 11 core CPTED competencies within their course. This program follows the original CPTED Certified Practitioner (ICCP) program for individual practitioners 15 years ago.

ICA Accredited CPTED Courses will bear this logo on the course material

The reason the International CPTED Association chose to launch certification programs is that, unlike engineering or urban planning, CPTED is not a formally recognized profession. While it does have scientific evidence that supports its foundations, much of that evidence emerges from academic criminology and it is not yet quite scientific, despite claims to the contrary. That is why an independent group of third-party, experienced experts in practical CPTED represented the ideal place to start the process of professionalization.


The ICA represents the first, and only, international association of practitioners, professionals, and academics dedicated to the advancement of CPTED around the world. Fifteen years ago a few dozen leading CPTED experts spent a few years crafting the parameters of what certification in CPTED actually means. That was the first major step forward.

The launch of CAP in the past month is the next big step. It’s not yet a “license” to practice since only a government can legislate professional licenses through law. But since CPTED is not yet a full profession, that isn’t realistic anyway at this point.

Today, anyone can claim CPTED expertise after a few days of training. The ICA certification programs now lay some firm groundwork for minimal standards that the public should expect when they ask for CPTED advice. It’s a giant leap forward. No more leaky toilets, please!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Too much racket - Noise pollution in the neighborhood

Noise in the city - a major impact on livability
by Tarah Hodgkinson

5:15am – SLAM! CRASH! BANG! That is how I wake up every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday morning. Three days a week, when the garbage and recycling truck comes to empty the bins below my second-floor window. It’s been three times a week for 5 months now. They start at the ungodly hour of 5:15am. Always waking me up.

The first time I heard it I nearly jumped through the wall. When I first moved into one of the units of the six-story apartment, I was told that the truck came twice a week.

I know I sound like I’m complaining. You might suggest I go back to sleep after they are done (not possible), or that I close my window (I do) or I turn on the AC and blast a fan and wear earplugs (check, check, check). You might say “calm down, you chose to live in the city” (try using public transit outside of a city).

But noise pollution (excessive noise caused by machines, transport and other humans) has a harmful impact on humans and animals. Numerous studies have examined the effect of increased noise levels on health. Noise pollution has been found to affect the nervous and endocrine systems and can cause numerous health issues from anxiety and heart disease.

Most importantly, it disrupts sleep, which can be a catalyst for all of these health issues, as well as low birth weights for pregnant women. Additionally, sleep disruption caused by noise pollution can also reduce focus and harm productivity.


As Mateja and Greg described in their recent blog introducing 3rd Generation CPTED, there is more to neighborhood livability than fear and crime. Noise pollution and its impact on public health is part of 3rd Generation CPTED because of its critical role in creating successful, peaceful neighborhoods.

Busy streets along with noise capturing architecture
can make noise pollution worse
While crime and noise have very different consequences, both fear of crime and noise pollution impact neighborhood livability. If people do not feel comfortable in public areas due to noise, they will not spend time there. It’s difficult to get legitimate “eyes on the street” (1st Generation CPTED calls it natural surveillance) when residents are hostile towards their streets.

Fortunately, communities all over the world are starting to pay attention to noise pollution. New technologies are helping to better discern the impacts of noise pollution, and laws and regulations already in place are beginning to expand.  In fact, organizations like Noise Free, have made it their mission to reduce noise pollution as part of a larger public health mandate.


However, many suggestions for responding to noise pollution are individually focused on encouraging the consumer to buy expensive noise-cancelling headphones, rearranging their furniture in their house or purchase other muffling agents.

Even more extreme, some suggest that people just move. But moving to a quieter neighborhood is not an option for most people, in particular, because noise pollution tends to be worse in poorer neighborhoods.

Not surprisingly, those poor neighborhoods are often where crime and fear flourish and where we end up working to introduce SafeGrowth.

Noise attenuation walls - the typical response
There have to be better local solutions to reduce these risks and protect those most affected.  Planners and developers already use highway barriers to reduce loud traffic, but this is not enough. For example, one solution might be educating policymakers on how to create local noise mitigation legislation, especially the sleep-interrupting version. It might be possible to better notify (and enforce) noise violators, improve tree coverage that can block noise, or create “no horn zones”.

Creating safe and livable neighborhoods isn’t just about reducing crime, its also about ensuring that city designers and decision-makers, and residents themselves, treat all neighborhoods fairly and ensure all forms of health and well-being are part of the 21st Century neighborhood.

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Greta, H22 and the time bomb

The climate crisis affects everything - including
crime prevention and city development

by Gregory Saville

Tick tock…the clock is ticking.

I recently watched 16-year old Greta Thunberg glare at global leaders and chastise the United Nations for not doing enough about the Climate Crisis. Record numbers of wildfires burn around the world. Floods, hurricanes, and extreme weather dominate the news. And, says Greta, (and legions of scientists), because of climate deniers, Big Oil, and dallying politicians around the world, time is running out.

Tick tock.

In truth, it isn’t from those living today that the Climate Crisis was born. It was born in the belching factories of the Industrial Age, weaned by a century of exploding (and irresponsible) population growth, and befriended by decades of poor environmental choices. Some of those poor environmental choices emerged in how we built cities – sprawl, acres of parking, carbon eating suburbs.

The result? Tax money spent on sprawl left the inner city vacant, sleepy, and blighted. Downtowns were vacated by shoppers looking for regional malls. The guts of the city were emptied into the box stores of the burbs. Studies about such development show that “living in a city can alter our brain’s architecture, making it more vulnerable to… social stress.”

So not only does pollution and smog harm our lungs and bodies, but
neurophysical research suggests that poor urban living conditions negatively affect our brain biology, particularly the part that affects moods – the amygdala – such as anxiety disorders and mental conditions like schizophrenia.

However, while time runs out and Greta says we aren’t doing enough, it isn't true that we are doing nothing. Some innovations do break through.

Swedish teenage climate activist, Greta Thunberg,
after her United Nations and European Union speeches
- photo European Union, Creative Commons


This week I co-presented our SafeGrowth project work from New York at the H22 Summit in Helsingborg, Sweden, a conference on Smart City innovations and how they combat climate change. Delivered with my colleague Ifeoma Ebo from the New York City Mayor's Office on Criminal Justice, our message showed how tactics in SafeGrowth and community empowerment in high-density housing can humanize residential towers and reduce victimization. If we are to densify in the future, we must know how to do it well.

The conference was in preparation for the H22 Smart City Exposition in Helsingborg. Smart Cities is a concept to dramatically expand data networks and sensors into city operations and embed information and communication technologies via the IoT (Internet of Things) for more efficient use of resources. The idea is if city officials can interact better with residents and monitor city life, they can more efficiently improve infrastructure and services.

Presenting our SafeGrowth work this week at the H22 Summit
in Helsingborg, Sweden - photo Peter Brinch, H22 Summit

It is, in effect, a technical battle against inefficiency and climate change. In the past, I have been skeptical of some smart technologies in policing and crime prevention that have not seemed so smart. So I was curious how the European smart city movement – particularly this one in Sweden -  differed from what I’ve seen thus far. I was not disappointed.


The earliest battle against the environmental crisis began in the 1960s with the counter-culture warriors, triggered by Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring on the insecticides poisoning our water.

Silent Spring uncovered how Chemical Industry pesticides
poisoned agriculture

Those early warriors grew into environmentalists who created, among other things, Smart Growth to confront sprawl and reimagine urban villages that offer more friendly places to live, and transit-oriented developments.

Smart Growth is another front in the climate battle. It’s an urban planning rebellion against ecological waste and carbon waste. For 20 years it has promoted new kinds of planning and zoning to improve the environment and create walkable streets. Sadly, most politicians are still ignorant of Smart Growth and few in the public have the slightest idea how it reduces sprawl thereby cutting pollution and carbon emissions.

In the 1990s I worked with a design team on one of the earliest Smart Growth projects in Vancouver – the Collingwood Village community near the Joyce/VanNess Skytrain Station. Touted today as one of Vancouver’s most successful neighborhoods, the Collingwood story has appeared in this blog. Twenty years later we now see how smart growth/transit-oriented development can last.

Vancouver's Collingwood Village transit-oriented development


In spite of all this, anti-Smart Growth critics hope to turn back the nostalgia clock. They restrict multi-family units, spend billions on expressways, ignore efficient commuter trains, and they fight for low densities. Want proof? Look at the outer suburban rings of Calgary, Toronto, Winnipeg, Phoenix, Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, Houston, Sydney, Perth, etc.

I should know; I live in one! An unpleasant fact I learned the hard way is that owning or renting an affordable home requires a wide range of housing options and, in most larger cities in the developed world, those options are limited by decades of single-use zoning that encourages lower densities. Without more affordable choices, we are left with housing from existing housing stock - and that means suburbs.

There is much to be done, not the least of which remains convincing the business-as-usual crowd that, frankly, things have changed and time is running out. Greta is right. We must do better. Sooner!

Friday, November 1, 2019

Life in the village - The high-level-needs gap

Future neighbourhoods need adaptive public spaces
that satisfy many needs

By Mateja Mihinjac

I had a fairly happy childhood. The suburban village my parents adopted as a family home offered the necessary amenities - two small grocery stores, a bakery, fresh produce store, kindergarten, primary school and a small library. And they were all within a ten-minute walk. We also had a home garden, we could play on the street and I was surrounded by the green fields and nearby hills that became my beloved recreational spots.

Most importantly, this was a safe neighbourhood.

However, as I grew older, my needs and wants also increased. Village life no longer satisfied my yearning for exploration, learning, working and socialising, and the surroundings and facilities felt outdated and bland. It was as if time in the village had stopped.

A poorly lit underpass and graffitied train station sends a message
to village residents - no one cares about this space!


I later realized it was me who had outgrown the village. It continues to satisfy basic needs, but it hasn’t evolved. It has failed to adapt to the reality that, more than ever, humans strive for more than simply surviving and addressing our biological needs. We have higher-level psychological needs such as feelings of belonging, self-esteem and social connection. We have needs for personal growth and self-fulfilment. Abraham Maslow outlined this in the Theory of Human Motivation nearly 80 years ago.

Moreover, we crave a meaningful existence by being able to contribute to the experience of others. Maslow explained this highest level satisfaction in his later work using the term self-transcendence.

It should therefore not sound unusual or extraordinary for people to expect that their neighbourhood should offer a high quality of life by providing opportunities for realising those high-level needs.

Ample food choices in farmers markets and local stores
should offer healthy choices


This is the message that Greg Saville and I convey in our recently published article Third Generation CPTED.

The main premise of our new theory is that for the highest quality of life, a 21st Century neighbourhood should offer more than minimum services and necessities. Good transport, proper sanitation, a healthy environment, ample food, adequate shelter, and local safety are critical, but not enough. Recreation opportunities and social activities too are necessary, but they still don't reach the highest level of motivational satisfaction. So residents drive away and abandon their neighbourhood to find something they cannot locate nearby.

Applying the Neighbourhood Liveability Hierarchy we propose that residents should be able to strive for more advanced opportunities to satisfy their highest needs, while all the basic and modest provisions exist in every place. Such an advanced neighbourhood planned in a holistic and strategic way will help it evolve to support the needs of its inhabitants.

A neighbourhood livability hierarchy for satisfying human needs


In SafeGrowth we offer the hub concept as an epicentre for such developments under the ownership of neighbourhood residents.

The main premise of the concept is participatory democracy and decision-making potential of the residents who would continually assess and address neighbourhood needs thus help it maintain a high quality of life.

Our SafeGrowth advocate and friend Carlos Gutierrez has recently also offered a view of networked community-driven hubs in the violence-stricken nation of Honduras. His story is remarkable because it showcases how community-driven neighbourhood hubs drive local progress and offer opportunities for high-level needs, which concurrently aim to address violence and promote safety.

It's difficult to predict the shape of future urban design,
but it must include places of refuge, nature and positive social interaction


As our basic needs are met, we must create places that allow us opportunities to grow towards higher-level needs and uncover innovative and exciting ways to satisfy them. If we can’t find those opportunities in our living environment, we will look elsewhere and alienate ourselves from our neighbourhood and its inhabitants in the process.

Unfortunately, so many amenities are concentrated in large downtown centres, or in huge, disconnected retail box stores surrounded by acres of parking, that they restrict the opportunities for satisfying high-level needs in suburban areas like the village of my youth. The suburbs become places that excel in basic services and residential use, but where opportunities for self-actualization and transcendence are rare.

Our neighbourhoods must respond to the needs of 21st Century lifestyles and they need opportunities for their inhabitants to flourish in local life and participate in meaningful neighbourhood decision-making. Perhaps then, as neighbourhood attachment grows, residents will enjoy their neighbourhood not only because it’s their living environment but also because it helps them fulfil their potential.

Monday, October 21, 2019

Violence on the streets of Santiago - Towards social peace during crisis

Troops in Santiago earlier today attempting to quell riots 
Photo Martina Bennewitz Martinez

GUEST BLOG: Macarena Rau Vargas

Macarena is an architect from Chile and the President of the International CPTED Association. She has a Ph.D. in architecture and urbanism and has led urban safety projects all across Latin America and the Carribean. She currently heads PBL Consulting, is an associate consultant with AlterNation LLC, and has led the evolution of 2nd Generation CPTED throughout South America. As a citizen of Chile, Macarena and her fellow citizens have suffered weeks of violent protests on the streets of Santiago. In this guest blog, she has a message for policymakers and citizens alike - a message that resonates in other countries around the world. 

* * *

Rioters are burning factories, 11 people are dead, and over 10,000 police and troops are on the streets attempting to quell violent protests. These are times of social unrest in many countries and Chile is not immune. This very phenomenon was described in the first chapter of the SafeGrowth book: “We now see a resurgence of grassroots social movements calling for change… Do these increasing incidents of social unrest prophesize an impending future shock?”

In Santiago, it all started on October 18 when, as the result of a 4% Metro transit ticket hike, there was a spontaneous explosion of social discontent on the streets of Chile’s capital city. Even though wages in Chile have been slightly increasing and poverty falling, the rates of inequality remain high.

Bus burned by Chilean rioters after transit fare hike
Photo by Jorge Morales Piderit, Wikimedia Commons

At this very moment, it is important to reflect and ask what will lead us to a sustainable social peace both during crisis scenarios like this and in everyday life in Chile and throughout Latin America? Is there a methodology that allows us to realize that social peace?


The first point to establish is that public security is not improvised; rather it is the methodical result of concerted public, private and citizen efforts. And those efforts must be sustained to be able to deal with crises like those we suffer today in Chile, and in other Latin American countries. Creating stable and sustainable public policies is not a simple matter – they must integrate and articulate many parts of community justice and safety: control, prevention, reintegration, and victim care actions.

The second point is that before the public explodes in a burst of social discontent, a government must have the tools and capacity to diagnose socio-environmental pathologies that destroy the quality of public life. It must know how to diagnose, with the help of citizens, the possible threats to public life, whether those threats are internal or external. Governments are not always complicit in the creation of social inequity – it often happens because they are unaware of the full implications of even the simplest social policy – like a fare hike in a transit ticket! Again, this brings us to the need for a methodology to guide us forward.

We know from 20 years of work with both 1st and 2nd Generation Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) that we now have such a  methodology. In Latin America, we call this the CPTED® methodology and it offers a social diagnosis that is co-produced with local communities. A CPTED® methodology diagnosis is not similar to the surveys, polling, or social research that governments too frequently rely on for information (and as we see in Santiago, often with disastrous results). The CPTED® methodology allows the diagnosis to be rich, relevant and up-to-date; it captures the pulse of community members and their real needs.

Santiago protesters take to the streets earlier today
Photo Martina Bennewitz Martínez

Our experience has taught us the more hyper-focused the diagnostics, the better the solutions. For example, we know from international evidence that the proportion of those who trigger violence during peaceful protests (resulting in riots) are a minority – often an organized and concerted minority – compared to the mass of citizens they claim to represent. No doubt social unrest and frustration exist. But few public citizens want to harm people, to burn stores, or destroy property. Few want people killed.

What citizens actually want is a solution to inequity, poverty, and a decent quality of life.

The third point is that public security policies must be in concert with various members of the community, both institutionally and socially; that is why citizen dialogue is fundamental. Dialogue must involve the citizenry, the armed forces, government, universities, civil society organizations, the church, and many others.

Modern, high-tech Santiago skyscrapers frame riot troops
Photo Martina Bennewitz Martínez


Citizenship is the backbone that links both the SafeGrowth planning method recently introduced in North America and the broad style of CPTED® that we have developed in Latin America. Both methods employ citizenship at our core because we recognize its importance in developing public policy. Citizenship and the involvement of the public empowers citizens! That is how we end up with sustainable policies and avoid crucial public policy mistakes.

Likewise, in crisis scenarios as we see today, we must avoid polarizing talk that fractures people apart from a common ground. As the city of Bogotá demonstrated in the 1980s with its "Garrote and Carrot" policies, the balance between hard enforcement control was combined with the comprehensive social actions of the citizenry. This eventually cut the homicide rate in half.

Achieving sustainable social peace for Chile is possible, but it requires methodical changes based on evidence in public policies. This crisis is a call to turn the national helm in another direction. We expect both the government and the citizens of this country to walk in that direction.

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Neighborhood Hubs in Honduran Cities

Neighborhood Hub, Barrio San Juan, Honduras.
Open at night for learning and community engagement

GUEST BLOG: Carlos Alfredo Gutiérrez Vera

Carlos is a Chilean architect/urban planner and a SafeGrowth Advocate residing in Honduras. He is a director of the International CPTED Association and one of the initiators of CPTED in Latin America. He has conducted CPTED throughout Central America and is co-author of the first Latin American CPTED manual. He works for a Consortium of three German companies (INBAS-SANIPLAN-SUM) giving Technical Assistance to the Honduran government with the Secretary for Community Development, Water and Sanitation, to implement the CONVIVIR program. 


Freddy is a young man from the municipality of Siguatepeque in Honduras. His greatest passion is to practice bicycle motocross (BMX) on his bike, however he and his friends did not have a place to practice. For Freddy and his friends, this is not only a type of recreation, but it’s also a way to socialize and a way to avoid getting involved with illicit and dangerous activities.

Two years ago, Freddy found out a Community Hub Center was being built that would incorporate a space to practice BMX. The program was CONVIVIR, a social intervention initiative implemented by the Government of Honduras and German International Cooperation through the German Development Bank KfW, in alliance with the municipality of Siguatepeque.

Neighborhood Hub Bike Day in the new BMX track 

CONVIVIR aims to improve living conditions for young people in Honduras living with violence, forced migration, teenage pregnancy, poverty among other problems. The Community Hub Project was called Center for the promotion of Quality of Life in Barrio el Carmen.

Excited by the idea of ​​having a place with a BMX track, Freddy approached the municipality to see how he and other BMX practitioners could contribute. He was surprised to learn that the Hub would be built and managed by the community itself, using the PEC methodology (Projects Executed by the Community). It was an even bigger surprise that he and his friends could participate in the design of the BMX track and work as a team with a group of specialized designers.

In community meetings, Freddy and his friends came to see how CONVIVIR builds violence prevention through the recovery of public spaces, strengthening social and labor skills of young people. It accomplished that through the Center for Quality of Life using strategies like CPTED applied by the community itself.
During the planning process, Freddy was able to meet and interact with other members of the community and participate in actions that would carry out the construction of the project.

It was motivating for Freddy to know that the residents of Barrio San Juan will have access to training programs while promoting coexistence among neighbors. They will achieve a sense of belonging, be linked to democratic processes, and participate in decision-making for projects that benefit the community.

Neighborhood Hubs - also called Quality of Life Centers - host numerous
activities including community meetings


The Quality of Life Center in the San Juan neighborhood was finished in mid-2018. Now Freddy and his friends have a place to practice BMX and have also joined other community projects. They feel integrated into their neighborhood and have begun a process of personal growth through activities carried out on a regular basis.

The CONVIVIR Community Hubs have fulfilled their role as urban centers that promote and strengthen neighborhood construction projects.  In recent years, the CONVIVIR Program has built 10 Community Hubs in three cities in Honduras; five in the city of Siguatepeque, three in the city of Gracias and two in the city of La Lima.

Hubs combine attractive landscaping and multiple activities 


In each city, the Community Hubs work closely with the municipal government, thus creating a synergy between community and local government. Ideas and new community projects are born and then begin to link to other infrastructure projects.

The program has evolved into a neighborhood network linking projects in one Hub with other community infrastructure projects such as sports centers, youth houses, libraries, and urban walks, vocational training centers, and others also built by CONVIVIR.

This linking is now creating a network of interconnected hubs, in effect a practical example of the ecosystem of neighborhood hubs as described in SafeGrowth – and highlighted in chapters 4 and 5 of SafeGrowth: Building Neighborhoods of Safety and Livability.