Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Reconciling safety and sense of place

The New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects
2023 annual conference - Atlantic City

by Mateja Mihinjac

Safety and crime prevention frequently evoke mental images of CCTV, gates, locks and the police. Crime prevention and security professionals (myself included) are often guilty of putting on the thinking hats of potential offenders as we develop solutions. Instead of focusing on the overall liveability of a place, we too often recommend solutions for places that prevent undesirable activities and produce sterile and uninviting places for desirable uses.

I recently spoke about Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) at the 2023 Annual Meeting of the New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects (NJASLA) in Atlantic City. I made it clear through my keynote address that safety and a sense of place can coexist. The conference’s theme – Sense of Place offered a great opportunity to discuss this conundrum.

While feeling somewhat out of place as a criminologist amongst landscape architects, I was pleased to have had the opportunity to offer some basic understanding of CPTED. I was especially excited to discuss its application to landscape architecture. These professionals are in an ideal position to ensure that places are not only attractive and aesthetically pleasing but also safe, inviting and inclusive thus inducing a sense of place. 

Bright colour, busking, people watching, and fun activities in the Queen Street pedestrian mall, Brisbane, Australia - sometimes a sense of place can involve buskers


Sense of place is generally associated with positive perceptions of places. The attributes that contribute to a sense of place deal with the emotional, cultural and historical connection to that place. 

Sense of place is also associated with factors that make it special and unique and that foster sense of belonging to that place. A sense of place emerges in locations where people get attached to the space and where they love to spend time. It is a place that they identify with. 

So how can we create a sense of place through CPTED?

In 3rd Generation CPTED, Greg Saville and I emphasise the importance of designing places and building neighbourhoods that offer more than basic amenities for their users and inhabitants. Traditional 1980s CPTED (1st Generation CPTED) focused on preventing crime opportunities, not on overall liveability, and it often led to target hardening and hostile architecture (in many places, it still does). 

For people to form attachments and connections to places they need to feel part of those places. This can be achieved most powerfully when users are involved in the design and activities of those places.  

Our work in SafeGrowth teaches us that applying all three generations of CPTED offers a more powerful way to integrate the elements for safe, inclusive and inviting places. 

Greenery and places to sit comfortably can offer a respite from
busy streets - Greenwich Village, New York  


While 1st Generation CPTED helps us address the specific concerns that offer opportunities for crime in small spaces, 2nd Generation CPTED goes beyond that with its neighbourhood focus. It helps us address the underlying social conditions and it deals with the neighbourhood dynamics that lead to disadvantage, disengagement and lack of interactions between people. 

The latest variation on the CPTED theme is 3rd Generation CPTED. It focuses on sustainable liveability outcomes and aims at addressing the advanced-level needs of neighbourhoods and those who dwell there. Because it is directly tied to the highest level of psychological and emotional needs and desires, 3rd Generation CPTED is closely associated with fostering a sense of place. Linked to Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, (and supported by modern research in developmental biology and neuroscience), the hierarchy of needs is a new way to think about neighbourhood health and safety.

This full, holistic version of CPTED offers a powerful tool for designing inviting places that foster identity, offer ample opportunities for socialising, and create a positive sense of place. This is especially the case when the users of those places are directly involved in the community-building process.

Dismal landscaping will detract from a sense of place - unsafe behaviour can follow 


This holistic CPTED thinking directly translates into one component of SafeGrowth that utilises all three generations of CPTED. However, as a neighbourhood planning method, SafeGrowth takes this a step further. It trains neighbourhood residents and builds their capacity to identify neighbourhood problems and create solutions, thus fostering the local community's sense of place and belonging. 

Landscape architects and planners must become integral members of multidisciplinary neighbourhood teams to help the residents realise their vision for safe and liveable places. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

"Stop Dave... I'm afraid" - The latest on AI and crime prevention

AI-driven shape-recognition tech in the Smart City
- photo by Creative Commons courtesy of QueSera4710

by Gregory Saville

With apologies to the deactivation scene of the Hal 9000 computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, the title above came to mind when I recently read a paper on AI. What is the latest in AI? Our work in SafeGrowth and CPTED often places us face-to-face with suggestions for artificial intelligence as an answer to crime. 

AI appears in this blog in the form of my keynote address to the ICA annual conference in Sweden regarding AI, Smart Cities and CPTED. I have blogged on this topic a number of times including AI in law enforcement and AI and CCTV

I recently read a provocative new research study on AI and Smart Cities. In the paper Understanding citizen perceptions of AI in the smart city, Finnish computer science researcher Anu Lehtiƶ and her colleagues examine public perceptions of AI in relation to Smart City urban planning. The Smart City movement is gaining momentum and it is intricately tied to AI.


Here are some responses they uncovered:

I don’t need to worry about AI. I trust those who are in control of it. I’ve already seen digitization in other aspects of life. It isn’t so bad, maybe even good!

Some people are happy just letting things happen and they rely on “those who know better” to handle problems. This is an understandable position, given the speed of change today and the overwhelming amount of information flooding our screens.  However, given the catastrophe of other unfettered technologies (nuclear power, for example), this is a poorly thought-out and risky strategy.

Mapping the connectivity of the worldwide internet
- photo courtesy of Creative Commons, By The Opte Project 

I’ll avoid AI if I think there is a danger. 

It is difficult to anticipate all the potential dangers of AI. I presented some in my keynote address (see link above). But because AI arrives with so many advantages for us, especially in the Smart City, we tend to look the other way and ignore unanticipated consequences. But in truth, there are many ways where AI might go awry and sci-fi writers have offered some terrifying possibilities. Consider The Terminator, The Matrix, or the beautiful Ava in El Machina!

I don’t like “them” monitoring me. 

In this era of digitization, it is hard to imagine any modern society without extensive digital record-keeping. We are already thoroughly embedded into one database or another. There are motor vehicle databases, government databases, health services, pension, and social assistance databases, not to mention thousands of corporate databases, both virtual and in person, whenever we purchase something.

The fact is that we are already monitored. Further, with AI there is no “them”. Artificial intelligence is literally anywhere there is electricity, a processor, and some AI programming. The public, it seems, is blissfully unaware of the risks posed by AI. 


The most concerning findings:

The interviewees saw no reason to fret over something that would become a natural part of citizens lives, in time. The younger generation would deem current worries as unintelligible, having grown up in a society where the use of AI was the norm (female, 25). On the other hand, the interviewees presumed that it would still take a long time (“another 50 years” female, 44, personal assistant) before AI was mature enough to operate on a level that was notable enough to bring about significant, concrete changes in people’s everyday lives. 

In other words, don’t fret about AI because it will become normal and it’ll take 50 years before it matters. Talk about clueless bliss.

This is known as the AI effect - the tendency to claim AI is not real intelligence. If you have read anything on AI and its exponential growth you will agree that waiting around for AI to wake up is cavalier and dangerous. We need to be much more diligent.

Ultimately, it seems the researchers too are alarmed. They recommend a form of AI called human-centered AI which is a programming approach based on human ethics and the importance of personal privacy. Not quite Asimov’s 3 Laws of Robotics, but close enough for now.