In addition to the visible challenges of mobility, human settlements and environmental sustainability, city planners have to think about Urban Security.
Cities have been said to the ‘honeypot of criminal activities’ where incidents of muggings, car-jacking, house burglaries and occasional hooliganism are common. . Recent times have also seen cities become prime targets for terrorist activities.
A recent survey by UN-Habitat on The City of Nairobi found that 37% of all Nairobi’s residents had been a victim of a robbery and 22% a victim of a theft at least once during the previous year. A further 18% had also been personally physically assaulted.
As the starting point of the built environment, it is the planners’ responsibility to lay the foundations towards safer cities. Some cities have made various strides towards this in later stages; Nairobi, for instance, increased night-time lighting many residential areas including informal settlements. The Delhi metro maintains wagons exclusively for women to protect them from harassment. Stadia around the world are built with easily accessible and separate exit routes for opposing supporters to avoid conflict while stone walled fencing is the norm in most residential areas in developing cities.
In the past many cities embraced the ‘Police only’ approach towards crime prevention. With the large sizes of urban centers this approach has been noted to be unsustainable. Modern times have seen the development of integrated action by police, government, private sector and citizens. An additional feature is the involvement of other professionals via Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED). CPTED is a low cost yet highly effective method of fighting security challenges by bringing together security concepts, architectural and situational elements, and security technologies. It uses the built environment as a means of reducing the incidence of crime, the fear of crime, and to improve the quality of life.
Closely related to New-Urbanism, CPTED involves the application of physical design principles to an area in order to minimize the environmental support for criminal behavior. CPTED focuses on ‘defensible space’ and territoriality emphasizing accessibility and permeability (walkability).
CPTED sees that there are three principles applied in the built environment:
- Natural Surveillance: People should easily observe the space around them and eliminate hiding places, e.g. creating “eyes” on the front of the building via windows, porches, and balconies. Clear views of public spaces from buildings, urban lighting of pedestrian ways, bus-stop design, design of entrances to parking facilities and other stops, transparency of shop fronts and building entrances. These create natural surveillance opportunities and ward off potential criminals.
- Territoriality: Providing clear designation between public, private, and semi-private areas and making it easier for people to understand, and participate in, an area’s intended use. Avoiding enclaves in cities, creating vitality and openness in towns, avoiding physical barriers and wasteland also all contribute with this.
- Access Control: to decrease accessibility for criminal purposes gated communities tend to fall into this category, as well as do the presence of security guards and barriers. Poor CPTED includes night lighting at a house that is ‘too bright’, fences that block natural surveillance and poor location of security guards. Dumping of garbage works against access control as it portrays that nobody cares about that environment.
Crime prevention may also extend beyond physical design and focus on social issues thus offering even more enhanced and realistic crime prevention strategies. Involving the community, social interactions often additionally significantly assist in preventing crime.
What are some of the innovative means of crime prevention? How has your city dealt with security issues?