Sunday, May 19, 2013
In the file under pathetic behavior, a video came to my attention this week. CPTED creates defensible space by dividing space into semi-private and private zones. Occasionally this is done with fencing. I've blogged on fences before.
Some think fences are signs of mutual respect. Robert Frost's famous poem "Mending Wall" re-popularizes Plato's and later Ben Franklin's phrase "good fences make good neighbors". At the end of his poem Frost asks, "Why do they make good neighbors?"
One blogger I've read believes good fences represent the equality of neighbors while protecting the independence of each. For him keeping fences in repair is good citizenship. Another contends fences "maintain the fabric of community."
It's true the fabric of a community is maintained by mutual respect with minimal ambiguities. But if only a fence can do that then how much "mutual respect" really exists? Can't neighbors reach a respectful, reasonable agreement to balance privacy with communal sharing?
The bulldozer-caper in the video above suggests the answer: No! (At least for the ill-tempered or the insane). Fences, apparently, don't make good neighbors. Good neighbors make good neighbors.
Monday, May 6, 2013
|Biomedical Research building, University of Toronto|
Novices to CPTED sometimes see things with a clarity others lack. Jennica Collette is a planning student at the Faculty of Environment at the University of Waterloo, Ontario. She and fellow students recently completed their first CPTED study. In this guest blog she summarizes their findings and comes to similar conclusions as reported by Harvard University design students in March.
***As part of a University of Waterloo social planning class, a group of fellow students and myself wanted to know how urban form influenced safety, both actual and perceived. We chose university campuses, a context that was relevant and familiar, and compared our suburban campus at University of Waterloo to the urban campus at University of Toronto. It was our first CPTED experience.
We started by familiarizing ourselves with CPTED lingo including Oscar Newman’s Defensible Space Theory and Jane Jacob’s "eyes on the street". We looked at reported statistics and charts as well as perceived safety through site visits and random interviews. The results weren’t what we expected.
Initially we assumed the University of Toronto was less safe. Why? Perhaps the strong association between large urban centres and crime or the idea that people who don’t necessarily “belong” at the University can wander through the campus freely and easily. But during interviews we were told both campuses felt safe. Other than identifying some areas of concern, like poorly lit loading areas in Toronto or a woodlot trail in Waterloo, there were rarely moments where students felt like they were in any danger.
|Library at the University of Waterloo|
One of the most significant differences between the University of Toronto and the University of Waterloo was the presence of people. Even during reading week Toronto’s campus was bustling with activity. In Waterloo, during the weekends and evenings, you could count the people on one hand.
Toronto’s safe environment can be attributed to a combination of multiple uses, permeable grid form and high densities. The Royal Ontario Museum, the Ontario Legislative building, and Queen’s Park all lie within the campus boundary and the grid form makes the campus as much a waypoint as a destination.
|Street vendors activating the street at the University of Toronto|
Does built form influence actual and perceived safety? Our first CPTED experience confirmed it does. What we found mostly is that there is so much more to safety than movement predictors and improving lighting (though that is part of it). From a planning perspective a large part of making environments safe is activating spaces and activating communities. It turns out that is also the conclusion of Second-generation CPTED.
Whether it a campus or residential neighbourhood, the key seems to be having people present who are engaged in their environments.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
|Boston lockdown after terror attack last week (photo - Sacramento Bee)|
If Boston proves anything it proves we need more CCTV, right? Yet police, CCTV, and the community working together caught the terrorists, not CCTV alone. We presume CCTV will cut crime and make things better. Crime might drop (which is good), but things don’t always get better.
The CPTED 3-D method (I don't teach it) states the design of a place should reinforce its designated use so that "illegitimate" users are kept at bay. Yet Jane Jacobs wrote that, if given the chance, people make spaces work in their own unique ways. That is what makes them safe.
Similar questions were posed a decade ago in Keith Hayward’s "Space, the final frontier: Criminology, the city and the spatial dynamics of exclusion."
SPACE: THE FINAL FRONTIER
Hayward threw down the gauntlet to the Criminology of Place crowd- situational crime prevention, environmental criminology and by association (not mine), CPTED.
Unfortunately Hayward wrote in the gibberish of post-structural "Foucauldian" prose, an academic fad popular among a small group of academics in the UK and Canada. Tragically it delivers little to those preventing crime except unreadable text. That's a shame because Hayward has a brilliant mind with important things to say.
He attacked theories of the then-emerging community of crime analysts and crime mappers. Today crime analysts populate every major police department. They desperately need this message.
|Top down crime maps and CCTV can distract attention from what matters most|
One part of that message: Spatial patterns - robbery hotspots, burglary densities, crime displacements - miss the point. More accurately, they are such a small part of the point that they distract attention away from the keys to prevention - causes behind criminal behavior.
SECOND GENERATION CPTED
Hayward's corrective is theoretical: link the individual experience of victims, offenders, and other citizens with the urban, social and cultural facts that create conditions for crime.
I think it is simpler. It’s the corrective Gerry Cleveland and I offered a decade earlier in Second Generation CPTED. Blogs on descriptive symbols and articles on Second Generation CPTED spell this out in detail.
|Street life in Tijuana, Mexico - center of a narco-war?|
- Crime analysts should create a picture of crime motives in each neighborhood and link that to groups who might mitigate those motives. Otherwise they should stop calling themselves crime analysts and instead call themselves Imosprs – Incident-Mappers-of-Selected-Police-Records!
- Traditionalists tell me that community "culture" strategies in CPTED are beside the point. They say cutting the opportunity is the thing. They are wrong! Both are essential…concurrently!
A friend of mine likes to quote T.S. Eliot: "We had the experience but missed the meaning." Let’s not miss the meaning of Boston.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
***As we mourn for those killed and injured in the bombing at the Boston Marathon this week, it’s important to remember that good work is being done in Boston.
Good crime-prevention work.
As a woman, a CPTED practitioner and planner, I feel as though I have eyes in the back of my head. And what a contrast I experienced in the two universities of Harvard in Boston and Yale in New Haven, Connecticut - especially their urban contexts!
In a month teaching at Harvard’s planning program I don't believe I saw police or security guards. They must have been there but I saw no obvious presence. I asked about the security of the projectors in the lobby of Gund Hall where I was teaching and was told that a security guard sits there at night.
|Harvard's Gund Hall school of design|
Harvard Skate, surrounded by tables and chairs, is open and free to all members of the Harvard community, their family members and the general public.
ACTIVATING STREETS WITH SKATING
The custom-made, 40-by-60-foot Harvard Skate rink in front of the Science Center was built atop the newly paved Science Center plaza, which is undergoing renovations. The installation represents the beginning of the plaza's transformation into a vibrant space that joins campus and community.
It reminded me of the idea of putting a carwash in a parking garage. A brilliant Second-Generation CPTED intervention.
|Free hot chocolate at skate rink|
By contrast, a day in New Haven had me powerfully frightened. I took the train from Boston and arrived mid-morning after a gorgeous trip through snow-covered New England countryside. I had not lived in New Haven since the mid-sixties, so it was a nostalgic journey.
DRUGS AND FEAR?
I was met - at the train station and throughout the downtown - by a strong odour of grass. As one might expect, there were a lot of unsavoury-looking characters hanging around the train station. They were also hanging around the downtown on a weekday (which I did not expect). They did not seem to be doing anything and, from what I could tell, were not dealing drugs.
|New Haven's Union Station|
I spent the day walking though residential areas where I had lived in the sixties and then working in the Yale Archives. I emerged from the library as it was getting dark and by 6:30 pm I was seeking a taxi to go to the best pizza parlour in the United States: New Haven’s Frank Pepe's Pizzeria, where I had enjoyed their signature pizzas in the sixties. I'd come 17,000 miles for my pizza and I wanted lots of time to savour it.
|Pepe's Pizzaria, New Haven CT|
That did not make me feel safe. Failing to find a taxi, I thought about walking (it was cold but not unbearably so) to a nearby urban neighbourhood with a few more restaurants, as I was on the edge of the Yale campus. But I thought better of taking a back route, fearing that perhaps all this security and police presence meant that the back streets (with fewer eyes on the street) might be dangerous.
|Increased police numbers in New Haven - photo NBC News|
As an older woman, I began to wonder. Would I find a taxi? Am I in danger in the middle of the city - in the middle of the campus?
The pizza faded from my mind and fear crept in. At 6 pm on a week night in the centre of the city. What was going on?
POLICE PRESENCE AND FEAR?
These two experiences made me think about the messages that a strong police and security presence sends to a non-native. In New Haven, I knew the geography and could remember where things were. I identified landmarks and felt I had a reasonable cognitive map of the central area. In Cambridge, I had none of those advantages but was able to navigate the streets because the main routes were well-lit and well trafficked.
Even late at night, there is lots of activity in Harvard Square.
|Night at Harvard Square|
Reflecting on my short visit to New Haven I feel that such an intense security and police presence sends a message that a place is unsafe. It did not make me feel safer; it heightened my sense of vulnerability.
On the other hand, on the Harvard campus, aware of the inherent dangers of campuses generally for pedestrian safety, I was careful. I stayed on the beaten track and I kept my wits about me. I felt safe. Whatever is happening at Yale and in New Haven, it's not working! Not for me. Not for me as a non-native pedestrian.
And at Harvard, whatever they are doing - subtle interventions and careful management - it is working well.
Frank Pepe’s pizza – when a taxi finally materialized -- defied description. My pizza-loving self will never forget it. But it’s not just about the pizza
My CPTED practitioner self will never forget the brilliant CPTED intervention of Harvard Skate on the plaza outside the Science Center.
A tale of two campuses and two cities. And I can tell you which one I'd like to visit, alone at night, again.
Sunday, April 14, 2013
The Vision of Paulo Soleri - a new documentary film on Paulo Soleri.
Paulo Soleri died this week at 93. To students of the city he is legend.
Former student of Frank Lloyd Wright, featured in films and books, Soleri created "arcology" long before the eco-sensible married the environment with urban development. To Newsweek his laboratory-city-in-the-desert north of Phoenix - Arcosanti - is "the most important urban experiment undertaken in our lifetimes." Over 50,000 urban design and planning students visit it each year.
Twenty years ago I was one of them. I went to find out what he thought of cities and crime.
|Arcology ideas emerge in film, fiction, literature and in real-life architecture|
Solari thought we need to remove cars from cities and we need more urban density (the basis of an arcology). Nowadays that's echoed everywhere in urban planning, such as MIT scholar/architect Kent Larson (check out his talk on TED.com)
"What about crime?" I asked him.
"There are very dense European cities with very low crime," he replied. "There are ways to do it right."
"What of policing an Arcology?" I asked.
He thought for a minute and smiled. "Well I guess the first thing would be to leave the guns at the door."
|Paulo Soleri. Photo Arizona Daily Star|
Sunday, April 7, 2013
|19th century Stockton, California in better times? Postcard photo California Historial Society.|
I have written about the Pythonic thinking driving UK police privatization and the transformation of police culture from community cop to combat cop. Lately things have accelerated into an economic and social earthquake for policing. Am I the only one noticing? I don't see it in the press. The blabbering heads on Talk TV/Radio are too IQ-starved to notice.
Then I thought of a story:
In a not-too-distant dystopian future Gotham City faces financial ruin. The national economy is in shambles and municipal budgets to pay for skyrocketing costs of overtime, pensions, and medical expenses are gone. Represented by unions clinging to 19th century collective bargaining dogma, cops are being laid off in droves.
Fears of crime cause thousands to hide behind the walls of gated communities and metal bars on windows. Their homes are prisons where they cower, too afraid to walk downtown at night. The police chief advises people to arm themselves.
Sound like Robocop? Nope. It's us.
Proof #1: The municipal financial crisis trickling down from the Great Recession. Consider thousands of police layoffs in the US and police privatization in the UK. Consider how this whole mess heads north as the Canadian economy tanks.
Proof #2: Police layoffs in;
East Greenwich, NJ,
Los Angeles, CA,
San Jose, CA,
Proof #3: Across California the FBI reports over 4,000 officers were laid off from 2008 - 2011.
Proof #4: Increasing numbers of municipalities are in financial ruin such as Detroit, or claiming bankruptcy such as Stockton, CA.
And now the latest aftershock; Due to police layoffs a Sheriff in Milwaukee is advising residents to purchase guns and take safety courses.
Is it just me noticing this or has visionary leadership truly gone AWOL?
Friday, March 29, 2013
|Activating parking lots with design - Seattle's U-Village Mall|
Paving paradise? Joni Mitchell's classic lyric to "Big Yellow Taxi" ran through my mind yesterday during research for an upcoming webinar on downtown safety next Wednesday, April 4
It happened during a visit to the U-Village Mall - a lifestyle mall in Seattle where I uncovered an example of Penalosa's maxim: "We can have a city that is very friendly to cars or a city that is very friendly to people. We can't have both."
A few years ago I wrote about Enrique Penalosa, the urban visionary from Bogota, Columbia. He's the former Mayor who helped transform a nightmare downtown during his country's narco-war into a vibrant and safe place. He did that by building for people first and cars last.
|Wayfinding through parking lots need not be a gauntlet of horror|
The U-Village Mall shows how we can do that in a parking lot. This re-imagined mall sacrifices sprawling lot design that maximizes quantity for a pedestrian friendly design to maximize quality. Playground areas for kids, water features, sidewalks and gardens - the works.
The U-Village Mall ignores large lots in favor of smaller clusters of 100 cars. This reduces the number of parking spaces (to the chagrin of some), but it creates a livable urban village feel (to the joy of everyone else).
Activating public spaces is a key for safety. My prior blogs on parking lot design show design errors of size and shape. Parking lots at the U-Village show how to mix people and cars. I suspect Penalosa would approve.
The webinar is next Wednesday, 3-4pm EST (12-1 PST) sponsored by the International Downtown Association. Their website lists details - IDA Trending Topics #5
|U-Village Mall encourages sitting, dogs, and flowers|