Monday, November 17, 2014

Yarn bombing as placemaking - Adventure in Adelaide

Mall's Balls - popular meeting place in Adelaide's Rundle Mall

GUEST BLOG – Mateja Mihinjac is a criminologist at Griffith University, Australia completing her doctoral research on CPTED implementation. She is a member of the International CPTED Association. She recently attended the Asia-Pacific ICA CPTED Forum and kindly submitted this blog.

In mid-October, the ICA hosted a 2014 regional Asia-Pacific CPTED forum themed Better CPTED - Multidisciplinary Design for Safer Places.

The participants came from many different backgrounds thus bringing to the table a rainbow of strategies. Despite the differences we all agreed better and safer places emerge from the special features that make places more attractive and the people who use those places. I found great examples on the streets of Adelaide.

The nicely maintained Victoria Square offers numerous opportunities for social activities, meeting spots and sheltered seating areas. Walking down the pedestrian Rundle Mall I found The Mall’s Balls   - a common meeting point for people in the mall.

Dame Roma Mitchell statue
Looking for examples of people being users and co-creators of such special places I discovered some yarn bombing - dressed-up Rundle Mall Pigs and a statue of Dame Roma Mitchell on the North Terrace. They instantly attracted my attention and reminded me of the yarn bombed road barrier from Melbourne in a blog from a few months ago.

Turns out that the pigs and the statue were not isolated cases and that yarn bombing is popular throughout Adelaide, especially since 2012 when even the statue of Queen Victoria received a makeover. Yarn bombing is now part of Adelaide’s community events and it all started from local people aiming to create better places for and by themselves.

Rundle Mall yarn bombed pigs
Yarn bombing and its “softer” version known as yarn storming (in the UK) manifests community pride and provides a personal touch in public places. It is  widely considered a feminine form of graffiti or artistic vandalism.

Creative approaches such as knitting are one channel for the public to express and partake in public life. What I find neat about this approach is that it empowers those who traditionally wouldn’t participate in public activism and allows them to have a say in their own communities.

Placemaking surely comes in many forms.

Sheltered seating in Victoria Square


Monday, November 10, 2014

Enforcing a higher standard




Nowhere have I seen a better example of the gulf between combat cops and community cops than in these two recruiting videos. A friend recently sent them to me with the comment "Police recruitment videos speak volumes about livability of a place…"

Yes, they do.

Both cities are low crime and only one murder has occurred in either community over the past few years. Both have higher than average income levels with similar demographic mixes.

Newport Beach, California has 85,000 residents and Decatur, Georgia has 20,000, although both are adjacent to large cities (Los Angeles and Atlanta). While Decatur is smaller, the relative police strength is similar with both cities under 200 officers per 100,000 residents.

In social science this is gold! Social conditions are never the same and cross-jurisdictional comparisons are always imperfect. But it would be difficult to find two communities that are more apple-to-apple similar for comparing police services.

Except they don't compare. At all!


Who knows if policing reflects recruitment videos. But culture often shows up in videos like these. After all, each department had to approve them for public release so they obviously think these are the best images that represent what they are all about.

That is a frightening thought!


Sunday, November 2, 2014

Time for a little common ground

Mark Lakeman at Ted Talk last weekend. 
Neighborhood collaboration infers there is a reason to do so and a place to do it.  In SafeGrowth the reason is simple; crime and safety. But why do we need a common place to collaborate and how do we get that? Aren't community halls enough? Don't we have adequate common places for that now?

No we don't!

In  the Ted Talk below my friend, Portland architect Mark Lakeman tells us why. Mark has appeared on this blog before about Safety With a Potluck. Here he is on a roll! It's fascinating how he starts slow and builds tempo to such an obvious conclusion that somehow escapes how we currently build neighborhoods.


I remember sitting next to a colleague last year when Mark presented this idea during a keynote address. My colleague, clearly uncomfortable with the unconventional method in Portland's  Intersection Repair program, whispered: "What about the home owners near the intersection who don't want to participate?"

"Oh," I should have answered, but didn't, "do you mean the one's who prefer isolation and alienation? Or do you mean you don't understand how intersection repair accounts also for their need for privacy?"

Mark answers this when he describes Monopoly as the economic motif for how we plan cities and a game we all grew up with. We don't even question the logic of Monopoly as a way of doing business. Mark does! That's an idea worth spreading.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dancing Traffic Light - a viral meme

Dancing Traffic Lights in Lisbon, Portugal - screenshot from Smart Car video

Every now and then a meme comes along over which it is worth getting stoked. This week the Dancing Traffic Light went viral. It is such a meme.

Lisbon, Portugal is among the oldest cities in Europe known for its magnificent Gothic architecture, world class museums, and cultural festivals. Drug laws are decriminalized and it enjoys one of the lowest crime rates in the world.

Yet even a successful city has problems like traffic! Pedestrians risk life crossing congested intersections and dangerous jaywalking results in injury. The Dancing Traffic Light solves that!


Lisbon's Dancing Traffic Light cuts pedestrian intersection jaywalking 80%. It is from a PR campaign by the Smart Car Company to "discover our mind openers – urban experiments for a better future for the city".

It brought to mind the bottle bank or the piano stairway projects from Volkswagen's Fun Theory. It's also similar to the Say Something Nice project in New York.

Is this is what Capitalism 3.0 meant by responsible corporate citizenship?

This week the Dancing Traffic Light went viral - screenshot from Smart Car video

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Modernist message from a master architect

Simon Fraser University at sunset - photo John Christall

Beautiful places and streets attract people. They put eyes on the street, a basic principle of urban safety. I was recently reminded of a master architect of beauty, the award-winning Arthur Erickson, an architect the New York Times called Canada's pre-eminent Modernist architect.

While in Vancouver this week I spent time with Erickson's closest colleagues and friends, an impressive group who just like Erickson were concerned about both social equity and aesthetic beauty.

Modernism has not always had a good rap. Arguably, CPTED would not exist if not for the modernist planning and architecture that Jane Jacobs so bitterly attacked. Inappropriately applied modernism led to the demolition of the Pruitt-Igoe social housing in 1960s St. Louis, the project dubbed indefensible and crime-ridden in Oscar Newman's Defensible Space.

Arthur Erickson showed another way; modernism done right! An example of his work appeared here previously regarding Vancouver's Robson Square.

Erickson's Canada Place pavilion in 1967, Montreal's Expo 67
The first Erickson building I ever entered was the Canadian Pavilion at the Expo 67 fair in Montreal in 1967, a kind of inverted pyramid. At the time I had no idea about architectural modernism. It just looked cool.

Later I studied at the Erickson inspired Simon Fraser University atop Burnaby Mountain in Greater Vancouver, a kind of spaceship in the sky. It too was very cool and futuristic - a fact not lost on film directors who have filmed there (BattleStar Gallactica, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Underworld Awakening).

Erickson taught it is the work quality, not the theory, that matters most in constructing beautiful places. The problem arises when modernism is done badly and applied inappropriately. This is the case in  Pruitt-Igoe, Chicago's Cabrini-Green, Toronto's Jane/Finch, and the Chichy suburbs of Paris. Unsurprisingly, crime festers in such places.

Museum of Glass in Tacoma by Arthur Erickson/Nick Milkovich Architects - photo pinetrest 
The takeaway? Build sensitively and in social context. Don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Yet too many new architectural forms do the latter and too few architects do the former.

In Erickson's own words:

"…the reaction to the bareness of ill conceived modernist buildings was to revert in the 80's to a revival of historicism in the guise of "post-modernism"… That Dark Age is thankfully over but cultural insecurity is always there, hidden in the basement of our psyches - ready to spring out whenever brave confidence falters. 

It lingers in the gated communities where make-believe has become an adult panacea. It lingers with the developers who promote kitsch because it sells.  It lingers with the newly rich and the establishment who need to consolidate social standing with class accepted standards. It lingers in every shopping centre, multiplex, restaurant, Vegas casino where illusion is needed to disguise the emptiness within." 

Arthur Erickson,  2000






Saturday, October 4, 2014

Designing Out Crime in Sydney

Unique architecture near the Designing Out Crime research centre in Sydney, Australia

This week I spent time with new friends at the Designing Out Crime (DOC) center at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia (UTS).

Criminology can be plodding and stagnant. This is no doubt surprising to outsiders like journalists who turn to criminologists for answers to the latest crime spree. Too often outsiders are fed stale abstractions with no real-life angle. Not so for the DOC centre in Sydney. In fact, even the architecture in and around the UTS campus, as the photos here show, reflected cutting edge thinking.

Alternative design at the University of Technology Sydney campus
The sad fact is much academic criminology is very far from the cutting edge. Conference themes regurgitate the same tired issues. Researchers complain about a lack of evidence-based this or that (and funding that supports them).

On the flip side I have written about DOCs in London and Sydney. They breathe new life into an old story. Consider  Laneway Chic in Sydney and Magic Carpets in the UK. This was the first time I got up close and personal visiting the Sydney HQ at UTS, meeting the DOC team and hearing their stories.

What fun! What a relief.

DOC proposal for new pedestrian Help Points throughout UTS campus - photo Designing Out Crime centre 
Design Out Crime theory has been around for awhile as an offshoot of CPTED, tinkering with security and target hardening. The DOCs, at least those I'm familiar with in London and Sydney, take a quantum leap forward. They innovate with a collaborative, action-based method. Their website describes how they "evolved towards transdisciplinary crime research…to improve the quality of life for law-abiding users of public spaces (and) adopting a broad approach to crime prevention."

I love this transdisciplinary approach. I first wrote about it in 1991 in my work on the Toronto Subway Security Audit. More complicated than consulting or advising, it is action research incarnate.

The transdisciplinary, action research method, along with DOC's real-life, community-partnering angle, is an important crime prevention breakthrough. Finally...some fresh air!

DOC proposal for Lifeline child assistance at transit hubs - photo Designing Out Crime centre

Thursday, September 18, 2014

What's happening to our police? Part 2

Police technology to the rescue? - photo Michael S. Williamson, Washington Post

The Future of Police report reminds me of something Professor Herman Goldstein warned us about years ago - confusion about the ends over the means!

The future that the public wants - the ends – is less crime and more public safety. They want to get there - the means – by more community-building, more inclusive problem-solving, and better relationship-building.

I might be wrong, but I doubt the means that the public expects from police are the technology-drenched, algorithms suggested in Future of Policing.

"These changes," says the Preface in Future, "are not just about finding new ways to reduce crime; they go deeper, to evaluating the basic mission of the police, and what people want from the police."

GOING DEEPER

Of course saying officers should “go deeper” is not the same as doing it. Nor is it the same as providing the training to teach them how. Unfortunately training programs that teach such things - problem-based learning, emotional intelligence, PTO field training – do not show up in Future (even though the COPS office and PERF promoted development of those programs).

One quote by a LAPD supervisor suggests an escape from this institutional autism:

“…when [officers] spend time in the high-probability areas, they need to be doing problem solving. There is something there that is attracting criminals; we tell officers to look for the magnets. The goal isn’t more arrests, the goal is crime prevention.”

Very true! Except throughout 45 pages of text crime prevention was cited only 9 times and never explained fully.

THE FUTURE?

In Planning in Turbulence an author concludes: “our level of ignorance about social systems is quite astounding, yet our analytical approaches…assume away this ignorance outright through the specification of incomplete models based on incomplete or often inaccurate data.” 

That was 28 years ago regarding urban planning. I wonder...is police science any better or are we facing that exact same paradox?

In SafeGrowth we overcome this by developing neighborhood teams who run their own prevention plans alongside local cops. LISC’s Community Safety Initiative publications describe how we do it.

Another workaround emerges with street cops themselves who peek inside our communities. For example consider success stories in Camden NJ and Virginia Beach.

Camden New Jersey replaced its unionized police department - photo Michael Hicks/Flickr
CAMDEN N.J.

Future of Policing describes the Camden NJ police using forfeiture funds in 2011 to purchase technology and form partnerships with other law enforcement. But a year later real change exploded.

As the New York Times reported, fed up with a flood of crime, tired of strict union rules inflating costs, 30% absenteeism at work and overtime pay for basic duties, the City of Camden shut down their police force and started over.

Without union rules they rehired 150 of the 200 old officers back and hired another 250 new officers. They instituted foot patrols, had volunteers walking the streets, and expanded youth programs. They properly staffed their CCTV and ran more enforcement.

The result? Youth program involvement increased, response times plunged from 1 hour to 4 minutes, crime rates dipped and murders dropped from 21 to 6.

Virginia Beach police Chief Cervera talking to Boy Scout Explorers - photo VBPD
VIRGINIA BEACH

A national leader in both the PTO program and problem-based learning, Virginia Beach went one step further. The news clip "Ask a cop for coffee and some conversation" describes how.

Once a year Chief Jim Cervera has his officers of all ranks walk neighborhoods and knock on thousands of doors to ask what residents think of their police.

Says Cervera: "We want the surveys to prompt real conversations. There is nothing better than two people from different social, racial or ethnic backgrounds having a heart-to-heart discussion about a common goal."

NEIGHBORHOOD GOVERNANCE

No sensible person wants the mantle of anti-tech Luddite. Science is part of the way forward. But as Harvard’s Malcolm Sparrow makes clear in Governing Science, it needs careful watching. Those who champion science are not the new Lords of Truth. They are Tech Emissary’s with flashlights to find our way in the dark

Turning crime around will mean a neighborhood planning system with three equal partners: carefully governed science and technology; active neighborhood groups working directly with their local police; and cops and residents co-trained in the kinds of problem-solving methods we know work so well.

We've only dabbled in these things. Now it's time to deep dive. It's called neighborhood governance and it is our future. That also didn’t show up in the report. But it should have!