This question remains a global one and a focal point for all cities and all levels of government, and reaches the deepest roots of our neighbourhoods. It seems to drive many conversations among coffeehouse patrons and has even ended up on corporate agendas and part of boardroom discussions. While community safety has always been paramount to police services and law enforcement, we are seeing a deeper sense of urgency around this issue and everyone seems to be jumping on the band wagon. It’s encouraging for certain and there has never been more literature on community safety and crime prevention. People from around the world are collaborating more now than ever before. That’s a lot of collective wisdom.
There is research, frameworks, reports, strategies, books, lectures, workshops, websites and even apps for your smartphone. In other words, there has never been more resources and recommendations for improving community safety and preventing crime. Yet, a great deal of this incredible work ends up being stalled in bureaucracy and often does not reach the implementation stage. Community safety is much more than that, and it can be traced all the way back to Jane Jacobs who said “you need to get out of theory-land and into the streets for a closer look.” She knew that people had to see all of these things for themselves and that they would eventually come to understand and appreciate their streets and all the wonder they offer us as urban explorers.
Timothy D. Crowe, a well-respected colleague, taught me well and held a wealth of knowledge about community safety and preventing crime. He knew that we must challenge ourselves and others, especially those that are instrumental in having an impact on our physical environment and the human functions in our communities. I’m quite certain that both Jane and Tim would have agreed on many things. Tim taught us three key points that he outlined in his book titled “Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.” They include:
- Never look at the environment the same way again.
- Question everything, no matter how trivial.
- Learn the language of the professions you are working with and you will understand their motivations.
Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) continues to evolve and most experts and practitioners would agree upon the version that Tim used in his book. The concept expands upon the assumption that “the proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear of crime and the incidence of crime, and to an improvement in the quality of life.” I think most of us can agree that quality of life is a priority for all of us and must include our most vulnerable people. In fact, a close friend & Ghandi often reminds me “the true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.”
In a world that is now hyper-focused on crime and safety, I think we need to return to many of the lost teachings of people like Jane and Tim that knew the answer all along –
WE make our communities safe!