Written by: Vicens Valentin, Barcelona y Camp d’Eix
Just as Lombroso remains in the police gaze, the prevention of (in)security remains anchored in reactive models. The most widespread are still based on both blind trust in technology (situational models) and reaction (zero-tolerance models and the like).
These formulas remain in force despite the limited results obtained, both from the perspective of improving police effectiveness and efficiency, as well as improving citizen perception of insecurity.
The speeches of political parties and the manifestos of police forces and unions usually try to associate some community prevention formula (basically linked to the community policing model) with the clearly reactive models of classic prevention.
In addition to security proposals, in recent decades, alternative proposals have been appearing based precisely on the public’s perception of insecurity. These are community-based violence prevention proposals and proposals for the application of the gender perspective in crime prevention, which have been developing – with unequal success – as an alternative to reactive practices.
These alternatives have their roots in the Anglo-Saxon environmentalist proposals initiated by Jane Jacobs (2013) in the 1960s, in her study of large cities she first related the urban environment and safety[i]. In her work, far from proposing institutional security policies, she proposed a different reading, laying the foundations of the environmentalist current, under the premise that both the citizens’ sense of belonging to their city and citizen activity generate security.
Oscar Newman (1972), a decade later, proposed his «defensible city» project, which already included the concept of crime prevention through urban design (CPTUD)[ii], which added two new concepts to Jacobs’ sense of civic belonging: the planning and design of urban spaces to reduce the space for the crime.
In the 1980s, the CPTUD proposal underwent a profound revision and evolved into what we know as «defensible spaces» and the emergence of the «safe city» approach, which developed the CPTUD concept in the city of Toronto, where an experimental plan was implemented that not only proposed working in specific areas but also extended its intervention to the city as a whole. This model introduced the valuation of subjectivity as a new element that placed the criminal act itself, the level of insecurity, and the fear of crime perceived by citizens on the same level of importance.
Subjectivity in the perception of insecurity and the vulnerability component of at-risk groups (children, the elderly, and minorities) became the reference point for decision-making in the definition of prevention policies.
In continental Europe, the development of CPTUD started late. The Council of Europe convened, in 1997, the European Conference on Local Strategies for Crime Prevention, in the course of which it defined fear of crime and insecurity as the main problems affecting citizens and affirmed that the right to safety was a fundamental right of citizenship (Congress of Local and Regional Authorities in Europe (CLRAE), Erfurt, February 26-28, 1997).
The European Union (EU) commissioned the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) to prepare a document to provide the EU with a technical reference framework on crime prevention through urban design for the normative work of the legislative bodies of the European Union. This document was prepared between 2004 and 2006 by a multidisciplinary team of experts from various EU countries.
The activity of the working group on «prevention of crime by urban planning» ended with the publication of Technical Report TC 14383-2[iii], which was finally adopted by CEN in 2007. It has the legal character of a technical report and, therefore, does not have the value of a binding standard, but has the value of a manual of good practices in urban planning on the prevention of insecurity.
The Technical Report, aimed at architects, urban planners, and all those involved in the design and management of public policies, presents a framework for dealing with the issue of crime prevention in urban projects and defines an applicable working method. For its dissemination, the manual Planning, Urban Design and Management for Safe Spaces was prepared by an interdisciplinary team led by Professor Clara Cardia of the Laboratorio di Qualità Urbana e Sicurezza of the Istituto Politecnico di Milano (Milan Polytechnic Institute).
The manual, a project of AGIS SEFAPOLIS, in which the Institut d’Aménagement et d’Urbanisme de la Région Île-de-France and the Regione Emilia Romagna participated, was translated and edited in Spanish by the Ajuntament de Barcelona.
As defined in the prologue of the manual, its objective «is to offer technical support, on the one hand, to professionals (architects, designers, engineers…) and, on the other hand, to the addressees, in their task of transforming our cities into safer places».
It is a manual not specifically intended for police forces, but for all security actors, from urban planners to public managers, which means facilitating a plural perspective in the design of security prevention models, but also pluralizing their management and implementation.
Since the publication of the manual, other materials on urbanism and security with a gender perspective and feminist urbanism have been developed in many countries. This is an essential perspective for approaching the prevention of insecurity from the basis of the full right to the enjoyment of a city for all, from any point of view, and is the way to overcome the obsolete recipes of reactive prevention.
[i] Jacobs, J. 2013. Muerte y vida de las grandes ciudades. Madrid: Capitán Swing, published in 1961.
[ii] Newman, O. 1972. EDefensible Space. Crime Prevention through Urban Design. Nueva York: Macmillan