In 1996, UN-Habitat launched its Safer Cities program with pilot activities in Africa. In October, 2016, the governments of the world will meet in Quito to discuss the New Urban Agenda. There will be a special session on safer cities.
Knowledge and experience accumulated in the last 20 years provide hope for cities to become much safer, as we have learnt:
1. Violence in cities continues to cause significant harm to people and loss of sustainable development and so demands urgent smarter investment in effective solutions:
a. epidemic levels of injuries and loss of life continue for disadvantaged young men from street violence, particularly in Latin America,
b. sexual and intimate partner violence inflicts pain and loss of quality of life on women and children, and
c. terrorism threatens peace;
2. Knowledge of pre-crime prevention solutions, that have reduced violence significantly better than current policies, are now accessible through prestigious national and international sources;
3. Cities that have transformed their strategies to invest in effective pre-crime prevention solutions have achieved large reductions in violence, including in some high violence cities in Latin America;
4. Governments and inter-governmental agencies have not yet invested significantly in the proven and people positive strategies that reduce violence in cities, despite their affordability and potential popularity;
5. Governments and inter-governmental agencies need to foster this transformative action, particularly in cities, to achieve their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, including the violence reduction targets in SDG´s 11, 3, 5 and 16 using the effective implementation actions agreed in SDG 17.
1. Knowledge of the challenge – The urgency to advance safety and development in cities
In the last 20 years, violence particularly in Latin American cities has grown significantly worse. In contrast, homicide rates in cities in many advanced nations and indeed some developing nations, particularly in Asia, have been steadily declining over the last 40 years. There are more than 50 cities in the world that have rates of homicide that meet the WHO definition of epidemic because they exceed 10 per 100,000. Most of these cities are in Latin America and four are in the USA.
In the last 20 years, the world has become more aware of the extent of intimate partner and sexual violence against women and children across both advanced and developing nations. Where these are measured as in the USA, nearly 1 in 5 women (18.3%) and 1 in 71 men (1.4%) have been raped at some time in their lives. About 1 in 4 women (24.3%) and 1 in 7 men (13.8%) have experienced severe physical violence by an intimate partner at some point in their lifetime. There is no reason to believe that these rates will be lower in cities, though likely higher in areas of disadvantage in cities. In addition women frequently do not feel safe in cities.
Terrorism incidents have been occurring increasingly in cities because the concentration of population make them attractive targets for suicidal terrorists.
We are able to demonstrate the impact of violence on the quality of life of citizens and how this leads to chronic disease. We estimate that this diverts more than 5% of world GDP (Waller 2014). The WHO assesses the impact in the following terms:
¨Such violence contributes to lifelong ill health – particularly for women and children – and early death. Many leading causes of death such as heart disease, stroke, cancer and HIV/AIDS are the result of victims of violence adopting behaviours such as smoking, alcohol and drug misuse, and unsafe sex in an effort to cope with the psychological impact of violence. Violence also places a heavy strain on health and criminal justice systems, social and welfare services and the economic fabric of communities.¨
Cities are the economic motors of many countries. World Bank sees violence as critical to economic development and democratic respect for individual rights and so the success in preventing violence is vital to both sustainable development and human rights.
2. Knowledge of Accumulated and Proven Solutions to Risk Factors available to Share
In the last 20 years, we have accumulated significant proven and evidence based knowledge about what are the risk factors for violence and what has been effective and cost effective in stopping interpersonal violence – Smarter Crime Control (Waller 2014). This knowledge is endorsed and now made available on the internet in ways not even imaginable 20 years ago by some of the most prestigious organisations in the world, including the US Department of Justice and the World Health Organizations.
We know that the risk factors for violence include relative poverty, breakdown in the family and abandoning school (Waller, 2014). In Mexico in 2014, a major and impressive national survey examined the distribution of the well established social risk factors across the country as part of a strategy to focus social and situational prevention programs where they were most likely to prevent violence. We also know the influence that access to guns and knives as well as alcohol and drugs have to rates of violence. In relation to violence against women and girls, disparities in income and gender values are just some of the well-established risk factors.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) website, aptly named crimesolutions.gov, confirms the effectiveness in preventing crime of programs to tackle problems in families, or schools, or concern themselves with improving life skills through mentoring, substance abuse or trauma treatment programs. The World Health Organization site points to similar pre-crime prevention focused on parenting, youth and school programs, but also to control of weapons and alcohol, and changing attitudes to violence, particularly against women and children.
Waller (2014) has analysed the accumulation of these data to show their potential for reductions in violence of 50% or more within a 3-5 year period for an investment equivalent to as little as 10% of what central governments are spending on reacting to these problems. It is cities that must use this knowledge to target investments in the problem places where high rates of risk factors and vulnerability are concentrated.
The developments in knowledge on the reduction of intimate partner and sexual violence against women and children are less strong because the investments in research have only started in the last 20 years. Nevertheless, several actions are proven (Waller, 2014; WHO, 2015), including programs in schools such as 4th R that change attitudes of boys to sexual violence, bystander interventions on university campuses and program to empower women in developing countries combined with education on controlling intimate partner violence. The Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey of the US CDCP (Waller, 2014) and work by researchers such as Fulu (WHO 2015) will lead to much more knowledge in the next decade that can be used by cities.
The developments in knowledge on the prevention of terrorism are more limited but may develop more in the next decade through the work of such city based groups as the European Forum for Urban Safety and the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalisation Leading to Violence.
3. Knowledge that Cities have Implemented Violence Prevention Solutions Successfully
In the last 20 years, we have moved from knowing the principles of the ways to make cities safer to a number of significant examples where cities have used these principles to make successful investments in tackling risk factors and particularly the concentration of risk factors in problem places within cities.
This required the governance processes and responsibility centre of the safer cities program to target investment into the areas and on risk factors that will prevent crime and violence across cities, including diagnosing risk factors and locations, planning a comprehensive multi-sectoral strategy, developing the human capacity to implement the strategies, and evaluating outcomes. The smart knowledge of how to implement this knowledge through “good governance” strategies was promoted by UN Habitat, the 1996 urban guidelines and 2002 crime prevention guidelines UN Office on Drugs and Crime , and the World Health Organization (2014). The basic elements that are essential to putting prevention knowledge into practice, including funding, measurement of outcomes, quick wins, capacity development, and research.
The world today has impressive examples of cities that have applied these safer city or comprehensive community safety strategy (CCSS) techniques to reducing high levels of violence within relatively short periods of time by 50% or more.
• Two cities that have achieved remarkable reductions in violence through elements of the comprehensive community safety strategies are Bogotá in Colombia and Recife in Brazil. For instance, Bogota established a unit reporting to the mayor to diagnose the causes of homicides and then invested in the solutions with the result of a 50% reduction in homicides that has been sustained from the 1990´s. The support for the strategy was continued through different mayors by public support, particularly from mothers living in the areas of high violence. The Pact for Life Program for Recife, of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, focused on reducing homicide. It achieved a 40% reduction in the unintentional deaths and even larger for homicides from 2007 (year of implementation) to 2013.
• Glasgow in Scotland cut violence in the targeted neighborhoods by 50 percent over only three years (Waller 2014). It established a permanent violence reduction unit to take the lead on crime reduction. It shows how a CCSS can succeed by combining enforcement together with prevention to greatly reduce urban and gang violence. It includes some of the proven pre-crime prevention actions, as well as strategies that focus on reducing violence against women and limiting abuse of alcohol. Specifically, it included programs to help parents provide consistent and caring parenting and education, efforts to persuade victims of urban violence to change their lifestyles to avoid revictimization, enforcement targeted at persistent offenders, and measures to prevent young men from carrying knives in the first place.
• US cities such as Minneapolis and Oakland as well as Winnipeg show similar results from similar methods (Waller, 2014).
4. Knowledge that central governments and intergovernmental agencies have not yet invested
Despite the urgency of the problem, knowledge now available and the leading examples that demonstrate success, central governments and intergovernmental agencies have not yet invested in what works.
Waller (2014) shows the extent to which advanced nations are still spending on actions that are known not to be the most effective and cost effective way to make cities safer. For developing countries and cities. This over-reliance on reaction and ineffective punishment diverts significant resources from investments in people and sustainable development.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities states that the ¨unsustainable increases in the costs of policing crowd out investments in early intervention and prevention¨. In the US, massive expenditures on policing and incarceration have failed to make their cities as safe as other advanced nations.
In part, central governments and inter-governmental agencies have not caught up with the developments in the last 20 years, nor with citizens desire for safety. Investment in safer cities is much more popular than realized. Many city politicians and stakeholders believe in prevention but are reticent to change policies because they (wrongly) believe that the public does not agree. However, surveys show in numerous countries including such heavy users of police and incarceration as the USA, that twice as many citizens favor investment in prevention and education as in police, lawyers and incarceration to reduce crime (Waller, 2014).
Further, the impressive outcomes achieved in Bogota came because citizens, particularly mothers of men likely to be killed, wanted violence prevention and so they maintained the effective actions through several mayors of different political persuasions. The shift from a President who favored US style enforcement to a President committed to more social investments to reduce violence in Mexico was brought about by the victim movement.
In Canada, the Canadian Municipal Network for Prevention of Crime with financial support from Public Safety Canada is committed to build capacity and mobilize Canadian municipalities to prevent and reduce crime, particularly by increasing investment in effective, evidence based and collaborative prevention strategies in municipalities. In partnership with experts at the University of Ottawa, it is providing action briefs to stakeholders at the municipal level as well as in other orders of government on the evidence for making those investments.
5. Transformation is Necessary but is Affordable and Popular
The challenge remains as to how to shift cities to smarter crime control by shifting from paying for the unsustainable costs of picking up the pieces through law enforcement, emergency services and loss of community life. This requires early investment in prevention by tackling the roots of the problems and so investing ¨upstream¨ in young people, families and neighborhoods. Waller (2014) has shown the massive reductions in loss of life and pain to victims from smart investments in prevention.
To shift from over-reliance on reaction to a balance between judicial accountability and smart investment in effective violence prevention, significant transformation is needed. In September, 2015, world leaders committed to achieve seventeen Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030 in “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. Among the more than 100 targets to achieve the SDG’s, there are commitments to significantly reduce violence and homicides (in SDG 16), halve traffic deaths (in SDG 3), eliminate violence against women and children (in SDG 5), ensure equal access to justice for all (in SDG 16) and make cities safer (in SDG 11). The SDG 17 identified what was essential for the implementation of the SDG’s and their targets, including funding, development of human capacity, and measurement of outcomes. Importantly, the SDG’s apply to both advanced and developing nations.
While these targets are national, they can only be achieved by providing the technical and financial support to cities to implement the strategies to achieve them within the growing population of cities. Given that violence costs the economies of the USA 3.5% of GDP and many other less affluent countries and cities upwards of 5% of GDP, the International Organization for Victim Assistance (2015) has proposed that 1/10 of 1% of GDP be invested in harnessing this knowledge through those CCSS – good governance – strategies to achieve the SDG violence reduction targets.
Waller, 2014 refers to Smarter Crime Control,