Violence & crime has many forms and in urban settings it can be more complex. It is very difficult to predict crime beforehand and crime or violence can take place with any individual. Several types of crimes for example are- Murder, Aggravated Assault, Forcible Sex Offenses, Non‐Forcible Sex Offenses, Kidnapping/Abduction, Simple Assault, Intimidation, Arson, Burglary, Criminal Mischief/Damaged Property, Larceny, Motor Vehicle Theft, Theft from Motor Vehicle, Robbery, Drugs/Narcotics Violations, Gambling, Criminal Trespass and many more (NIBRS Crime Types). Racism in most developed countries take form of hate crime. In the recent very unfortunate event, where an Indian was shot to death by an American Navy veteran in Kansan, was a result of hate crime. The accused later confessed that he mistook the Indian to be from Middle-East. Hate Crimes are criminal offenses motivated either entirely or in part by the fact or perception that a victim is different from the perpetrator (Levin and McDevit, 2008).
Personal Safety & Safety through the eyes of Jane Jacob
Jacob in her book, ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’ explained what was lacking in the conventional modern city planning and well as expected this was not very welcomed by the architects, planners and engineers. Jacob identified three levels of city neighbourhood- City, District and the Streets. Streets should be able to effectively ask for help when enormous problems arise. Effective districts should therefore exist to represent streets to the city. City is the source of most public money – from federal or state coffers. “A city street equipped to handle strangers, and to make a safety asset, in itself, out of the presence of strangers, as the streets of successful city neighborhoods always do, must have three main qualities: First, there must be a clear demarcation between what is public space and what is private space. Public and private spaces cannot ooze into each other as they do typically in suburban settings or in projects. Second, there must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind. And third, the sidewalk must have users on it fairly continuously, both to add to the number of effective eyes on the street and to induce the people in buildings along the street to watch the sidewalks in sufficient numbers. Nobody enjoys sitting on a stoop or looking out a window at an empty street. Almost nobody does such a thing. Large numbers of people entertain themselves, off and on, by watching street activity.”(Jane Jacobs)
Our modern parks have also become unsafe. In a recent news report in titled- “Green parks choke on crime and neglect” was published in The Telegraph (30.09.2015), people made narrations which were saddening -- "They thrashed me when I tried to stop them from stealing the lampposts. Now, soon after sunset, the park slips into darkness and hundreds of gamblers create nuisance at least till 10 in the night," said Jha. "When I went to the park in the afternoon with my wife, the guard told me that the park is open only in the morning and evening. Later, another employee started an argument with us and I realised that he was drunk. Thereafter, I visited the nearby CID Colony Park and found the same situation. I raised the matter in front of a senior police officer but no action was taken in this regard," said Choudhary. "Though the parks remain closed during the daytime, we often see young couples trespassing it illegally and indulging in obscene activities by hiding behind the bushes. The guard simply sits in his cabin," said Ramesh Prasad, a resident of New Patliputra Colony (Kolkata).
Jacob argued that – Parks lacked surveillance mechanisms in parks. Successful, functional parks are those under intense use by a diverse set of companies and residents. Such parks usually possess four common characteristics: intricacy, centering, sun, and enclosure. Intricacy is the variety of reasons people use parks, among them centering or the fact that parks have a place known as their centres. Sun, shaded in the summer, should be present in parks, as well as building to enclose parks.
Stores, bars and restaurants, as the chief examples, work in several different and complex ways to abet sidewalk safety. First, they give people - both residents and strangers - concrete reasons for using the sidewalks on which these enterprises face. Second, they draw people along the sidewalks past places which have no attractions to public use in themselves but which become travelled and peopled as routes to somewhere else; this influence does not carry very far geographically, so enterprises must be frequent in a city district if they are to populate with walkers those other stretches of street that lack public places along the sidewalk. Moreover, there should be many different kinds of enterprises, to give people reasons for crisscrossing paths. Third, storekeepers and other small businessmen are typically strong proponents of peace and order themselves; they hate broken windows and holdups; they hate having customers made nervous about safety. They are great street watchers and sidewalk guardians if present in sufficient numbers. Fourth, the activity generated by people on errands, or people aiming for food or drink, is itself an attraction to still other people. This last point, that the sight of people attracts still other people, is something that city planners and city architectural designers seem to find incomprehensible. They operate on the premise that city people seek the sight of emptiness, obvious order and quiet. (Jane Jacob,1961).
As technology has emerged, safety can be taken into next level. The mobile can be a saviour to the people during any emergency. A mobile device sometimes provided a comforting diversion from the immediate physical environment or the possibility to call for help if required. (Blom & Others 2010). A push of a button can be used to inform about any bad situation being faced to the nearest police station or to ones loved ones. Moreover CCTV is tool of surveillance but can be intrusive in nature. It can stalk into someone’s person space. As Jacob said there must be a clear demarcation between public and private space. But privacy advocates and some citizens do not like the idea that their every move is being monitored and moreover, some studies suggest that CCTV does not in fact have an impact on levels of crime and violence (Safe City Index 2015). Tokyo and Osaka are victims of cyber attack every 30 seconds. Citizens must be well updated to counter such attacks, as the ignorance can lead to loss of property. When the Indian government is pushing towards going digital by launching programmes like ‘Digital India’, it must also at the same time built a robust cyber network. Recently we heard about the Russians hacking into the American Polls, and then there is Mr. Edward Snowden, who explains different ways by which a hacker may creep into ones personal space using the digital devices. He explains how one can get access to the web cam on your laptop and monitor you; it is really scary to learn about it. The hackers and other online attackers will try to remain one step ahead of us, but at the same time we must able to identify them and contain them, by building our own defense on the cyber front.
The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, the first of the 21st century, proved how very quickly a new virus can spread to every corner of the globe. It showed how, with all eyes focused on H5N1 in Asia, something bubbling up on the other side of the world can be the event that actually explodes and the current epidemic of Ebola virus disease is an important wake-up call for all countries. The world urgently needs to improve its preparedness for outbreaks of emerging and epidemic-prone diseases (WHO). Apart from disease, there is the ‘slow poison’ like Air-pollution which looms over our head and which kills people silently. It has also been found many terror groups, instead to using conventional weapons and bombs, are now turning towards Bio-weapons. Biological weapon, also called germ weapon, any of a number of disease-producing agents—such as bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, fungi, toxins, or other biological agents—that may be utilized as weapons against humans, animals, or plants (Britannica Encyclopedia). These are generally used as weapons of mass destruction. Building a resilient environment towards Bio-weapons shall include a rapid response plan.
In April 2015, Nepal was hit by an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 and the aftermath was devastating. The total of houses destroyed stood at 605,254 and a further 288,255 were partially destroyed. Infrastructure facilities performed poorly during the earthquakes as communication towers failed and hydroelectric power stations were severely damaged. It is common practice in Nepal to have mobile phone towers mounted on buildings and often those buildings are not designed for the additional loads coming from the tower. During the earthquakes many such towers went out of service (NEERR). Nepal is not alone, most of times we see causalities due to failure in the Build structure. The City Authority need to look into the fact, that the building permission will only be granted once the safety measures are met. Retrofitting may be necessary in some cases. In India, the North-east part falls in the Zone V of earthquake prone area and also we see people being aware of this fact, the result is that people do not compromise of the structural stability of the house which is in fact a good sign. One in every five buildings in Tokyo was built before 1981, making them comparatively more vulnerable to earthquakes and therefore the city’s vision for 2020 includes creating community-level disaster management teams and retrofitting buildings to withstand earthquakes. Infrastructure not only includes buildings but also, the transport system, the water and electricity network, sanitation services. The rapid expansion of urban populations poses big challenges for municipal authorities in developing countries (SCI, 2015). To ensure safety in this sector needs both government and the people to work together. Architects, Engineers, Planners should come together to build a robust Infrastructure.
While the safety and security issue consist of wide range of scope from personal to national level, ever aspect is inter-related and a comprehensive framework needs to be built. In the end we must strive to protect the lives of the people. The protection may be required against another human being or a natural disaster. And as, Jodi Rell says, “At the end of the day, the goals are simple: safety and security”, and we shall make every effort to achieve that.
THE SAFE CITIES INDEX 2015 (SCI, 2015): Assessing urban security in the digital age- A report by The Economist Intelligence Unit
2015 Nepal Earthquake Event Recap Report (NEERR) , Aon Benfield Analytics | Impact Forecasting