Making safer cities is a strategy both broad and relative, depending upon the particular circumstances of a country or a city. For example, it could include such sub-themes as: safer shelter, safer water, safer sanitation, safer transportation, safer for children, safer for women, safer for the elderly, safer for the disabled and so on.
There is growing concern about escalating urban violence and insecurity among city dwellers around the globe. Throughout developing countries, the increase in petty and violent crime has generated a feeling of insecurity, stigmatized some poor neighbourhoods and produced a "state of war" in some slums and squatter areas. This is why urban poor in many big cities demand safety first.
Organized crime has also contributed to the globalization of crime around the world. Organized crime and white-collar corruption have a significant impact on collective and individual trust in public institutions. One of the problems today is the reinforcement of the linkage between macro- and micro-criminality. In fact, organized crime tends to use young delinquents as a cheap labour force. This situation can lead to the consolidation of a gang sub-culture progressively rooted in the urban context.
Confronted by escalating criminal activity, individuals, community organizations and businesses are joining together with local authorities and governments to design new and more effective ways of combating crime. Over the last few years, many innovative solutions have emerged to reduce and prevent crime. The strategies vary from introducing individual and family counselling for potential criminals to the creation of safer urban design. Examples are:< In Belgium, the "Charleroi Prevention and Security Contract" is a cooperation between different parties to promote city security. It includes a help centre for drug users; assistance to victims of crime; rehabilitation of offenders; and outreach to destructive youngsters.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, El Agora, is targeting urban insecurity through community participation and open public dialogue. The programmes are oriented to children and youth and have a solidarity network to prevent people from exclusion.
In Edmonton, Canada, a crime prevention programme is run through social development and urban design. The programme includes a Youth Justice Committee of volunteers; a spousal violence follow up; safety for people walking at night; prostitution offenders programme and a safe housing committee.
World Habitat Day 1998 had the theme "Safer Cities". This offered an opportunity for people living in communities everywhere to consider the current state of their city and to take action to make their communities safer and more livable.
Habitat's Safer Cities Project concentrates on the role of city governments in mobilizing and coordinating community wide efforts in preventing crime. This includes the production of a local strategy as a joint effort between cities and stakeholders in the community. It is currently largely concentrated in Africa and due to expand to Asia. This programme also promotes and consolidates cities' networks dealing with crime prevention at regional and national levels, and disseminates tools for reducing crime and causes of crime based on experiences of cities or civil society organizations focusing on crime and causes of crime.
In assisting the cities to develop a community wide planning process to reduce delinquency and causes of crime, the Safer Cities programme proceeds in three steps. (1) First, it undertakes a needs assessment which constitutes an Urban Safety Appraisal. The safety appraisal receives input from the widest range of social actors and builds the ground for agreement about future concrete participative actions. It identifies those aspects of social disorder which are intolerable for the community and it determines the offenders and the groups at risk. (2) Second, it builds a partnership among key actors in safety not only at institutional level but also at civil society, private sector, community based organizations levels. This local coalition provides a framework for reaching a consensus on the goals, means and ways to assess and develop prevention activities. (3) Third, it formulates and implements an action plan in collaboration with the partners. This plan has to indicate clear priorities, goals, indicators, time frame and monitoring system. It may be stated in terms of areas, population groups or specific issues.