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Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading

Published on July 1, 2012

Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading

While perusing news stories on creative urban design the other day I came across an article about a program that I recognized from last year’s popular documentary, Urbanized. South Africa’s Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU), a community-based initiative, was a result of a highly-focused collaboration between the City of Cape Town, the German Development Bank, the Province of the Western Cape, the South African Treasury and the Khayelitsha Development Forum (KDF). This collaboration gave rise to the identification of existing crime hotspots within the Khayelitsha township, which in turn allowed the program to create plans for Safe Node Areas.

I’m particularly interested and excited by the use of urban design principles in the VPUU program to transform these crime hotspots into the Safe Nodes. Below are site-specific interventions highlighted by the VPUU program website.

VPUU Site specific interventions:

  • The notion of introducing places that develop an identity for the Safe Node Areas such as Active Boxes, or Urban parks;
  • Development of Schools into community learning and development centers;
  • Construction of sports and recreational sites;
  • Mixed used facilities ranging from work live units to multipurpose centers;
  • Safe pedestrian Walkways;
  • Infill housing.

The VPUU program focused on activating public spaces in a way that served not only to create safe zones, but also to garner a sense of community and pride. According to Michael Krause, VPUU’s team leader, “The program is credited with having a significant impact on crime in parts of Khayelitsha. A 20% decrease in violent crime was recorded between April 2008 and March 2009, and the township’s murder rate dropped by a third in the same time period.”

“How does this program relate to CPTED?” I wondered to myself.

I looked a little deeper and realized that the VPUU program’s development of the Urban Design Principles on a Safe Node was actually based on the principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED), a methodology that I am intimately familiar with, given my work with Orlando, Florida’s Sunview Terrace Community.

For more on CPTED, read about Tumbler Ridge, the first fully-CPTED-designed community.


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© Professor Bob Hahn