The safety audits included Marlborough catwalks like this one. 12CSI FACEBOOK
Three communities in east Calgary that underwent a security audit this summer were frequently found to have poor visibility, poor neighborhoods, inadequate lighting and hiding places.
The work, carried out from June to August, was led by the 12 Community Safety Initiative (12CSI) and carried out in collaboration with environmental design and planning students from the University of Calgary and the SafeGrowth group.
SafeGrowth, first developed in 2007 by Gregory Saville, is based on the principles of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). SafeGrowth brings these principles directly to neighborhoods and their community groups for specific impacts.
The idea of tactical urbanism, where the community carries out small projects with a big impact, is one of the main tenets of the SafeGrowth method.
“In this way, we can achieve better development, safer development and more liveable development in the neighborhood,” Saville told a group during an online 12CSI conference on August 17th.
Field work in the Calgary neighborhood
The UCalgary students worked in the Vista Heights, Marlborough, and Mayland Heights areas.
In Vista Heights, they focused on the lack of a community hub. They needed a place where people could come together to build more cohesion and fill gaps in social services.
They identified a “no man’s land”, as the master student Jenn Herring described it.
No man’s land behind a Macs (Circle K) store in Vista Heights. SCREENSHOT / GOOGLE STREET VIEW
“So this no man’s land in particular is the most important. No function is assigned. It’s isolated, poor visibility from windows and lack of cameras. The view from the trees is of course blocked, ”said Herring.
Hering’s group said activating this space, already known as the makeshift gathering area, would create a spillover effect.
“We suggest that we put a community hub, a pop-up art station or a program station behind Macs in no man’s land,” said Herring.
“It’s already a public trend in the region, we might as well turn it around for good.”
Herring suggested involving a social worker in the region who could help identify problems or further gaps in the region. Pop-up art stations or even a pop-up food market could delve into cohesion and food security issues in Vista Heights.
On the catwalks
Another group of UCalgary design students focused on the Marlborough catwalks. Catwalks are those passages between houses that serve as neighborhood connectors.
Their work isolated the Marlborough Mall area and LRT station as a place where people were frequent.
“We have found that movement to and from them will be a key movement within the area,” said Darby Henshaw, one of the student moderators.
Henshaw said her fieldwork identified several problems: graffiti, overgrown grass, poor visibility of the walkways, fence deterioration, and poor lighting.
“This makes the catwalks less accessible and less welcoming to the user,” she said.
One of the main problems, said Henshaw, was the idea of responsibility over the catwalks.
“We also found from our site visits and security audits that it is not obvious who is responsible for maintaining these networks,” she said.
“There is a rift between residents and the City of Calgary where the City of Calgary believes the homeowner has an obligation to continue maintenance and, as Sustainable Calgary puts it, residents are ignorant, incapable or not to be ready.”
Entrapment, irregular fence connections, and different barriers to entry were also problems in most of the catwalk areas. Few of the appropriate crosswalks were marked between catwalks, and route finding was a problem.
The solutions have been better lighting, better signage to guide people to key areas, placement and improved maintenance in these areas, and traffic calming at access points.
Improved lighting in some catwalk areas would greatly improve the sense of security on the Marlborough catwalks, according to the UCalgary researchers. SCREENSHOT FROM THE PRESENTATION
Mayland Heights Alley
The third group identified a unique alley in Mayland Heights that was mostly surrounded by rental apartments. Their research showed that less than half of the people in the community rented.
It also showed that the alley area had a higher concentration of visible minorities, while the community itself only consisted of 25 percent visible minorities.
General decay, lack of maintenance, and use as a thoroughfare to the area’s amenities has been problematic. Vehicle theft and breaks and driveways were a problem in the region, according to the group’s presentation.
In working with the community, they realized that it is important to use the wide open space in the alley area as a meeting point.
“Our supportive visions include an increase in the inclusion and engagement of residents by 50 percent,” says the recorded presentation.
The unmarked street in the center is the alley that connects 8 Avenue NE and McGonigal Drive NW. GOOGLE MAPS
They had two main rental complexes and the group felt they could fill in gaps in the community by creating programs that bring people together.
They wanted a play area for children. Better lighting in the area as it quickly gets darker between rental apartments. The group suggested minor improvements to improve connectivity for pedestrians – including temporary pedestrian walkways.
They even suggested signage to direct people to contacts for appropriate maintenance issues.
All of the UCalgary groups mentioned challenges in accessing certain crime data for their areas. One group even built their own app and went through news articles for five years planning criminal activity.
Look at the communities differently
Larry Leach, executive director of 12CSI, said that older Calgary communities suffer from many design and maintenance issues.
They wanted to use cash from the City of Calgary Community Standards Fund for the security audit and involve the students in finding simple solutions to ongoing problems related to crime, security, and general decay.
“We really wanted to look into certain areas and explain why they are the way they are and how possibly some minor changes could affect openness to crime,” Leach said.
In many conversations with community members, Leach said most told him they never thought about their neighborhoods like that.
“One of the things we really made of this, and I’ve heard from every community member, is that as a community member I have the opportunity to see my community differently,” he said.
Leach said when they started the project he asked that certain actions could be taken. Whether it was neighborhood activations or advocacy routes with political leaders or community organizations.
“Now it’s a matter of handing these over to the community associations and helping those community associations work on implementation,” said Leach.