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Safer, More Sustainable Cities: A New Security Reality in Which To Protect, Serve & Sustain     

This century has been deemed by some ‘the Century of The Cities’, with now over half the world’s population urbanized and 60% the projection by 2030. The Cities rise in prominence can truly be put into context. The pace of urbanization has risen significantly in recent decades particularly in Africa, Latin America and Asia , whilst this urbanization trend has created many positive economic, social & infrastructure benefits there has also been significant increases in safety risks and threats to cities.

Cities are the economic powerhouses for many national economies, in an ever more globalised and interdependent world, cities are at the cutting edge of change, trade, social mobility, innovation and cultural diversity. This means also that cities compete globally for ideas, talent, investment, skills, sustainability and business success. Vibrant, diverse and thriving cities are also highly complex sets of communities, eco-systems, businesses and public services, they are also major consumers of energy and carbon emissions, some have estimated they account for 75% of global emissions. 

For cities, it will be their ability to adapt to both changing global conditions and local circumstance, that will define their success in this century. A clear dimension to adaptability; will be that of Sustainable Safety & Security of their cities, communities and eco-system. In recent years the broadening interpretation of safety and security has occurred, so not just the traditional crime but broadening to encompass all types of hazard or risk, so not just immediate reactive strategies but a move to holistic and longer term approaches. For example diverting young people away from the risks that may cause offending, developing restorative justice approaches, changing to risk/intelligence led models and even cross agency missioning for joined up service delivery.

So what about the global safety and security picture, the new reality for safety and security is that of a diverse, complex and more probable broad set of risks and threats which need to be addressed, for example risks associated with energy, food, health and climate related security a decade ago may not have been high on the agenda. If we look at the global picture it is clear as to why urban settlements are needing to fundamentally change their strategies, approaches and technology to address this holistic picture.

Climate related disasters is one area, where the global trend has risen dramatically with storms, floods and fires posing significant risks in Europe, Asia and America. In the last few years we have all seen and many experienced the devastating impacts climate related disasters can have upon life, property and communities. The fires in Victoria and Greece, The Tsunami and hurricanes in the US, great storms and floods in Europe are just some recent examples.  The United Nations (Global Report on Human Settlements 2007) highlighted that between 1950 and 1990 there was a 50% increase in extreme weather related incidents. (World Economic Survey 2008) stated that there are four times more natural disasters than in 1970 with more people being effected and economic impacts seven times greater. The positive dimension is that improved warning systems and aid mechanisms have had a highly positive impact with proportionately fewer lives lost however the impact on humans and communities was still a major concern.

All hazards also means that health risks are also part of the urban safety and security challenge, a few years ago it was the avian flu and more recently the Recently we have also see the flu outbreak in Mexico rapidly spread across the globe, with cities being the major transport hubs being the frontier for taking countermeasures to contain and reduce the spread. Before that there was the avian flu and also other public health issues.

Urban crime and violence are also major issues for cities, United Nations surveys have indicated crime between 1980 and 2000 rose globally by 30%, even though in recent years North America and Western Europe have experienced falls in crime rates. Whilst there are many explanations for this, some of consistent themes are those associated with better prevention, management of risk and long term holistic approaches. Violent crime still has a primary focus for many cities, tackling all dimensions violence against children (including bullying) and women are highly significant as is the targeting of the highest risk group to be offenders and both victims, namely youths between 15-24 years. There has also been an increasing focus around safety at schools, public places and for major events. With this approach the engagement of multiple actors, so local communities, constituents and multiple agencies has also been a growing trend.

The impact upon justice, so prosecutors, courts, prisons and restorative justice services has also been highly significant with rising costs and huge drains on resources, changing thinking around how best to tackle crime and violence, the focus changing towards prevention, diverting risk groups from crime, alternatives to prison, better approaches to rehabilitation and greater focus on cross agency and community restorative  approaches.  

Illegal drug use and organized crime provide international complex challenges for cities, operating in transational Criminal Markets but delivering local safety and security challenges, means agencies often have greater dependency on foreign or regional support than within their own departments. Europol’s threat assessment in 2008 identified some key themes around networked, fluid and highly adaptive criminal organizations, identifying within their ‘Criminal Markets’ a broader context of operations including drugs, illegal immigration, trafficking, identify fraud, counterfeiting and financial services.

Cities are also at the virtual and physical frontiers of a nations and regions borders, major airports, ports and transportation hubs are often closely associated and linked to major cities. This also has implications for the cities in terms of immigration, social mobility, crime, terrorism and infrastructure. Safety & security at such frontiers having direct safety and security consequences for our cities.

Terrorism also historically has targeted major cities, with densely populated areas, vulnerable public spaces and having high impact upon the local communities. Mumbai, Madrid, Bali, New York & London  being just a few examples of this trend.

One final area for cities is that of critical infrastructure, again the definition has widened to encompass not just transportation, utilities and power to incorporate ICT, food, public health, financial, government, social, business & media. In doing so all hazards strategies have brought in the focus governments role in co-ordinating and establishing a holistic approach to the city preparedness and resilience. 

Traditional thinking and approaches around reactive strategies to safety and security have been gradually replaced by more sophisticated and integrated policies which target a broader range of improved outcomes, however the focus has tended to be centred around the justice area, in today’s flat world with a greater range of threats and risks to consider new more radical strategies are required.

Faced with high levels of uncertainty around threats and risks, a growing level of interdependency between these hazards and with greater demands from constituents, communities and business around service, performance and transparency a new reality needs to be tackled. For governments the economic crisis has also brought into sharp focus the need to tackle some fundamental service delivery challenges for agencies with stimulus packages targeted at improving infrastructure as well as improving safety and security at state and local level.

Charles Darwin once said ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the MOST ADAPTABLE to change. For cities to thrive they need to be able to adapt and change to the world in which they are a global constituent, safety and security is often at the heart of a cities long term success, a sustainable approach to safety and security is essential to overall success. Allowing fear, crime, violence and disasters to destroy a cities soul means that they are unable to compete globally in our connected world.

So how do cities maintain this adaptability, I believe there are five key essential elements to sustainable safety and security;

  • Sustainable & Inclusive Government
  • Optimised & Transformed Service Delivery
  • Intelligence, Risk & Knowledge Led Cities
  • Informed & Engaged Communities
  • Collaborative & Innovative Public Services

Sustainable & Inclusive government

Sustainable and inclusive government identifies the lead role government plays in building and maintaing the economic, social and community fabric of the city. From planning to policing, from carbon emissions to justice, from preparedness to recovery, from efficiency to effectiveness and from transparency to risk mitigation city and national government are best placed in this new economic reality to initiate a step change. Inclusive government means better engagement and closer participation with all stakeholders within the city. So across agency boundaries, across communities and across international boundaries. It also means broadening the definition of mission to accommodate the diversity of needs that a leading city should be addressing and also shaping the long term direction of a city by creating the right conditions and environment for success. For example skills, talent, infrastructure and cultural richness.

Optimised & Transformed Service Delivery

Governments already make huge investments of public money in city services, following the economic crisis a great deal of additional money has been invested or pledged by government. Whilst effective and efficient stewardship of public services has always been in the taxpayers mind, the economic crisis has brought into focus like no time before the need for greater clarity, transparency and optimization of resources. For some cities and regions the transformation of services and improving the performance of service delivery has been addressed in the back office of government. Future orientated cities are developing a broader range of measures around safety and security, looking to repurpose missions and focus key agencies on shared outcomes to break down silos and cultural barriers.

However a generational shift in constituent expectation’s around public services, covering access, channels, convenience, personalization, availability, speed and interactivity means that safety and security agencies have to fundamentally alter their strategies, infrastructure and organizations. Often this has necessitated new capabilities, skills, structures, processes, measures, priorities and models. With a changing environment, some would say an era of perpetual uncertainty, the need to change and adapt is constant bringing a need for organizations to not only invest in people and processes but an underlying technology platform to accelerate transformation.

Intelligence, Risk & Knowledge Led Performance,

Intelligence led policing has been highly successful in the UK with originally Kent Police pioneering an approach that has been adopted internationally. Some of the key tenets of the strategy being to address criminality like a criminal market, developing a deep and rich understanding of the actors, the networks, associations, patterns and trends. Then focusing resources around the 20% of criminality that account for often 80% of the problems. In a similar way border protection, justice, offender and intelligence agencies have also adopted their own models for risk and threat based approaches. Over time intelligence and risk led has moved to knowledge based approach, with terms such as ‘Situational Awareness’, ‘Actionable Intelligence’ and ‘Common Operating Picture’ being used interchangeably.

Similarly using information, intelligence, risk and knowledge led approaches across wider city agencies enables government to focus on the right things, set the right priorities and goals along the way establishing common cross agencies approaches. Addressing the cultural barriers and focusing upon not just quantatitive measures but also qualitative outcomes.  

Significantly the growth in open sources or ‘OSINT’ combined with the growth in a range of other intelligence sources, combined with an increasing agile and exploiting technology to avoid detection. For safety and security agencies building an early, accurate, rich and integrated picture enables them to better co-ordinate prevention, preparedness, response and recovery. Bringing together lessons learned, intelligence, pre-planned responses and specialist skills ensures greater insight for operational commanders and officers.

Informed & Engaged Communities

In the new economic reality, constituents, communities and businesses within cities expect much higher standards of public services than ever before. They want greater transparency of government, want better information about service deliver and to overcome issues around trust and confidence, demand much greater engagement and participation in strategy, decision making and outcome determination.

For public service agencies, the lines between constituent, communities and business is ever more blurred, blended and merged. Without closer, more personalized relationships with their stakeholders they are unable to tackle many of the social, economic and environmental issues associated with sustainable safety and security.

Engaging the city holistically means that planners, industry, communities, policy makers, practioners, families and individual constituents take a broader, longer term and outcome based view around safety and security, so not just reacting to flood, crime or urban violence but addressing underlying causes and mitigating effects through alternative approaches.

Collaborative & Innovative Public Services,

One year ago, who’d have thought government would be the majority stakeholder in many of our banks, significant investors in our motor industry and stimulating the global economy through public services hyper- investment.

This changing model for government has parallels to the way safety and security has needed to adapt in the face of a radically changing world. The pace, complexity and diversity of change for security has fundamentally altered the way improved safety and security outcomes can be addressed. Traditional strategies, approaches, organizational boundaries, cultures and technologies being unable to optimally address today’s reality.

Managing in today’s reality of perpetual uncertainty means that public, private and community partnerships will continue to define the future of safety and security. These new models will be addressed at all levels, from policy to practitioners’, from commercial to cloud, from on demand to online, from personalized to preventative, from holistic to hybrid. For example not just reacting to disasters but tackling climate change, reducing risk of violence, crime and poverty by addressing  economic & social factors, improving arrests by greater use of knowledge and reducing costs of correctional services by using alternative methods to prison.

For cities the ability to address this holistic approach, introduce new technologies quickly, standardize tools and engage citizens through personalized interaction necessitates greater collaboration and openness by technology providers, using a platform approach upon which collaborative innovation can be achieved.

In my opinion sustainable safety and security addresses the social, financial and environmental well being of individuals, businesses and society.

It is our cities that lead, shape and change the world. They are at the forefront of the most challenging and complex security and safety challenges, where fear, disasters, crime, violence, poverty, drugs and urban decay prevale then our cities decline. Conversely, cities are the heart of diversity, culture, regeneration, innovation, social change & economic well being.

My focus around safer, more sustainable cities is to develop an ever deeper and intimate understanding of the cities’ needs, direction of travel and future aspirations. In doing so we are able to act as a catalyst for better, smarter and inclusive society, if cities do not lead the way, we will not achieve enduringly prosperous communities.

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  • Driven by community needs!  As the speed and understanding of the benefits of technology continue, communities begin to regulate themselves.  Think about the implications of “self policing” communities that are provided an enterprise platform to keep informed and exchange knowledge!  Here is an example sponsored by the UN of a project in Cambodia called Next-Generation Community Driven Networks,com_docman/task,doc_download/gid,29/
    Government of tomorrow will not need to provide as many safety and security services, just the network for entrepeneurial citizens to model what they need!