Violence Prevention Through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) is a program in the Khayelitsha township of Cape Town that takes a holistic approach to crime prevention. It uses urban planning as a crime-fighting tool, developing both small and large interventions in the spots where crime rates are the highest. While this is the most direct purpose of their work, their over-arching strategy is to create decent, livable communities through community-based planning.
The program began in the subdistrict of Harare in 2006, and those initial efforts gave substantial credence to the idea that good planning can actually reduce crime. In Harare, a 20 percent decrease in violent crime was recorded between April 2008 and March 2009. The murder rate dropped 32 percent. In comparison, for the same time period, nationally, there was a 1 percent increase in violent crime and 2 percent decrease in the murder rate.
VPUU may start with standard crime-reduction principles like better lighting and community-watch programs, but the larger goal is to raise the general living conditions of the township. Partnerships with local NGOs ensure that Harare, which held the distinction of being the “Murder Capital” of Cape Town, gets the educational and counseling centers it needs along with new structures. The integration of vibrant public space with crime monitoring stations positions “crime prevention” in a positive light, allowing the community to take ownership of its most dangerous places, but also emphasizes the more general goal of making sustainable communities.
We had a chance to speak with Kathryn Ewing and Don Shay of VPUU on Social Design Insights. There, they shared with us their strategies for community development, and how to make communities stronger.