Responsive and preventative approaches to violence and crime are complex and require a range of interventions and support from various stakeholders aimed at strengthening protective factors and minimising risk factors for violence. Building resilient institutions and neighbourhoods is therefore at the heart of place-based violence and crime prevention , where a focus on a specific geographic location allows for responses to the needs and requirements of a specific community. Area-Based Violence Prevention Interventions (ABVPI) offer an integrated, evidence-based, spatially targeted approach which aims to reduce violent occurrences as well as their underlying root causes.
It combines social, spatial and institutional approaches within a specific area. Central to this approach is extensive and inclusive community participation to get a full picture of the characteristics and dynamics of a neighbourhood, and to consider the local knowledge towards co-creating and designing violence prevention approaches. It is critical that any ABVPI is evidence-informed and developed with communities and other relevant stakeholders.
ABVPI can incorporate several approaches, ranging from infrastructure improvements to community development initiatives. The form of these interventions will be dependent on the context in which they are implemented, as each context is unique and has its own risks and protective factors. If the unique context in which these interventions happen are not considered, there is a high likelihood that these interventions will fail.
ABVPI includes strategies that seek to improve the physical and social environment in line with Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED) principles and address local conditions that contribute to crime and violence. Interventions can range in scale and shape, from providing improved lighting to precinct development or community development programmes, for example, but ultimately ABPVI is about an integrated, community-centred and multi-sectoral approach to violence prevention. The underlying question is how to create and support spaces that are safe, vibrant, inclusive and beneficial to the people that use them.
Having a multi-sectoral approach between different stakeholders including government, civil society organisations and communities and sharing learnings around implementation and practice to increase understanding and awareness are two methods to ensure greater impact. Involving the local community concerned is critical in ensuring that the interventions are appropriate, effective and sustainable. Some key ingredients for implementing ABVPI are listed here:
8 Ingredients of a successful ABVPI
A community-centred approach
A successful ABVPI is one which puts people first. When residents are drawn into the process, when their voices are heard and when their skills and creativity are utilised, active citizenship will grow. Residents also better understand challenges facing communities, so they must be part of co-creating solutions.
The second ingredient is to assemble the various stakeholders and partners who will be crucial to the intervention. These individuals and groups, including civil society organisations and the private sector, can be identified through stakeholder mapping and there should be significant effort to be inclusive and ensure all voices are given space to be heard.
A joint vision
The third ingredient for successful ABVPI implementation is using the critical emerging information to develop a joint vision for the intervention.
This will become the basis for the plan of action, which can include key actions such as the implementation of a local safety audit, the establishment of a municipal safety forum the development of an integrated safety plan.
Assign roles and responsibilities
A strong team works to build trust and fosters partnerships through active communication, patience and shared leadership and commitment to the process. Diverse groups and complex interventions require coordination and accountability mechanisms to thrive.
Evidence-based, community-informed approach
This helps identify and mobilise existing assets, skills and abilities that can be grown through the intervention. By aligning with what a community has and wants, the intervention will more likely be cost-effective and sustainable.
Prioritise activation, maintenance and management throughout the project life
These are the programmes and initiatives that breathe life into spaces and physical infrastructure on a sustained basis.
The seventh ingredient is to develop a budget and allocate sufficient resources. Without resource allocation for relevant capital and operational costs, good intentions will not materialise. Similarly, diverse human capital is required to work transversally and across different spheres of government to respond to the multifaceted nature of violence prevention.
Monitoring and evaluation
The final ingredient is a flexible and adaptive monitoring, evaluation and learning system, which uses qualitative and quantitative data. The evidence gathered will help assess the sustainability, progress, effectiveness, and impact of each intervention. It will also encourage continuous dialogue between government and communities.
Examples of ABVPI in South Africa, supported by VCP
Safer Places Resilient Institutions and Neighbourhoods Together (SPRINT) Initiative
The Safer Places: Resilient Institutions and Neighbourhoods Together (SPRINT) Project was conceptualised in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and is an opportunity to grow capacity in the utilisation ABVPI tools within local government and civil society organizations to respond to the violence prevention challenges in vulnerable communities exacerbated by the pandemic. It also draws on the experience and knowledge of the Guide to Designing Integrated Violence Prevention Interventions.
During 2022 and 2023, the project was further developed and focuses on advancing urban safety interventions to institutionalise area-based violence prevention intervention (ABVPI) approaches in public policy, programmes and practices for upscaling and a sustainable impact.
The SPRINT project is guided by an Advisory Group, made up of representatives of the Department of Cooperative Governance (DCoG – Chair), National Treasury (NT), the Department of Human Settlements (DHS), the South African Local Government Association (SALGA), the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities (DWYPD) and the Civilian Secretariat for Police Services (CSPS). Members of the Advisory Group also champion ABVPI in their departments and organisations. The SPRINT measure is implemented by the Isandla Institute and Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) with the support of the GIZ-VCP Programme. The SPRINT Project works with the South African government and civil society organisations to build understanding, utilisation and institutionalisation of ABVPI. This is done through four project themes:
The activities under this theme seek to provide ongoing support to the Advisory Group to embed an ABVPI orientation in relevant government policy, practice and programmes.
The purpose of activities under this theme is identifying, mobilising and supporting ABVPI activities in municipalities and civil society who are committed to drive ABVPI action in their localities.
The purpose of activities under this theme is to ensure that a range of ABVPI principles, content and skills is available in relevant training programmes.
The purpose of activities under this theme is to provide implementation support to ABVPI project sites to demonstrate the potential of the ABVPI approach and to deepen practical knowledge.
Each of the areas of intervention have produced a series of outcomes. Under the auspices of the Isandla Institute, which was responsible for enabling conditions and activation, a number of advocacy documents and learning briefs have been developed. Apart from the learning briefs, a series of practice briefs, developed as an outcome of multi-sectoral ‘Community of Practice’ events, contributed to the activation and institutionalisation of ABVPI within state and non-state actors.
- Learning Brief 1: The impact of COVID-19 on safety, wellbeing, and vulnerability to crime and violence
- Learning Brief 9: Area-based violence prevention interventions for and with youth
- Learning Brief 10: Gender-based vulnerability and the built environment
- Learning Brief 11: Fostering safety in public (green) spaces
- Learning Brief 12: Schools as Strategic Entry Points for Area-Based Violence Prevention Interventions
- Poorly Designed Neighbourhoods are Unsafe Neighbourhoods
- Policing is only one part of an integrated response to violence and crime
- Responding to violence and crime means addressing risk factors at different levels
- Area-based violence prevention considers all aspects of life
- Safe neighbourhoods have well-designed public spaces
- Safe neighbourhoods are designed with the community
- Safe neighbourhoods provide ammenities and programmes for children and youth
- Safer neighbourhoods encourage community engagement and social cohesion
- Safer neighbourhoods invest in using evidence, monitoring and learning
- Safe neighbourhoods foster a sense of pride and ownership in the community
- Safe neighbourhoods are inclusive to all
VPUU support mainly focused on the capacitation and implementation areas of interventions, including the development and implementation of a training programme on ABVPI on the basis of the Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading Methodology and the direct support to a number of municipalities and civil society organisations on the implementation of ABVPI measures within their municipalities through mentorship and the community development funds application.
A list of situational analyses can be found here:
- El Kero Park, Hillbrow, City of Johannesburg
- Diepsloot, City of Johannesburg
- Kimberley, CBD, Sol Plaatje Municipality
- Mtatha West, King Sabata Dalindyebo
- eMpangeni, CBD, City of uMhlathuze
Safety in Precinct Management
Another ABVPI intervention in South Africa is the Safety in Precinct Management Programme (SPM), which has been developed in collaboration with National Treasury, the Neighbourhood Development Partnership Programme and GIZ VCP, to develop a set of guidelines to support the integration of safety dimension into precinct management and development.
The guide emanates from the development of two safety plans developed in a precinct within the Steve Tshwete Local Municipality and Msunduzi as well as a desktop research document providing a conceptual framework and examples around the globe on the implementation of safety in precinct management.
The SPM is guided by the implementation framework of the White Paper on Safety and Security, the Integrated Crime and Violence Prevention Strategy (ICVPS) and is aimed to assist the development and revitalisation of neighbourhoods and precinct to unlock municipal planning and investments in targeted locations towards spatial and economic transformation with a focus on improving the quality of life and access to opportunities for communities in South Africa’s under-served neighbourhoods.
The SPM Guide contains an action planning tool which can be used to identify immediate priorities in relation to a precinct, including a step-by-step guide to take a forward a systemic, transversal safety plan for a precinct.
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design
Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behaviour through environmental design. CPTED strategies rely upon the ability to influence offender decisions that precede criminal acts by affecting the built, social and administrative environment.
South Africa’s particular spatial and socio-economic characteristics and the country’s history of forced segregation have resulted in a distinct relationship between crime and the physical environment. Spatial patterns and the form and structure of South African cities and towns are the result of planning principles and approaches that were largely influenced by the country’s apartheid ideology. The poorest communities are, for the most part, located on the urban periphery, which means that the residents have to travel long distances to and from their places of employment as well as commercial, social, recreational, healthcare and other facilities. These neighbourhoods often lack adequate infrastructure (electricity, water, sanitation etc.), facilities and amenities (including recreational facilities such as community halls and sports facilities), as well as safe public spaces such as parks.
These conditions often provide opportunities for crime and result in environments where people feel unsafe. Contributing factors include the lack of adequate lighting in public spaces (especially streets), the absence of street names and house numbers, and the presence of informal (and often illegal) taverns. It may sometimes also be difficult for the police to patrol or to respond to calls in these areas due to the poor condition of streets, or, in the case of informal settlements, the complete lack of vehicle access routes. Also, even though a large proportion of the South African population does not own a motor vehicle, most neighbourhoods are not designed to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists, while public transport are not always effective, efficient, safe, reliable and affordable. People are therefore vulnerable to becoming victims of crime and violence when they have to travel.
The significant differences between the social and spatial contexts of different South African communities and neighbourhoods places a complex set of demands on crime prevention initiatives. However, CPTED interventions can often be implemented effectively in any of these contexts and could form part of a crime prevention strategy that would suit the needs of any community
The Guide to integrate CPTED principles within municipal planning complements the support to ABVPI and is a continuation of the introductory entry on CPTED. The guide was tested with the support of the City of uMhlathuze within the Empangeni CBD and will be uploaded once finalised.