Throughout the streets of Sylvan Lake needless scrawls upon the walls are placed.
This unsightly man-made make up marks many of the busiest corridors.
Issues of vandals with a lack of pride and poignancy are present in most communities, with little being unique about this situation. What can beunique is how municipalities choose to deal with the issue of graffiti.
Recently Town Council advised staff to lay out costs associated with developing a Community Standards Enhancement Program and the creationof a task force to address the rising concern of graffiti.
While this is an admirable idea and may lead to success, it must be done in a sustainable and creative manner if it is to obtain the objective ofobliterating petty crime such as graffiti.
For many years communities across the country have utilized the ideology of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) to detercriminal behaviour. CPTED involves altering the physical environment through means as small as strategic use of shrubbery and vegetation tolarge scale initiatives such as Red Deer’s Art Allies – two large scale community created murals in alley ways.
Art Alley was created in collaboration between the Red Deer Downtown Business Association and Steve Woolrich, a Red Deer based CPTEDexpert and owner of SeCure Consulting Solutions Inc.
“Revitalization of the downtown area was the key component to Art Alley, but beyond that it was about increasing street art and public art,”explained Woolrich of he and his team of artist’s creations. “What happens when you have great art or great music present people are naturallydrawn to those spaces – there’s now suddenly a level of pride present in that space and the more positive activity you have happening in thatspace the less likely it is there will be crimes committed there.”
Beyond CPTED, over the past seven years in particular, more progressive methodologies are starting to be used. He explained practitioners ofCPTED have long felt there were missing pieces in the prevention puzzle. What he and other CPTED experts noticed was the practice did designthe physical environment to prevent crime, but it was missing the social aspect. From this notion came the creation of SafeGrowth by GregSaville, a former police officer, current criminologist/urban planner and a professor with the University of Calgary’s faculty of EnvironmentalDesign.
SafeGrowth is defined by Saville as integrated crime prevention for the future. It is a shift towards a new style of prevention theory, one in whichsafe places emerge less from outside experts implementing strategies to or for neighbourhoods and more from neighbours planning alongsideprevention experts.
Recently Woolrich was invited by Saville to a Safe Growth summit in Canmore where he received an in depth analysis of what SafeGrowth wasand how it could be combined with CPTED, making Woolrich one of few certified SafeGrowth practitioners in Western Canada.
“To me SafeGrowth is about building relationships – you build those relationships at the neighbourhood level. You have a conversation aboutthe concerns of that neighbourhood and then you take action as a community,” explained Woolrich. “It is not police driven and it is not drivenby the town – it is driven by the people.”
In order to develop these community conversations, citizens must become engaged and take pride in their neighbourhoods of residence andbusiness operation. The Community Standards Enhancement Task Force is a great start and if it is to be a success, members of this task forcemust utilize principles of CPTED in conjunction with the SafeGrowth methodologies.
The idea of the SafeGrowth model is to pull together a diverse group of people – councillors, RCMP, different social agencies, along with artistsand musicians. If you have all of these people at the table you will have the tools to create an effective crime prevention strategy.
“You need all of these people at the table or else how are you going to have any buy in from the community. These are the people that canmove things quickly to the action stage and get back to that level of community engagement at a neighbourhood level,” said Woolrich.
Not only will implementing CPTED principles and ideologies such as public art and street into our downtown and address the issue of graffiti byremoving canvasses for vandals – utilizing SafeGrowth will engage community members to take pride in their space and create a sense of socialrelationship to those spaces.
Sylvan Lake is a tourist destination, why not give the both residents and these tourists something else to look at along with the lake and in turncreate a vibrant, artistic community.