Urbanization, particularly in the developing world, has been accompanied by increased levels of crime, violence and lawlessness. The growing violence and feeling of insecurity that city dwellers are facing daily is one of the major challenges around the world. In some countries, crime and violence have been exacerbated by the proliferation of weapons, substance abuse and youth unemployment. Global studies show that 60% of all urban residents in developing countries have been victims of crime, at least once over the past five years, 70% of them in Latin America and Africa. Without a deliberate effort to address this situation, the prospects
of future development and poverty reduction are limited.

Crime and violence have impacts on the everyday life of city residents. Women and children are often the most affected, especially when fear hinders their access to services. The impacts of crime and insecurity restrict urban social and economic development, and often jeopardize opportunities and pro-poor policies. With twenty-three years of experience, the Safer Cities programme has implemented effective urban safety programmes in 77 cities and towns in 24 countries around the world. The approach embraces a more holistic and participatory solution to reduce or prevent crime and violence. It supports cities and towns in adopting city-wide urban safety strategies and action plans, building on socially inclusive and participatory approaches that contribute to a safer and just city for all.

Over the past 23 years, the programme has implemented effective urban safety and security programmes in 77 cities and towns in 24 countries.

"I have lived most of my life in the Eastlands slum in Nairobi working as a garbage collector. For several years, I engaged in crime including carjacking and murder and was severally arrested by the police and kept in custody. But my life changed one day when I encountered UNHABITAT Safer Cities Programme that was holding a concert in my hood called “Looking to the East – a Safer City”. Involved in its activities, I begun changing my perception in the way I saw the society. My self-esteem increased and I started working closely with the City County of Nairobi on its Safer Nairobi Initiative to which I was introduced by UN-HABITAT. I am now seen as a role model to my community… many young people could not believe it was me whom they had seen as a gangster- leave alone the police who were very surprised but kept encouraging me. Formerly a gang member; self-confessed but now reformed, I have now dedicated my time to mobilizing youth, through positive action and community projects. I have now established a car garage, thanks to the Safer Cities approach that has given me a second chance in life."

Bernard Ongeso, 34, Ex-gang member, Nairobi

Before Safer Cities interventions: A culture of apathy among the citizenry in community safety
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After Safer Cities interventions: Increased participation of the citizenry through the adaptation of the Sater Cities tools by the private and civil society sector
Before Safer Cities interventions: Urban poor perceived as holding the greatest responsibility of crime and violence.
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After Safer Cities interventions: The perception of the urban poor as the major offenders of crime changed when the crime victim survey results were disclosed which showed the main victims of crime and violence were the poor.
Before Safer Cities interventions: Youth perceived as a problem and the youth crime problem addressed through the criminal justice system.
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After Safer Cities interventions: Youth increasingly incorporated as part of the solution and as resources to the community safety and cohesion through Safer Cities art and sport programmes.

Related Sustainable Development Goals

SDG 3 logo
SDG 5 logo
SDG 11 logo
SDG 16 logo
SDG 17 logo
Partners
International Centre for the Prevention of Crime
Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU)
Africa Forum for Urban Safety
Universidad Alberto Hurtado Chile
UNODA

Our Experts

Juma Assiago
Coordinator
Safer Cities Programme/Urban Land, Legislation and Governance Branch
Urban October