Federation for
Housing and

Making Cities Safe and Secure

Safety is the fundamental principle that endorses or denies urban prosperity. Both real and perceived safety affects relationships between citizens, business and authorities, underpinning cooperative behaviour that helps build trust, happiness and ultimately the liveability of cities.


Members take on Making Cities Safe and Secure

We asked our members about the agenda ‘Making Cities Safe and secure’. Check out their experiences below, explore best practice and join the dialogue.

Dr Anil Kashyap, IFHP Council India Representative.

The safe city is as much a perception of safety as it is about real safety statistics. It is the perception of the people that is perhaps the most important. If I am to perceive a place as unsafe, regardless whether in reality it is or is not, then I will not go there. It’s very important to address this promotion of the city concurrently with strategies that monitor and prevent real threats, human and natural.”


Case examples

1. Intelligent Operations Center, Rio de Janerio

Rio De Janerio is a city that that has historically struggled to ensure good urban safety. The city of 7 million inhabitants is famed for its stark inequalities in living conditions, with hillside favelas surrounding the prominent beach side high rises. Crime and violence is part of everyday life in many of the city’s favela districts with natural threats such as landslides and floods contributing to social instability.


In efforts to monitor and improve Rio’s urban safety Mayor Eduado Paes acted in collaboration with the computing firm IBM to build the Centro de Operacoes Rio, the Rio Intelligent Operations Center. Within the Nasa like control center engineers can monitor dozens of data feeds in real time regarding weather, traffic, police, fire and medical services, helping assess risks and respond to any foreseen safety issues.


Through the integration of monitoring technology Rio de Janerio hopes it can mitigate risks associated with both social and natural safety concerns, helping it’s citizens not only avoid physical safety threats but improve the perception of safety and the ability of the city’s administration to respond to critical events.


>> IBM and the Intelligent Operations center


2. Preston ‘Healthy Streets’ Programme, UK

Like many urban areas around the world, Preston in North West England suffers from multiple social neighbourhood inequalities. Vandalism and anti social behaviour has led to a poor appreciation of the local environment and a sense of unsafeness and vulnerability among residents. Traditionally, regulatory powers have been used to supress negative social behaviour but with little long term effect. Now however authorities are trying an alternative approach, partnering with local stakeholders in the adoption of a healthy streets programme. With the addition of a Community Engagement Officer, Preston’s local community has built a programme aimed at the creation of safe and inclusive local environments.


Such action has included a number of social interventions such as local Marine Cadets cleaning forest and park areas associated with illegal dumping of rubbish and anti social behaviour. Thereafter local school children have ‘adopted’ the areas, designing signage and seating areas. A fishing club has rejuvenated a local pond for the benefit of recreation and wildlife and an armed forces veteran group has established a successful food growing and therapeutic gardening group at the local park. Campaigns to reduce driving speeds on local roads have also been implemented alongside cycling and walking promotional activities. Such initiatives have acted to increase placemaking and local ownership, and a dramatic reduction in anti social behaviour has been observed. It is expected that as a result of such actions local residents will feel safer and less vulnerable to local stresses, encouraging healthier and more active lifestyles facilitated by more accessible transport options and a more pleasant natural environment in which to engage in local activities.


>> Preston’s healthy City for more information and access to the Preston Healthy City Action Plan


3. Innovative Urban Surfaces, London

Increasing digital technologies claim to improve urban safety through smart application and automated monitoring solutions. It can be argued however that such systems and an increasing reliance on leave systems vulnerable to technical failures. There is therefore still a need for mechanical technologies to help keep cities safe and secure.


Lighting is a staple requirement of real and perceived safety in urban areas. Conventional lighting has many drawbacks through high implementation, maintenance and energy costs and light pollution considerations. In London, the company Pro Teq Surfacing has developed a surface treatment that harnesses solar UV radiation by day, radiating comforting blue light by night, all without an electrical connection. The innovative solution is termed the ‘Starpath’. The solar technology can be applied to any surface through a spray on aggregate. It has non slip properties, allowing its application on footpaths, cycle lanes and road surfaces. Such technology is particularly appropriate for surfaces in less developed areas that may not have access to electricity or where authorities cannot afford to implement conventional lighting. This is just one example of how cities can provide off grid lighting solutions to improve safety at night.


>> View more on this solution


IFHP Best Safe and Secure City Reads


>> Franklin E. Zimring (2013) The City That Became Safe: New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control (Studies in Crime and Public Policy)

>> Joseph Pelton Indu Singh (2013) The Safe City: Living Free in a Dangerous World



>> United Nations Women – Safe Cities Global Initiative

>> The Economist Intelligence Unit – Safe Cities Index 2015

>> The Economist Intelligence Unit – Safe Cities 2015 Infographic

>> Branscomb L (2006) Sustainable Cities: Safety and Security