Sometimes it can be difficult to determine the difference between good city planning and features that make a city safe, according to Mary Beth Rondeau.
Rondeau is the senior urban designer with the City of Surrey.
“If you have a city where people are out on the streets and they’re walking their dogs and talking to their neighbours in the parks, they’re using their city. Then that tends to be a safer city.”
The city also implements the principles of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED), which is a study of how to design the environment to be safer, according to Rondeau.
CPTED defines itself as a “multi-disciplinary approach to deterring criminal behaviour through environmental design.”
Rondeau said the principles of CPTED are embedded in city council’s community plan. She added it comes down to simple, intuitive ideas and principles.
One of these ideas was natural or passive surveillance.
“If you design someone’s house or an apartment to overlook public areas, those people become the watchers and guardians and people that care for that area. They will extend their concern for the area into the public realm.”
An example of these principles in action would be park design.
Owen Croy, the manager of parks for the City of Surrey, said the city creates parks to be open and welcoming.
Older park footprints were more closed-in with less frontage to the streets.
One way of becoming more inclusive is to have two sides of the park open onto the street, according to Croy.
The other one or two sides of the park could open to homes – allowing for surveillance by the homeowners, according to Ted Uhrich, the manager of the parks planning, research and designs for the City of Surrey.
“Usually there’s a lot of activity around front doors. There’s people who are coming and going from their house.”
Because of a bylaw, parks are closed from dusk till dawn, unless they are specifically lighted for sports.
Croy added it would be difficult to light all 6,600 acres of parkland.
Uhrich said they try to make sure the parks are busy “at all times or as much as possible” during the day, with a range of activities.
“Typically, we see parks busy on evenings and weekends, but if we can create some daytime use on weekdays, that helps make that park that much more active and safer.”
Uhrich said the city has an active program, Partners in Parks, which is a way for residents to enjoy Surrey’s many parks while also keeping them safe and clean.
The program’s volunteers can meet with residents around parks to let them know the process of reporting problems.
“They can inform the RCMP if there are more serious problems and get more patrols at a certain amount of time.”