Urban Safety Reference Group Policy Brief No.1/2023: The Case for Safety Audits for Community Safety at City Level
“A community safety audit is a process of reviewing (generally) public spaces / urban areas and making recommendations about how they can be improved to prevent crime and promote community safety.”1 Cities around the world have been exploring different tools to improve safety and prevent crime in their locality. A safety audit is one such tool.
The European Forum for Urban Safety (EFUS) (2007:10) defines a safety audit as “a systematic analysis undertaken to gain an understanding of the crime and victimisation-related problems in a city; to identify assets and resources for preventive activity; to enable priorities to be identified; and to help shape a strategy that will enable those priorities to be tackled.” The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs expands this by defining a Local Safety Audit (LSA) as a tool that is used to understand the underlying social dynamics that enable crime and violence2. SALGA (2016) adds that a community safety audit is a process that must be used to review public spaces and make recommendations about how they can be improved to prevent crime and promote community safety.
In order for responses to unsafety to be crafted at a local level in response to local challenges, data on unsafety must also be generated at the local level. National, provincial even regional crime statistics provide only a glimpse into very limited aspects of unsafety – and often describe issues that do not relate to municipal mandates. Incidence of rape cannot tell how many incidents were not reported, what environmental factors created the circumstances that enabled the incident to happen, which specific locations are most unsafe for victims, and what socio-political factors created vulnerability for the victim, including gender, race, age and socio-economic status. Safety audits are information-gathering tools that are used in communities to gather experiential evidence from users of public space on safety, factors contributing to safety and factors undermining safety. They include surveys, group walks, digital tools and mapping exercises. Safety audits place a value on qualitative data and create a framework for integrating qualitative and quantitative data into the design and implementation of safety interventions. A local safety audit provides rich and nuanced information about the local environment, which cannot be conveyed in crime statistics alone