Calgary Hosts International Crime Prevention Conference

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Calgary Hosts International Crime Prevention Conference

Given the significance of the recent election and the amount of attention paid to the campaigns, we might be forgiven for overlooking some other important events in Calgary over the past few weeks. One of them bears special mention here on criminal defence blog—I might not talk a great deal about my specific work as a criminal defence lawyer here in Calgary, but all of my passion regarding the law and our society is deeply entwined with my profession. I also think news about crime and crime prevention in our city is important for everyone in Calgary to remain aware of.

So it's no small news that an international conference on crime prevention was held right here in Calgary just last week, and that—surprise, surprise—the focus was far more on what can be done to build cities and communities that are automatically safer rather than relying on laws and law enforcement to do the job after the fact.

Any regular readers will know the refrain: stricter laws, broader police powers, and a focus on locking people up for petty crimes and drug offences does not help to reduce crime rate or make for safer Calgary communities. Building better communities, both socially and—as the conference participants pointed out—architecturally, automatically leads to reduced crime rates and a populace that is happier, more productive, more inclusive, and less prone to crime in the first place.

It turns out that societies work a lot like buildings and open space. The more secure and fortified a building looks, the less visibility there will be, meaning more opportunities for hiding and doing all manner of nefarious things while hiding. Open spaces with greater visibility, transparency, and, to extend the metaphor, equality are safer and help to automatically prevent crime.

Harsh light shining down from on high provides the widest illumination, but obscures details and leads us to interpret everything that casts a shadow as a threat. Lateral light provided by lamps lying closer to the ground better enables us to discern features and assess risks without leaving the deep shadows where bad things actually take place.

Keep in mind, this isn't just my opinion. These are the conclusions of an international gathering of experts who have spent lives and careers in the study of crime prevention, and in planning and building cities and spaces that have inherently lower crime risks. I might be taking slight license in extending their findings in the physical world to those of the social and psychological, but I think the point stands.

A society that is more open, more evenly and equitably lit, and that allows each of us a clear and unaltered view of our surroundings is better for all involved, including the allegedly criminal elements.

I know not everyone in Calgary agrees with me; it wouldn't even surprise me to learn that many criminal defence lawyers don't share my views. If you happen to need a criminal defence lawyer and like what you've been reading, I hope you'll give me a call.