Securing urban space: What works? What doesn’t?

Blog 17th May 2023

In this guest post Dr Faisal Umar writes about his Knowledge Mobilisation project in Kaduna, Nigeria. Faisal has been supported by the USF with an International Fellowship Award in 2021, and grant funding towards knowledge mobilisation activities.

The risk of property crime and the fear of victimization is part of contemporary urban life in a typical city, especially in resource-limited countries where urban policing is often constrained by lack of funding. Urban crime prevention and control in such settings, therefore, must rely on knowledge-based approaches to understand the urban crime problem and to effectively address its multiple causes. Yet, the transfer of knowledge from the academia to practitioners, and the sharing of information among stakeholders on the issue of crime prevent and control is somewhat slow in Nigeria. Thanks to the support from the Urban Studies Foundation, through the Knowledge Mobilisation Award, the Securing Urban Space project has delivered two knowledge exchange works to urban security actors. An underlying philosophy of the Securing Urban Space project was to create a space for dialogue and knowledge sharing among stakeholders, both state and non-state actors, in urban security provisioning. It is also to demonstrate the importance of adopting evidence-based approach for ensuring affective urban crime prevention and control.

Four people at the Securing Urban Space workshop: three sitting behind a desk, one standing in front of the desk speaking with a microphone.
Participants at the Securing Urban Space workshop (source: David Medugu, 2022)

The first workshop titled “Securing urban space: what works? what doesn’t?” was held on 22nd November 2022, featuring paper presentations, a round-table discussion, documentary film screening and networking lunch. About 73 participants attended in person while another 44 joined virtually. The event has brought together both state and non-state urban security actors in a round table discussion, including the Nigeria Police Force (NPF) and the Kaduna State Vigilante Service (KADVS), as well as local vigilantes and the academic community to deliberate and share knowledge for effective crime prevention and control. The role of each actor was reviewed, some knowledge of crime prevention and control were shared, and areas of further collaboration were identified. The workshop has also provided a space for networking among stakeholders, a move that is critical to further discussion, dialogue and collaboration. The paper presentation session was aimed at provoking the thoughts of stakeholders on the need to adopt evidence-based crime prevention and control strategies in our cities. Participants of the event have recognised the importance of attending the workshop and they have agreed to explore ways of making the event an annual gathering.

Documentary film shoot in Kaduna, Nigeria: two people stand behind a camera, filming two sitting people in conversation, with someone standing behind.
Shooting documentaries in Kaduna, Nigera (source: Mukhtar Ahmed, 2022)

An important outcome of this knowledge mobilization event was the formation of Urban Crime Research Network (UCRN) – a forum that will drive the future of the Securing Urban Space project beyond the current funding lifecycle. Another highlight of the event was the screening of three documentary shorts that were produced as part of this knowledge mobilisation project. In the first documentary, “Crime in the city: voices from the urban community”, urban residents from low-income neighbourhoods narrated their personal experiences of crime victimization, and revealed why they think that changes in societal values over time have resulted in a negative change in young people’s behaviour. Following the lives of young offenders in the city, the second documentary narrated the urban live of two young offenders (over a 5-year period) who have struggled to make ends meet, and how they started petty theft and dealing in drugs. The third documentary in the series, “Non-state policing actors of Kaduna”, documented the operations of non-state actors in low-income neighbourhoods, particularly focusing on crime prevention and control in the city of Kaduna.

Workshop attendees sat at desks with computers facing a speaker
Crime Mapping workshop (source: David Medugu, 2022)

On the second day, 23rd November 2023, a training workshop titled “Urban Crime Mapping in Nigeria” was delivered to officers of the NPF, KADVS, and some private security actors. In addition to presentations on the spatiality of urban crime and the evolution of GIS crime mapping, as well as a review of environmental criminology theories, participants were trained on the fundamentals of GIS crime mapping and spatial analysis. Urban crime data from our prior research projects in Kaduna were used for this training and each officer had access to a state-of-the-art workspace. A total of 44 participants attended this training workshop: 30 officers from the NPF, 10 officers of the KADVS, and 4 participants from ABU Zaria Security Unit.

Formation of UCRN would ensure the sustainability of the Securing Urban Space project and drives it future. In fact, through the UCRN, an annual event is now being planned in the form of a stakeholder conference where urban security actors gather to deliberate on crime prevention and control. In the next two to three years, when more members have joined the network, the event will be extended to include participants from West-African sub-region.