Crime in the community

    Cities are often hubs for innovation and economic productivity but can also experience problems with crime,  violence and corruption more acutely than is often seen at the national level. From robbery, sexual violence and illicit drug use to  human trafficking,  and other types of organized crime and corruption, cities have become a microcosm of problem global trends. 

    By 2050 two thirds of the world's population are expected to be living in cities. Much of this urbanization process will unfold in Africa and Asia.

    With rising numbers of people living in cities, these challenges will only continue to become more acute in urban settlements all over the world. We need to respond better to urban challenges and strengthen communities' resilience.

    It is important to develop effective and innovative efforts to prevent crime and corruption in urban settings which involve citizens and communities. Well-planned strategies not only prevent crime, victimization and corruption, but also contribute to sustainable development.

    How does urban crime and corruption impact on people?

    Urban crime can impact people in different ways. For example, young people in deprived areas may be at risk of gang violence, local crime or drug and alcohol abuse. Such crime is intertwined with threats that may come from outside the urban area itself such as drug trafficking, firearms and organized crime. The lack of transparency in the provision of basic government services can prevent many of the most vulnerable communities from having access to water, sanitation and health services.

    For women and girls, urbanization is often associated with greater access to education and employment opportunities and increased independence. Yet, all around the world, women and girls continue to face sexual harassment and other forms of violence in urban public spaces. In many cities, a large majority of women and girls have experienced some form of violation, including on buses and trains, on streets, at markets, in parks and in many other places. This has been highlighted by UN Women's Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces initiative.

    The level of crime and violence is affected by urban dynamics and characteristics such as economic inequality, social exclusion and fragmentation, food insecurity, gender inequality and loss of positive social cohesion. Also, people may have a perception of insecurity and be afraid and anxious but this may be different to the actual risk of becoming a victim of crime.

    There is evidence that a large percentage of urban dwellers in developing and transitional countries have been victims of crime over a five-year period. Surveys of parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and Africa have found 70 per cent of people identify as victims of crime. But studies also show that it is not the size of urban agglomerations that create criminal surroundings but rather the poor planning, design and management of urbanization.

    Tackling urban crime and corruption is important for sustainable development

    Reducing crime, and violence and corruption is essential for people's well-being along with strengthening the rule of law, good governance and the institutions that provide these services. These elements are also important for securing sustainable development. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development explicitly highlights the promotion of safe, inclusive and resilient cities through the targets of goal 11.

    The role of local government is vital as this is the layer of government closest to the people, and it often has significant decision-making and spending power. So, recognizing that the future success of the SDGs resides in large part in cities, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime ( UNODC) is contributing to "localizing" the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development for urban policymakers and planners, particularly those in the Global South.

    What the UN Office on Drugs and Crimes does to make a difference

    UNODC has developed an initiative ' UNODCity' to strengthen the way cities are dealing with crime, violence, corruption and drug use in communities and to help build safe, inclusive and resilient cities. It works with local stakeholders alongside national actors, to empower them with the relevant tools and services. Through an Urban Safety Governance Assessment, UNODC can tailor responses to meet grassroots needs and take account of the links between global crime threats and local vulnerabilities. It also emphasizes the need to build the resilience of communities by addressing structural issues such as corruption and the lack of transparency in government services.

    To help young adults and children who may be at risk of getting lured into criminal gangs and drug abuse, the Doha Programme has developed the " Line Up, Live Up" project. This global youth crime prevention initiative builds on the power of sports as a tool to prevent young people being drawn to criminal activities and to help them effectively build resilience. So far young people in 12 countries have benefited from the programme in Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East, Latin America and the Caribbean.

    For example, more than 600 students in Uzbekistan took part in "Line Up, Live Up" in February 2020. They learned how to resist social pressures which could lead them to engage in crimes. Through various fun, interactive exercises they looked at how to cope with anxiety and how to communicate effectively with peers. Sixteen-year-old Bakhrombek from Andijan was very happy to participate in the programme: "I learned how to set goals for the future. The initiative also motivated me to study. I used to skip classes very often and was not very interested in school lessons. Now, after participation in "Line Up, Live Up", I have set a goal for myself - to enter a higher educational institution."

    What can you do about it?

    Wherever you live you can take an active interest in the governance and management of your city, town or village. Advocate for the kind of place you want to live in. Develop a vision for your building, street and neighbourhood, and act on that vision. Are there enough jobs? Can your children walk to school safely? Can you walk with your family at night? How far is the nearest public transport? What are your shared public spaces like? Do you have easy and affordable access to basic services provided by your government?

    The better the conditions you create in your community, the greater the effect on quality of life and safety. You can look for opportunities to participate in community-based crime prevention activities.

    In your daily life consider how you can make a difference, with your valuable local knowledge, to what happens where you live and work. 

    You can get involved with civil society organizations which are working with the police to play an important role in helping to prevent crime and violence. With their knowledge of local problems and their capacity to reach out to vulnerable, at-risk segments of society, community involvement is an essential component in the prevention of crime and corruption as well as the proliferation of organized crime groups.


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