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«Introductory Handbook on Policing Urban Space CRIMINAL JUSTICE HANDBOOK SERIES Original photo: Photography by Allesandro Scotti who worked for ...»

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Introductory Handbook on

Policing Urban Space


Original photo: Photography by Allesandro Scotti who worked for UN-Habitat on a series of pictures

of urbanization in five medium-sized towns.



Introductory Handbook on

Policing Urban Space



New York, 2011


HS/072/11E ISBN 978-92-1-132366-5 The designations employed and the presentation of material in this publication do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Secretariat of the United Nations concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries, its economic system or its degree of development. The analysis, conclusions and recommendations of this publication do not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT), the Governing Council of UN-HABITAT or its member States. Excerpts may be reproduced without authorization, on condition that the source is indicated.

Acknowledgements The Introductory Handbook on Policing Urban Space was prepared for the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) by Enrique Desmond Arias, consultant, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York.

A first draft of the Handbook was reviewed by an expert group meeting held in close partnership with the host organization, the Nigerian Police Force, and the Swedish National Police Board, at the premises of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Abuja from 8 to 10 September 2009. UNODC and UN-Habitat wish to acknowledge the valuable contributions of the following experts, some of whom participated in that meeting: Tunde Agbola, Ibrahim Ahmed Al-Taraah, Mercedez Ampié, Alexandre Augusto Aragon, Bernat Baro, Benoit Mogoue, Innocent Chukwuma, Peter Darcy, Knut Dreyer, Maria Elena Ducci, Anabel Géri, Limota Goroso, Carlos Graça, Francesc Guillen, Hamed Ould Hamed, John Haruna, Adele Kayinda, Ibrahim Y. Lame, Agathe Lele, Dominique Lunel, Alain Makhana, Aubin Minaku, Said Mwema, Abdoulaye Ndiaye, Ejindu Nwakama, Ogbonna Onovo, Clemente Ouango, Janine Rauch, John Sutton, Marco Antonio Valencia Tello, Muhammad Auwal Umar, Dina Shehayeb and Fola Arthur Worrey. The following United Nations staff participated in the meeting: Cecilia Andersson, Barnabas Atiaye, Alioune Badiane, John Falade and Claude Ngomsi of UN-Habitat, and Bisi Arije and Slawomir Redo of UNODC.

The following United Nations staff also contributed to the developmentof the Handbook: Elkin Velasquez, Claude Ngomsi, Cecilia Andersson and Laura Petrella of UN-Habitat, and Estela Máris Deon, Anna Giudice Saget, Mia Spolander and Slawomir Redo of UNODC, as well as Julien Piednoir (intern).

UNODC and UN-Habitat gratefully acknowledge the funding provided by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canada, and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency for the development, printing and dissemination of the Handbook, and its translation into French, Portuguese and Spanish.

–  –  –

Over the past 20 years, Governments and civic actors have focused substantially on the question of crime and urban law enforcement efforts. It has come to be recognized that crime is unevenly distributed throughout the world. In certain countries, such as Guatemala, the homicide rate is higher than 30 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, whereas in many other countries, including in Western Europe or SouthEast Asia, it is more than 10 times lower. Important disparities are also observed between and within regions: in Africa, Egypt, Mauritius and Morocco have homicide rates that are lower than 3 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, far lower than those in South Africa. Discrepancies can also be significant within the same country. In Colombia, for example, the city of Tunja (population 150,000) has a rate of 7 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, compared with 128 per 100,000 inhabitants in the city of San José del Guaviare (population 50,000). Finally, within the same city, homicide rates can vary significantly from one neighbourhood to another. In Rio de Janeiro, for example, rates vary from 2 to 12 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants, depending on the neighbourhood.1 A recent statistical report of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) shows stable or decreasing global homicide trends over the period 2003for the majority of countries for which data is available in the Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania. Exceptions to the trend include a number of Caribbean and Central and South American countries, including Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica and Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of), which show significant increases in homicide rates. Research suggests that this may be due, in part, to increases in transnational organized crime, illicit drug trafficking and gang activity. In addition, a slight increase was seen between 2007 and 2008 in a few countries in Europe, demonstrating a need for continued vigilance and effective crime prevention action.

Unfortunately, data for a number of countries in Africa and in parts of Asia are not robust enough to provide a clear picture for a useful analysis. Intentional homicide (the intentional killing of one person by another) is one of the most serious forms of crime and a key indicator of violent crime levels in a given country or region.

International Centre for the Prevention of Crime, International Report 2010 on Crime Prevention and Community Safety: Trends and Perspectives (Montreal, Canada, 2010), p. vii.

2 Introductory Handbook on PolIcIng urban SPace Statistics on killings may be drawn from both health and criminal justice sources.

Since the majority of violent killings involve the use of some form of weapon, statistics on intentional homicide not only provide information on levels of violent deaths in non-conflict settings, but also on overall levels of armed violence.2 Crime problems are driven by a series of factors, including poverty, inequality, the rate of urbanization, political transitions, urban density, population growth and poor urban planning, design and management.3 Successes in controlling crime in cities in high-income countries have depended on the use of innovative analytical techniques developed in response to needs identified at the local level. Efforts have included a variety of community-based crime prevention action plans,4 geo-referenced crime data to support the efficient and effective deployment of law enforcement resources and preventative approaches focused on developing law-enforcement expertise. Successful crime control techniques involve cutting-edge strategies to gather and use knowledge, often in collaboration with actors such as municipal planners and civic leaders. Cities in the richest countries have benefited most from the new strategies.

Nonetheless, urban governments in low- and middle-income countries have increasingly sought to apply the techniques in new contexts, with growing success.

The Handbook builds on the basic concepts and principles reflected in the United Nations standards and norms in crime prevention and criminal justice that relate to policing5 and that are outlined in other United Nations documents on the subject6 as well as in the wider range of scholarly and policy literature. It seeks to provide practitioners, including government officials, police, municipal planners and members of civic groups, especially in low- and middle-income countries, with a basic conceptual grounding in democratic policing, and guidelines on good practices so that they can successfully undertake democratic policing in the urban contexts in which they operate.

The main issues addressed here are the dimensions of urban crime problems in the growing cities of low- and middle-income countries and how collaboration between urban planners, civil society, government officials and different types of police can help to solve those problems. The Handbook also examines a variety of crime control strategies, including community-oriented policing, problem-oriented policing, UNODC, homicide statistics. Available from www.unodc.org/unodc/en/data-and-analysis/homicide.html.

Global Report on Human Settlements 2007: Enhancing Urban Safety and Security (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.07.III.Q.1), pp. 67-72.

In many developing countries with poor governance, community-based crime prevention strategies are effective in reducing crime but are often divorced from the allocation of law enforcement resources.

In particular, the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (General Assembly resolution 34/169, annex), the Guidelines for the Effective Implementation of the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (Economic and Social Council resolution 1989/61, annex), the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, Havana, 27 August-7 September 1990: report prepared by the Secretariat (United Nations publication, Sales No. E.91.

IV.2), chap. I, sect. B.2, annex), and the International Code of Conduct for Public Officials (General Assembly resolution 51/59, annex).

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Criminal Justice Assessment Toolkit (in particular the modules on policing), available from www.unodc.org/unodc/en/justice-and-prison-reform/Criminal-Justice-Toolkit.

html?ref=menuside; the United Nations Criminal Justice Standards for United Nations Police (www.unodc.org/documents/ justice-and-prison-reform/08-58900_Ebook.pdf), and the forthcoming publication entitled Handbook on Police Accountability, Oversight and Integrity.


intelligence-led policing, situational crime prevention, the “broken windows” theory and the strategy on crime prevention through environmental design. It also addresses broader principles of managing urban space to control crime and strategies for evaluating crime control programmes. The Handbook includes references to efforts to control crime in an array of countries, including Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America.

The overall objective of the Handbook is therefore to outline the new, innovative techniques and to explain how they have been applied to address crime problems in low- and middle-income countries. The various programmes, policies and approaches described here can provide law enforcement policymakers, front-line officers, urban planners and other city authorities as well as civil society organizations with basic information about an array of strategies and good governance practices to control crime in rapidly growing cities in low- and middle-income countries.

I. Context of urban policing in low- and middle-income countries The control and management of urban space has been a driving force in the historic emergence and development of urban policing strategies.7 Owing to the unique characteristics of cities, urban policing is a central governance challenge facing highincome countries as well as low- and middle-income countries as diverse as Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa.

What makes policing urban space different from other types of policing and what specific challenges do governments face in policing those areas? Within the broader context of United Nations recommendations on crime prevention and the management of human settlements, the Handbook outlines contemporary understandings of policing in urban areas and how police and State officials, especially those at the municipal level, can work together to develop crime prevention strategies.

A. Key terms Megacities. Extremely large urban areas with populations usually in excess of 10 million inhabitants.8 Megalopolis. A fusion of multiple cities into one single interconnected urban area.

Low-income countries. Countries with a per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of less than $975.

Lower-middle income countries. Countries with a per capita GDP of between $976 and $3,855.

Upper-middle income countries. Countries with a per capita GDP of between $3,856 and $11,905.

High-income countries. Countries with a per capita GDP of over $11,906.9 In the context of Brazil, see Thomas Holloway, Policing Rio de Janeiro: Repression and Resistance in a 19th Century City (Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 1993).

Fred Pearce, “Eco-cities special: Ecopolis now”, New Scientist, 16 June 2006, available from www.newscientist.


Country income levels area available from http://data.worldbank.org/about/country-classifications.

6 Introductory Handbook on PolIcIng urban SPace Urban space. Densely populated land area subject to varying uses. Definitions of urban space may vary from country to country, based on the laws in different jurisdictions.10 b. Definition of urban space Half the world’s population lives in cities. Europe, North America and Latin America became predominantly urban in the mid-twentieth century, and over the next 40 years the majority of the populations of Asia and Africa will also come to live in cities.11 Cities are sites of critical importance to the future of the planet, and addressing the myriad of issues facing them in low- and middle-income countries is one of the primary governance challenges facing States in the coming generation.

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