Seattle is a model of urbanism. The City scores high in the walkability rankings, and they pioneered many urban policies that other cities have followed. Houston Tomorrow actually brought a speaker in from Seattle’s Department of Neighborhoods, to see what we could learn from them. But last week video surfaced of Aiesha Steward-Baker being brutally attacked in one of Seattle’s bus tunnels.
The relationship between urbanism and crime is not new. Oscar Newman wrote “Creating Defensible Space” in 1974. Jane Jacobs talked about it even earlier. But nobody seems to talk about it any more. I searched for ‘crime’ on two of Houston’s urbanism websites. Houston Tomorrow had just one article that directly addressed crime and urbanism. NeoHouston had an article with a picture of Andrew Burleson climbing a fence. A Google search was a little more fruitful, but not much.
In the absence of educated discourse, people have developed pretty far-fetched ideas on crime and urbanism, and cities have stopped listening to neighborhood crime concerns.
The far-fetched ideas aren’t worth going into. But neighborhood crime concerns are. A perfect example is happening in Northeast Houston. The City is building a bridge to connect the Songwood and Wood Bayou neighborhoods. People in Wood Bayou support the bridge. It will unite the two neighborhoods and make them both more walkable. People from Wood Bayou will have easier access to Brown Park. But people in Songwood are fighting the bridge because they fear it will bring crime to their neighborhood. Nobody is working on ways to help with Songwood’s crime concerns while also giving Wood Bayou the access they need. They’re just building a bridge.
We could change this if we bring crime back to our discussions on urbanism. Aiesha Steward-Baker was attacked in a bus tunnel in one of America’s most forward-thinking urban cities. If that isn’t reason enough, what is?