News from the Top

The Challenge of Public Safety


Unfortunately, the challenge of public safety in our downtowns and urban districts continues to grow, compounded by increases in gun violence and, in the U.S., a shocking number of mass shootings.  Too often, dense urban districts have seen increased crime during pandemic recovery. Perceptions of street disorder have also increased as there continue to be fewer people on the street and historic staff shortages in police departments. Many places are asking – what can we do? As on so many other issues, urban place management organizations, which have long been on the frontlines of clean and safe initiatives, are again critical organizations that serve to bridge silos between the public and private sectors and quickly test new initiatives.  

Research for the recently released Public Safety Initiatives revealed how UPMOs take on public safety. Most already have ambassadors or other clean and safe staff, and UPMOs have focused on increasing their visibility to promote more eyes on the street, and increasing safety personnel where appropriate and possible, given staffing shortages. UPMOs are also able to influence the physical environment to change how space is perceived. For instance, in Minneapolis, MN, the Mpls Downtown Improvement District organized a Tactical Urbanism Advisory Committee to address hotspots of concern. They implemented placemaking experiments and activations, such as a flower market, artist-designed temporary bus shelters and more which all successfully helped to encourage positive social behaviors and change perceptions downtown.  

UPMOs are also trusted sources of information, working closely with local police departments to provide additional resources and data, and are best positioned to contextualize crime for local property owners and other stakeholders, going beyond what may get the most media coverage. This also enables UPMOs to be strong advocates and partners for the entire justice system.  

While the news and reality of public safety challenges can be disheartening, we know that UPMOs stand ready to face up to these challenges and hope that this brief can offer some inspiration and solidarity for others who face similar challenges. Let us know if you are experiencing any successes or other unexpected challenges for future iterations of this research.  

Learn more by downloading the Public Safety Initiatives brief here and registering for the Advancing Places webinar next week on Friday, June 10, featuring two leading organizations on public safety – Downtown Dallas, Inc and Mpls Downtown Improvement District.