The issue of safety has become an integral part of discourse on cities and urban life. For a holistic understanding, the concept of safety has to be understood in the broader framework of the urban space
The urban population has increased in South Asia in the decade 2000 to 2011 by 130 million. According to an estimate it is further projected to increase by 250 million in next 15 years. From a Sociological point of view city generates a totally distinct and separate way of living with typical socio cultural patterns of interaction. The issue of individual safety within a broader framework of safe habitat has occupied critical importance with increasing pace of urbanization. For any discussion on safety in cities individual and the community will always remain the focal point. Generally, there is a tendency to look at the issue of safety in cities as an independent variable supposed to be taken care of by some specialized agency. This outlook undermines the other important stake holders who play very critical role in ensuring a safe habitat. I personally feel that the individual and the communities being targeted, are major stake holders. I would like to propose following framework to understand the dynamics of safety.
Safety requires sensitivity on the part of the individual and the community. Both these stake holders have to be sensitive to such issues which have bearing on their day to day safety while they are at home or on the street. We must understand that city life is heterogeneous. We cannot be insensitive and indifferent to issues which have a bearing on day to day safety.
The overall safety matrix of the city is affected by various causative factors. For example, safety and security of citizens on the street is also linked to the lighting conditions. This will require the participation of the civic agencies. Likewise, there will be many areas where infrastructural aspects affecting public safety will require involvement of other agencies
According to German American Sociologist Louis Wirth, urban life represents a population with greater social differentiation expressed geographically in different neighbourhoods based on class and ethnicity. Anonymity, impersonal and informal relations are thus the core elements of city life. These sociological factors very much affect the issue of safety in the city. In urban dwellings people hardly know each other including their next door neighbours. Those characters who play with the security of the individual and the community at a larger level take advantage of the feeling of anonymity and breach individual as well as community security. Thus safety requires that citizens break this cycle of anonymity and come closer to each other in day to day interaction.
Feeling of belongingness, togetherness and community orientation: Once the circle of anonymity is broken it is bound to generate healthy ethos and spirit of community living. This feeling will provide an opportunity to the residents in a particular habitat to isolate and identify actors who breach community security in various forms.
Empowering the stakeholders: Safety is a multi-dimensional concept. Securing the city can never be the responsibility of any one stakeholder. The safety and security in city requires participation and coordination of other agencies apart from the involvement of individual and the community. The overall safety matrix of the city is affected by various causative factors. For example, safety and security of citizens on the street is also linked to the lighting conditions. Personal security has been breached in dark spots in the city. This will require the participation of the civic agencies. Likewise, there will be many areas where infrastructural aspects affecting public safety will require involvement of other agencies. Thus it requires empowering all the stakeholders to identify various factors affecting the overall safety dimension and take corrective measures accordingly.
In all cases where breach of security has taken place it is the individual or the community which is at the receiving end. No discussion on safety can be meaningful unless citizens are educated regarding safety tips to deal with incidents of breach of safety and security. Critical analysis of cases of breach of security at micro and macro level reveal shortcoming on the part of various stake holders. Collateral damages and breach of safety can be reduced with proper training of the stakeholders. Community preparedness to deal with major incidents in a city is a very critical aspect of safety in the cities. For example, taking some basic precautions at home to avoid theft and burglaries can minimize collateral damage to properties. At a broader level the collateral damage to community safety and security can be minimized by educating the citizens. This has emerged today as the hallmark of community policing initiatives of law enforcement agencies across the globe.
Yearn for improvement
Society is dynamic and it adds to the complexity of urban life at a very high speed. The overall dimension of safety in a city is facing multipronged challenges from elements who try to breach personal as well as community security. Technology which has made life simpler and easier in urban areas has also started challenging core values of individual and public safety. In order to cope with challenges of safety there is a need for all the stakeholders to continuously improve and hone their counter strategy, methodology and logistics against actors who breach the personal and community safety and security. Therefore, it can be concluded that the concept of safety is a multi-stakeholder exercise. The safety in the city depends on the healthy and meaningful cooperation and coordination of all the stakeholders who are directly or indirectly entrusted with the responsibility of securing a living habitat.