Why do reporters assume they have the knowledge to judge one crime reduction strategy over another (“Crime and Puzzlement,” CW, Winter ’06)? Based on 35 years of experience in crime prevention through urban planning and design, I am constantly amazed by the shallowness of reporters’ judgments on which program works or doesn’t work. Reporters need to do research in crime prevention as they would in reporting the crime that is committed. They might begin by pointing out the difference between apprehension and prevention, and then examining the different types of prevention strategies that are available.
The reason that a program such as the ministers-and-gangs strategy is so hard to reconstruct is that it is human-resource-based. Because it was created and led by one or more key people who were able to energize others and raise special funding, this approach was, for a short time, able to have an impact on reducing certain targeted crimes. Once the funding runs out—or the leaders move on, are reassigned, or simply get burned out—programs like this dissolve, and the crimes come back as strong as ever.
In contrast, crime prevention through urban planning and design works well, and indefinitely, because such strategies are physical and not dependent upon individual or group enthusiasm—or, for that matter, continuous funding. Example: If a high school draws students from one neighborhood through another neighborhood, it creates a range of crime opportunities, and some of the students take advantage of these opportunities to commit crimes. The high school is unwittingly acting as a “crime generator,” even though the crimes are not committed on school grounds. By either redrawing the school-district lines so that students are not forced to walk through another neighborhood, or redesigning the street and sidewalk system so as not to allow pedestrian circulation from the adjacent neighborhood through the target neighborhood, the result will be the prevention of all types of crimes this “crime/environmental phenomena” caused. This is crime prevention through urban planning, or “strategic criminology.” While this field is not well known, it has met with significant success where it has been applied.
Richard Andrew Gardiner
Urban Planning & Community Design
DOES SHRINKING STATE
NEED MORE POWER?
NEED PARENTS INVOLVED
Thank you for the attention to appropriate schooling for our state’s immigrant children (“Sink or Swim”). Laura Pappano provides thoughtful insight into the politics and policy issues and how they impact the classroom.
The role of parents is conspicuously absent from the discussion. For all the faults of the old bilingual education law, it properly empowered parents. Local communities were obliged to inform and seek immigrant parents’ voices on issues and to offer parent education opportunities. These measures ensured that parents were seen as partners rather than clients, a significant change that supports better educational outcomes for children, whether from the suburbs or the tenement districts. These parent initiatives also paid rewards in assisting immigrant families in establishing and mobilizing social networks.
There may be fewer strands in the safety net for immigrant families in Massachusetts today. Given that the Commonwealth’s population, economy, and congressional representation depend on newcomers, we ought to pay closer attention to their needs.
Jorge M. Cardoso Ed.D
Institute for Responsive Education
APPLIED WITHOUT BASIS
In the article “House Rules” (Growth & Development Extra 2006), the author, Michael Jonas, referred to me as an “anti-growth activist.” I cannot imagine how he came up with that broad characterization when the only conversation I ever had with him was about the history and appropriateness of certain high-density developments in and around the South Shore and Boston, not about generalities of growth. What is this, an attempt to place a kind of “burden of proof” for a person to disprove a lie? How would Jonas like being labeled an anti-accuracy writer?
Ocean Bluff (Marshfield)
ARLINGTON TALE FULL
OF ERROR AND BIAS
As an early subscriber to your magazine, I have come to rely upon it as an impartial source of information on public affairs. However, when the magazine becomes a platform for blatant pro-developer propaganda, supported by lazy reporting and invented “facts,” I find such reliance is misplaced.
The reference is to the article “Bitter Pill” by Alexander von Hoffman (Growth & Development Extra 2006), an article fraught with errata, selective misquotes, and advocacy of a social engineering and land use policy that may be summarized in a few words: Let the Arlingtons become hopelessly dense, so that the Lincolns and Carlisles may remain pristine.
Von Hoffman characterizes the debates over growth as some sort of class warfare. In fact, by the late 1960s, Arlington’s five square miles housed over 50,000 people. It was not only the densest town in the state but the seventh densest community, denser than the city of Boston. People across a range of social and economic groups and from all parts of the community were appalled by the vanishing open space, and the intrusion of high-rise, out-of-scale apartment blocks in their neighborhoods. Those concerned with historical and architectural heritage were concerned that developers seemed to pounce upon the finest old houses and buildings for demolition and redevelopment. The Historical Commission was established by vote of town meeting in 1970, but it was not until many years later that it achieved the power to delay—not veto, as von Hoffman states—destruction of historical resources, and many such resources have in fact been since lost to developers.
The long section devoted to the redevelopment of the Time Oldsmobile site is, as is typical, fraught with errors. The quote from Richard Keshian that “many only develop in Arlington once” is unsupported by any facts, and is belied by the fact that Keshian’s own client, Michael Collins (a Winchester resident), currently has three projects underway here, and several more to his “credit.” The Osco proj-ect was ultimately rejected by the Redevelopment Board because the site is at what traffic people call a “failed intersection”—a finding that was ultimately supported by the Land Court after the judge took a look at it himself. Collins, who then obtained development rights to the property, consulted with town officials and some (but not all) neighbors, but ignored whatever the latter had to say. He obtained the support of the adjacent historic church by offering to give them part of the land, an offer that he later retracted. The fire chief, not the Redevelopment Board, required that access for fire trucks be adequate, for the protection of the prospective residents.
My own role in this affair is grossly mischaracterized. I, and the chairman of the Historical Commission, had a long meeting with Collins’s architect, and I was quite surprised at the next hearing to find that not one of the modest ideas offered to mitigate the appearance of the project had been adopted. (By the way, 18th-century patriot Jason Russell, like most people, didn’t use a hyphen between his first and last names.)
Contrary to von Hoffman’s assertions, opponents made it quite clear why they were unhappy with certain aspects of the project. A block north of this site is another Collins project crowded densely onto a site adjacent to one of the few remaining ballfields and widely derided as the ugliest development in town. (At the opposite corner, by contrast, is a beautiful renovation of historic houses done by a more sensitive Arlington developer.) Surrounding Collins’s Mill/ Summer St. project at the sidewalk is a low stone wall, described by some as a tank barricade, behind which is a high fence. We didn’t want to see that at the important Mill/Massachusetts Avenue intersection. The quote “we don’t do walls in Arlington” is taken out of context, the full statement being “except in the case of an 18th-century farm house, appropriately surrounded by its stone wall, we don’t do walls in Arlington.” Every member of the Redevelopment Board expressed unhappiness with the overly dense proposal, with its minimal setbacks and traffic issues.Collins then said at a Redevelopment Board hearing he’d do a single building “that would rival the Robbins Library in magnificence” if only he could exceed the height limitations by a few feet. I wrote his attorney stating my concern that such a building not overshadow the adjacent historic church. I never mentioned a court challenge, and as I am not an abutter to the premises, I would not have standing. Collins and his attorney chose to imagine this “threat of litigation” in order to justify cramming, “by right,” double family houses, each cheek-by-jowl with its neighbor, on the site, thereby avoiding the affordable housing requirement of our inclusionary zoning bylaw.
Anyone who looks at the statistics would agree that Arlington has done its share, and then some, in accommodating population density. Our zoning bylaw allows between 17 and 79 units per acre depending on the district; single and two-family houses can be built on lots as small as 6,000 square feet. Does anyone really think it’s evil or selfish for the people of a neighborhood, or a town, to want to retain a little open space, have recreational areas for young and old, preserve a few remnants of the past, and not have their neighborhoods overwhelmed with out-of-scale apartment blocks and the extra automobiles such developments would bring to their narrow side streets?
John L. Worden III