© Esther Dyson (originally posted to Flickr as Durban from the sky) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Safer Cities Programme

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Main actors

City Government, Regional Government, National Government, Private Sector, other

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Project area

Whole City/Administrative Region

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Ongoing since 2000/01

The safer city strategy is the expression of a joint plan of action for local government and partners

Durban is a thriving tourist and commercial centre with a large diverse population and rich cultural heritage in KwaZulu-Natal. It is South Africa’s busiest port and an important industrial hub.

Durban experiences problems with crime and violence. Criminal justice institutions are unable to stop or even control escalation in urban violence.

In 1999 the South African National Secretariat for Safety and Security requested support from UN Habitat’s Safer Cities Programme (SCP). Focusing on urban management and vulnerabilities regarding urban violence at local level, the Safer Cities Programme has developed specific tools and strategies to address urban violence and public order offences.

The safer city strategy is an expression of a joint plan of action for local government and its partners, including provincial and national government, the criminal justice system, business, NGO sectors, and community-based structures. It is firmly located within Durban Integrated Development Plan and Long Term Development Strategy. The plan builds on a common vision with the intention of creating a critical mass of projects and people allowing Durban to stem the tide of crime.
By making fighting crime priority, Durban can create a thriving, attractive, clean, safe, and economically successful city.

Sustainable Development Goals

Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
Durban, South Africa

Size and population development
2011: 3,012,000; 1990: 1,723,000; 2025: 3,724,000; 2010-2015: +1.75% / year

Main functions
Durban is the busiest seaport in South Africa

Main industries / business
Sugar refinery, textiles, food, cars

Political structure
The city of Durban is ruled by the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality created in 2000. The Municipality is governed by a 205-member city council, which elects the Mayor, Deputy Mayor and Speaker

This concept was adopted after the International Conference for Crime Prevention Partnership to Build Community Safety which was held in 1998. It was attended by mayors from the national and international arena.

The aim of Safer Cities is to ensure that every inhabitant within the eThekwini Municipality is safe and shares common understanding on community safety issues.

Fighting crime through community participation

This is the question often faced by municipalities as they strive to create a better quality of life for inhabitants. It is common knowledge that crime is cited in surveys as the most common reason for dissatisfaction within an area.

By 2010, eThekwini Municipality will enjoy the reputation of being Africa’s most liveable city, where all citizens live in harmony. This vision will be achieved by expanding the economy and meeting people’s needs, so that all inhabitants enjoy a high quality of life with equal opportunities in a city they are truly proud of.

Strategic objectives and desired outcomes

Strategic Objective as outlined in eThekwini Municipality safety and crime prevention strategy:

  • Effective Policing and Community Safety
  • Targeted Social Crime Prevention
  • Better Design and Management of Public Spaces
  • Research and Crime Analysis
  • Community Involvement on Safety


International research shows that reducing crime must become everyone’s responsibility and that this can only be achieved through the active participation of citizens, business, NGOs, the criminal justice system, and local government in strong cooperative partnerships.
Varying partnerships are required for other programmes and projects. It is essential to include the stakeholders and community members most affected by the project in the planning phase, otherwise plans may be obstructed by people who feel alienated from decision making.
While champions can motivate and support crime prevention initiatives, it is important that the projects are not seen as being the responsibility of just one person. Broad participation and accountability is best achieved by disseminating the city strategy as widely as possible.

eThekwini Municipality established the Safer Cities project in 2000 in collaboration with United Nations Habitat.

Durban Safer City project was established at the request of the South African National Secretariat for Safety and Security. UN HABITAT and the International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC) were asked to help devise a new crime prevention policy which was adopted by Durban Council in 2000.

A Safer Cities coordinating unit was established and a local security diagnosis conducted.

In 2003, the new eThekwini Municipality safety and crime prevention strategy was developed and adopted by council as part of a five-year strategic plan of action. 


The Durban Safer Cities strategy brings various role players together in a prevention partnership. 

Three pillars of the strategy are:

  • Effective policing and crime prevention
  • Targeted ‘social’ crime prevention
  • Crime prevention through environmental design

Safer Cities steering committee comprised of city councillors, public officials, South African Police Services, and Business Against Crime members, was established to guide project development.

A research advisory group was established for information gathering, analysis, and best practices, mainly in the area of ‘social; crime prevention: violence against women, victim support, youth development, and understanding causes of violence.  

Main components:

Outcome 1: Provide coordinated service delivery on local community safety


  • contribute to an improved policing service within eThekwini Municipality area
  • coordinate enforcement and management of street beggar problems
  • active participation in national and provincial public safety programme
  • ensure Durban Metro Police Plan is aligned with SAPS Area Plan, run joint local community safety activities
  • co-coordinate stakeholder involvement in effectively managing the criminal justice system

Outcome 2: Empowerment of citizens in local community safety


  • raise awareness concerning substance abuse
  • facilitate effective management of ‘street’ children problem
  • support local efforts to create safer school environments
  • facilitate gender-based community safety initiatives
  • develop opportunities for young people
  • facilitate raising awareness about family values, morals, and human rights and implement targeted social crime prevention
  • facilitate better management and law enforcement in the car guard system
  • establish on-going dialogues with broad range of players, generating projects to promote public safety  

Outcome 3: Creation of a safer environment


  • Develop a policy for crime prevention through environmental design (CPTED)
  • Facilitate implementing CPTED policies
  • Raise awareness in applying CPTED information to all relevant departments and developers
  • Facilitate CPTED intervention measures to improve public safety along transport routes
  • Facilitate crime mapping exercises

Outcome 4: Improvement of community safety facilitation and research management


  • Improve the quality of crime information and analysis
  • Conduct community safety audits
  • Share information between law enforcement agencies and community safety structures
  • managing database
  • Mapping victim support services

Outcome 5: Community partnerships for safety (initiatives)


  • Conduct educational programmes regarding community safety
  • Sustain and support ward public safety committees
  • Promote citizens’ willingness to participate in community safety
  • Share information about public safety and how safety can be improved
  • Coordinating local community activity in initiating community safety projects
  • Effectively utilise recreational activities to promote community safety

Durban Safer Cities programme was funded by the Embassy of the Netherlands with a budget of USD 142,560. Apart from seeking additional funds, it is important that existing budgets are redirected towards crime prevention activities.

Three levels of cost should be considered when implementing this strategy. Even with little money, a municipality can have an impact on crime. The three levels are:

  • No to low cost: making crime prevention the core business of the municipality through training, informing, and integrating crime prevention into all existing line functions.
  • Low to medium cost: creating crime prevention projects through creating partnerships that expand existing functions.
  • Medium to high cost: initiating new projects which go beyond current local government activities, requiring new infrastructure or personnel.

No cost, low cost, and some medium cost activities can be funded by redirecting budgets and prioritising current activities. Medium cost to high cost activities can be best achieved by seeking additional funding sources. This may include joint programmes between business, communities, and the municipality, rate rebates, provincial and national funding or international funding.

Networking with other departments at provincial and national levels is also needed to ensure that their budgets and programmes support local development projects.

  • A directory of station officials, welfare, social services, and NGOs was compiled.
  • The Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu (INK) areas were declared special Presidential Pilot projects for urban renewal. Selection criteria were that the areas had the highest rates of poverty, unemployment and violent crime in KwaZulu-Natal Province.
  • eThekwini municipality adopted an area-based management approach to focus and improve council delivery. Throughout Durban, administrative areas have been established to ensure integrated and efficient delivery of services at local level, such as public safety.
  • The Safer Cities project has worked closely with Community Policing Forums to hold training workshops at which inhabitants were taught local crime prevention strategies.
  • Warwick Junction urban renewal project has developed some innovative practices and partnerships. Their expertise has been recognised and their geographic area of operation expanded to include the entire inner city area (iTRUMP).
  • Urban improvement precincts UIP are innovative means of public/private cooperation. UIPs are self-taxing groups of businesses partnering to provide services needed for cleaner, safer, and more attractive business districts.

Crime prevention is a more cost-effective option than dealing with the aftermath of crime. Effective crime prevention would boost investor confidence in the city directly impacting prosperity and employment in Durban. Low crime levels are one of the global indicators for stability and social integration. This plays a role in attracting new investment and in maintaining current levels of investment, thereby ensuring retention of a skilled workforce and contributing to improving in the quality of life for inhabitants.

With regard to the challenging framework conditions, several barriers surely diminished overall impact and achievements. The following barriers are exemplary in implementing the Safer Cities Programme and should be considered when transferring the project to similar regions.

  • Institutional capacity: service delivery is hampered by shortage of human capacity in several sectors.
  • Coordination between and within spheres of government: there have been clear achievements in coordination at project level, through structures such as the multi-stakeholder forum (MSF) and through sound project management. However, challenges can be experienced in lack of coordination between sector plans and a level of resulting ad-hoc, non-strategic investment. Urban renewal is not always a priority within sector planning initiatives.
  • Levels of partnership with external stakeholders: within SCP successes have been achieved in partnering with the private sector as well as involving communities in projects to strengthen levels of impact. However, there have been challenges, in particular with regard to problematic interfaces between certain community organisations and government.
  • Law enforcement is of primary importance to most Durban residents. An important aspect of the strategy is to ensure an effective level of police service. The performance of Durban Metro Police, in partnership with SAPS, is vital to this strategic objective and can otherwise represent a significant burden to the overall impact.
  • Crime occurring in public transport was underestimated in the beginning of Durban SCP. In addition to looking at the fixed city environment, transport must also be considered within an urban design strategy. Crime at bus shelters, taxi ranks, and along transit routes is considered high but under-reported. Based on victim surveys, this is a real concern to many commuters. Not dealing with this dimension represents a barrier in terms of improved urban safety.

Economic and social injustices of the past must be addressed.

Turning the tide on crime also requires a critical mass of people who share the same strategy. Therefore crime prevention must be a core function of city departments, employees, and the general population.

A good strategy should develop a critical mass of crime prevention tactics. Utilising a large range of tactics coordinated within a single strategy will naturally meet with more success than isolated small projects. The diagram below shows that crime is a product of many factors, each of which must be addressed through a holistic multi-agency approach.
This strategy was also guided by lessons drawn from local urban development and urban renewal projects including those at Cato Manor and Warwick Junction as well as the pilot project on safety at transport nodes. Best practice identified included dealing with crime and security issues through an integrated approach which is holistic, geographically specific and requires local ownership.

A local model

One project serving as a model for crime fighting strategies is the ‘Greater Warwick Avenue and Grey Street urban renewal project’ which led to a drop in crime in a troubled inner city area. The target area comprises a large portion of the central business district, including the main bus station, train stations, and taxi ranks, through which 300,000 commuters pass daily. Elements in its success were providing a venue in the area with offices where multidisciplinary project teams from various city departments could work, and meeting areas and rooms for on-going interaction between community members and city representatives. From there a multitude of successful projects were designed and implemented.

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Contact our community manager.

Camille Toggenburger
Berlin, Germany

Camille Toggenburger

Individual | Community and Content Manager | urban sustainability exchange

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