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Urban safety and security: Westgate, Nairobi - implications for planning and design

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On Friday, 6th December 2013 Oxford Brookes University, London hosted a presentation by Prof. Peter M. Ngau, titled, ‘Urban Safety and Security: Westgate, Nairobi – Implications for Urban Planning and Design’.

War on Society

We live in changed times and we have something fundamental to grapple with: both personal/ individual security and societal/mass security.  Security no longer concerns the individual or family; the wider society is part of it to. Previously we have secured individuals and families. This has been achieved by use of burglar proofed, electric fenced, VIP 24 hours security, alarm fitted homes and offices.

In Defense of Society

The war on society is a new phenomenon – it calls for new planning, new designs and logistics for societal places. Westgate and all other malls around the world are designed / planned to enable mass consumption – direct  access from main road, Integrated ‘all under one roof’  - Shopping, eating, entertainment, personal care, salons, keep fit and prayers. They are designed with wide. . everything; car parks (at basements, rooftops, and outside); plazas (for events); the eateries, cloth shops, electronics, cinemas. The aim is to allow for easy access, interaction and circulation. There is widespread use of reflective to enhance visibility and interaction of patrons. In most cases these areas patronized by the middle and high income.  Security is usually provided through unarmed guards and CC-TVs.  They neither entertain uniformed armed forces nor visible securities (electric fences, walling).

Defense of society should be multi-thronged. Planners and designers have a responsibility in defense of society. Planning and design can be applied to enhance security within public spaces. This would include innovative remodeling of space as well as self-organization by business community to respond to various crises.  There is scope for greater use of electronic securities in developing countries. Developed societies have widespread use of tracking technologies, which ensure perpetrators can be tracked.  However, debate has emerged as to whether these securities infringe of personal liberties.  In conclusion the discussion pointed at the need for further research on how planning, design and new technologies can be used to enhance security in public spaces.

Prof. Peter M. Ngau
University of Nairobi

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