The Violence Prevention through Urban Upgrading (VPUU) project is a holistic approach to urban upgrading that is unique in the Cape Town context in the way that it has integrated all forms of development and not only the physical upgrading of urban spaces.
In a community that has been characterised by violent crime, poverty, unemployment, a harsh natural environment and undignified public space this type of development is transforming the township of Khayelitsha into a vibrant, safe, and attractive place but most importantly into a community that is environmentally, economically and socially sustainable.
VPUU is a City of Cape Town project aimed at reducing violent crime and improving social conditions in Cape Town communities across the Cape Flats, of which the Khayelitsha community is the first.
This innovative project was initiated in 2006, in partnership with the German Government, through the German Development Bank (KFW).
VPUU aims not only to reduce crime and increase safety levels but to also upgrade neighbourhoods, improve social standards and introduce sustainable community projects to empower local residents.
The project has so far focused on the improvement of areas in the Khayelitsha “suburbs” of Harare, Kuyasa, Site C/TR section and Site B to create safe areas for thousands of people.
VPUU has a set of safety principles which are used as guidelines in the upgrading/development process, and are in line with those of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design.
These principles include the following:
Surveillance and visibility (“eyes on the street”)
The design of public spaces that have clear lines of sight and good lighting to ensure maximum public visibility.
Territoriality (“owned” spaces)
Refers to the sense of ownership a community has over its environment that encourages residents to become involved in reducing crime.
Defined access and movement
Easy access and well-defined routes to, and through, a public place help develop a pedestrian’s understanding of the space and perception of safety.
Image and aesthetics (dignity)
A positive image of a place can be achieved by ensuring a “human scale”, using appropriate materials, colours, landscaping and lighting to encourage high levels of public activity.
This relates to the strengthening of building facades and spaces to improve personal safety.
Maintenance and management (pride and ownership)
Well-managed and maintained environments encourage a sense of pride and ownership.
The VPUU uses specific design “tools” to implement the safety principles and these include the introduction of a clear signage and way finding system, creating visual connections along walking routes, ensuring movement routes are as clear and short as possible, the clustering and integration of public activities and ensuring that the site layout has active edges to increase passive surveillance.
These principles and design tools are used in all areas of the upgrading process to ensure that the main challenge – crime prevention – is addressed in the new interventions.
The project is based on a model made up of three “pillars” of development namely: situational crime prevention, social crime prevention and institutional crime prevention.