Meeting Report

I. BackgroundII. Event overview  |  III. Session summaries  |  IV. Moving Forward


Session summaries



The common challenges of monitoring conflict, crime and violence

The first thematic session focused on the various challenges faced when providing evidence to programming. Three speakers addressed their own respective experiences in diverse contexts: in an established observatory in South Africa, a pilot project in Kenya, and a large event using geographic information system (GIS) technology. Keywords related to main issues discussed in the session have been highlighted in bold in the text.

Lizette Lancaster gave an overview of the Crime and Justice Information and Analysis Hub, which is part of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) [See presentation]. She mentioned that despite a strong decline in homicide since 1994, South Africa was  facing increasing problems of armed robbery and property-related crimes. The main objective of the Crime Hub is to improve transparency and accountability related to crime prevention and safety governance by providing accessible information through a user friendly system (through tables, graphs, interactive maps, articles, or seminars). Lancaster highlighted the need for creativity to make complex data and issues accessible. In view of this objective, she emphasized the importance of a good website and associated technology, which has to be balanced with end-use reality such as slow internet. At the beginning of the project, the main challenges encountered were linked to dealing with data-gaps (disaggregated and timely data); disjointed and impractical indicators/data sources; scarce financial resources and low capacities to collect data; the time consuming nature of systematic methods of data collection, analysis, and verification; and low cooperation from governmental departments and other research institutions. Lancaster pointed out that once the data is available, a major question is how to make information and data accessible and to whom. Some data, such as data on police brutality, were also politically sensitive. Later in the project some new challenges arose, this time related to technology. The original website was not interactive enough, presented technical issues, and its developers did not have the skills to improve it further. In a constantly developing environment, a big challenge is to remain responsive to the use of new technologies. In addition to being active on social media, the website should be mobile compatible. It should be frequently updated and user-friendly, incorporating more statistics, interactive maps, and multimedia.

Patrick Burton, from the Centre for Justice and Crime Prevention (CJCP) in South Africa, addressed the challenges he faced working on the development of a new Crime Observatory in Nairobi [See presentation]. The Nairobi Crime Observatory is a new process in pilot stage, whose whole approach is on social crime prevention. Data come from different sources: police, health and judicial offices. The observatory allows data collection from local, county and national levels. Burton first presented a set of challenges related to design and implementation. He mentioned the distrust both in the police and in the utilization of the data. In addition, limited resources constrain data collection, analysis, and dissemination. On a policy level, challenges being faced were to identify which data should be included; to avoid possible double-capture of some cases; and to ensure the ownership and credibility of both the process and data. Burton ended his presentation by highlighting some potential success factors: the fact that the project was initiated from the community level (ownership), the politically opportune timing, the opportunity to integrate data collection and analysis within the context of other local safety initiatives, and, finally, the use of new technology.

Giovanni Pisapia is an independent consultant who previously worked on security arrangements for the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, 2010 FIFA World Cup in Johannesburg, and is currently working on the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. His presentation illustrated how he utilized geographic information system (GIS) technology for planning the safety and security measures for the 2010 FIFA World Cup from a policing prospective. Pisapia initiated the use of GIS within the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department’s City Safety Program to develop a holistic approach to safety and security for the 2012 FIFA World Cup.  He begun by ensuring the crime data was accurately mapped out and crime hot spots in proximity to the venues and throughout the inner city itself were identified through GIS.  Crime data was contextualized with overlaying layers from numerous agencies to include physical entities such as buildings and their typologies, public spaces, environmental hazards, road and public transit networks, as well as social data illustrating household income, age distribution, deprivation levels and population density. By overlaying different types of spatial data on a single map, the technology enhanced the cooperation and coordination of multiple agencies, thus enabling the alignment of various role players to work in a consistent manner, area by area during the time leading up to the event.  The use of GIS data empowered the police department to develop an operational plan successfully able to secure the localized challenges within the city for the FIFA World Cup. While GIS has been utilized by various public and private agencies for years, Pisapia affirmed that collating GIS data to plan safety and security measures for major sport events is a relatively innovative technological approach.  The use of GIS could be an effective tool to assist crime and urban observatories with improving the understanding of the urban context of cities, as it was done in Johannesburg.

During the discussion, various questions were asked regarding responsible use of data, data sharing and confidentiality. For example, participants said that it may be difficult to find and access medical records of victims. The discussion focused then on the challenges of institutionalizing data collection and analysis systems, tranforming them from (too often) one–off initiatives to stable systems. Such transformation requires an investment in building the capacities and skills in all partners participating in the development of an ‘observatory’ through intensive training and adapted tools.  In many contexts there are problems to capture information at the police station level. Hence, capacity-building on verification was important. One participant raised his concern about the sustainable use of GIS solutions when they are prepared for specific events such as the 2010 World Cup. The specific solutions need to be adapted before being  used for similar occasions and other crime and violence related monitoring systems.