083 457 3653 office@rra.org.za

Far too often, we focus on the role of our police, private security companies and other community safety groups in keeping our families and neighbourhoods safe and crime free. But what if I told you that crime prevention and safety could also be linked back to active community involvement, along with the state and cleanliness of our pavements, our streets and general infrastructure? 

Community led initiatives around the world have shown us that being actively involved while taking pride in our suburb (and not just our houses) can help keep levels of crime down and our sense of community up! And there are well documented examples of this from around the world. Check these examples out for some inspiration! 

New York New York!

One of the most well-known case studies, popularly known as New York City’s “Broken Window”

Theory was first conceptualized in the 1980s by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling. Their idea was simple: if a neighbourhood looked neglected with broken windows, graffiti, and litter, it invited criminal elements in, increasing the likelihood of more crime. 

New York City tested this out in the 1990s. Then Mayor, Rudy Giuliani, and Police Commissioner William Bratton focused on fixing small issues like fare evasion and public drinking while cleaning up graffiti and broken windows. The results?

 – Homicides were down by 73%.

– Robberies went down by 67%.

– Car thefts went down by 73%. 

And even though some experts debate the theory, NYC’s clean-up clearly had a huge impact.


Situated just 156 kilometres south of New York, the Philadelphia Mural Arts Programme turns rundown spots into beautiful mural sites. This has not only boosted community pride but also helped cuts down graffiti and crime.


Another great case study we can draw inspiration from is Rwanda’s Umuganda programme, which is a monthly community clean-up, where everyone (regardless of race, status or position) comes together for a nationwide community clean-up day. This tradition, revived after the 1994 genocide, has helped make Rwanda one of the cleanest countries in Africa. Plus, it builds a strong sense of community and responsibility, which helps keep crime low.


In the 2000’s, Bogotá’s then mayor Antanas Mockus launched a number of “Civic Culture” programmes such as public art projects and voluntary disarmament campaigns. These helped cut crime levels while improving the overall quality of life for many in the city.


In Japan, local neighbourhood groups organise clean-ups, disaster drills, and neighbourhood community watches. This high level of community involvement keeps crime rates low and public spaces clean.

Keeping our neighbourhood clean and well-kept has been proven to help reduce levels of crime. But this requires community participation and action from all. It’s easy to cast blame on our local councillor and municipal department for the state of our infrastructure. However perhaps there is also an opportunity to ask yourself what it is that you are doing to keep our neighbourhood well maintained and clean.

From reporting broken streetlights, missing street signs and potholes, to getting involved in our RRA clean-ups and other initiatives, together we are stronger and together we can do so much more.  When we all get involved and we take pride in our neighbourhood, we make them safer and happier places to live.

Are you up for the challenge?