As discussions continue about the revitalisation of Bridgetown, a law enforcement official is suggesting that the current state of the capital makes it a hotbed for certain nefarious activities.
Crime Prevention Officer with the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) Inspector Stephen Griffith argued that a lack of lighting and a confusing layout were among the most challenging for pedestrians and law enforcement.
He also pointed to a high level of vagrancy and vandalism, saying these issues must be taken into account for any future development to prevent crime and degradation.
Potential developers and authorities are also being reminded of the importance of making a re-imagined Bridgetown accessible for everyone including people living with disabilities and the elderly, while making sure it is more pedestrian-friendly and open to more cycling.
“The proper design and effective use of the built environment can lead to a reduction in the fear of crime and incidents in our country. It will thus provide for us a better quality of life,” said Griffith.
The issues and recommendations were articulated Friday during the fourth session of the Barbados Town Planning Society (BTPS) Revitalisation series, which was held virtually under the topic Making Bridgetown a Livable City.
Inspector Griffith said improved lighting, signage in more than one language, better design of sidewalks, vegetation and beautification and better access control, should all be a part of any plan to breathe new life into The City.
He also warned authorities that they must have the input from people who were living in and around the area, making sure they are “onboard”.
Pointing out that a lot of the design of buildings in Bridgetown could be considered “confusing”, Griffith suggested that this, along with poor lighting, were reasons behind criminal activities that take place there especially at nights.
“In designing spaces along the way, we have a lot of confusing layouts and we have to remove ourselves from ad hoc development of various areas across the country’s spaces. When we prevent that confusing layout it stops the isolation of places that there is no security support,” he said.
“We must make sure that the layout of our new development plan is easily understood and is sold to the people who are going to be users of that space – so that we know where the entrances and exits are, where the emergency gathering points are, and the focal points are visible
“Signage is a weakness in our arena . So signage must come in as many language that will make it accessible and easily used by not only our local users but those persons who travel to our shores,” said Griffith.
Recalling that the RBPF, the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Caribbean LED lighting engaged in a lighting project in the capital some years ago, Griffith said “The reason we went about that was because we were beginning to hand over Bridgetown to a criminal element where people were having their bags snatched from the time Bridgetown begin to get dark.”
He said following the re-lighting along some 42 streets that year, however, reported crime was reduced
“We found that particular Christmas and that year we had very little crime in Bridgetown because many of the streets where people shop were well lit. That is critical to us.
“One of the things I want to see in the development going forward is that we look at lighting to deal with the challenges that exist,” he said, adding that the lighting should be done so that it is “even and clear”.
Pointing out that there were currently some “concealment or ambush points” in Bridgetown, Inspector Griffith said “In the whole development process they must be eliminated by putting lighting or bringing CCTV.”
The crime fighting official also called for redevelopment plans of Bridgetown to take into consideration long-term maintenance while addressing issues relating to vagrancy and vandalism.
“Vandalism comes about when you do not do maintenance because when it looks like you do not care other people will not care either,” he said.
He also pointed to the need for better access control of traffic in Bridgetown and the need to ensure that the “local cultures” of those in the area are preserved.
“We must examine how traffic flows in and out of Bridgetown. Do we want people to drive into Bridgetown or are we going set up parking areas and how do we work that shuttle service into Bridgetown? All of this is part of the whole concept of getting the buy-in of persons in the environment,” he said.
In relation to making the City more user-friendly for all, Griffith said he found there was not enough space for people with disabilities to move around.
“I find that we need to put in areas where our people with disabilities can move freely in and out without having to face the challenges of people who are sometimes very unscrupulous,” he said.
Griffith acknowledged that the revitalisation project could take a long time to come to fruition, insisting that it was a process that will require extensive discussions and planning that included all Barbadians and especially those who live in and around the area.