Types of Crime and Support Systems in Informal Settlements

Which types of crime are most prevalent in Soweto-Kayole and where? Which support systems for victims of crime exist within the settlement?

These are some of the questions we wanted to answer during a mapping study to support the World Bank and Kenya Informal Settlement Improvement Project (KISIP) in generating settlement specific designs aimed at linking perceptions of safety to infrastructural upgrading in informal settlements. This is the third in a series of datasets and visualizations that Spatial Collective created for this initiative. Other outputs can be found in our previous blog posts here, here, here, here, and here.

During the exercise, some 97 participants (52 women and 45 men) helped us construct and design a map showing types of crime and support systems within Soweto-Kayole.

During the focus group discussions, an interesting discussion emerged, namely, what is a crime under the law as opposed to what si an activity that is not illegal but it increases the sense of insecurity in people; and whether we should map both. We found that community’s perceptions of safety, or of what constitutes a crime, relate to both categories. Sometimes they would indicate crimes under the Kenyan law (for example murder, robbery or physical violence), other times they would point out activities that are not necessarily illegal but are perceived to increase the risk of insecurity (for example gambling or drinking). To us, it was important to address both categories – ‘true’ and so-called ‘perceived’ crimes – because of their impact on community’s mobility, economic development, people’s daily choices and access to opportunities.

The typology of crime and violence identified and defined by community members included snatching, theft, mugging, house break-in, child abuse, and gender-based violence (especially rape). Other issues such as land grabbing, gambling, and substance abuse were identified as key, yet indirect, factors contributing to crime and violence affecting the community. For instance, young women said they avoid areas where gambling takes place since these are places where idle young men congregate and they feel exposed to harassment.

Types of crime and support systems represented geographically
Types of crime and support systems presented geographically

Participants were surprised by the number of existing amenities mapped in Soweto-Kayole, which indicates that some support systems for survivors of violence do exist in the settlement. The list of existing amenities included police stations, security lights, a hospital, social halls, rehabilitation centers, religious institutions, schools, and non-governmental organizations. Nevertheless, community members noted that some of these facilities are inadequately equipped to offer anything more than basic services to victims of crime. For example, victims of sexual assault do not have a support or a referral system, and a large number of private – often informal – clinics are unlicensed, expensive, and poorly equipped. They also noted that reporting on crime and violence in the area is relatively low due to the mistrust in authorities. Young men often said they avoid the police because of harassment.

We avoid walking in large groups because of police harassment.

a youth participating in the focus group discussion

However, there was a general consensus among the participants that all forms of crime should be reported to the police. In addition, the Chief’s Camp, the social hall (Ward’s representative’s office), children’s home, and a hospital were all indicated as alternative amenities offering support.

Types of crime and support systems within Soweto-Kayole
Types of crime and support systems within Soweto-Kayole
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