Designing out crime: a different response to Kings Cross violence

Design and CrimeThis week (13 December 2012) I was invited to give one of the opening addresses at the Design + Crime conference organising by the wonderful people at Designing Out Crime (DOC) based at University of Technology, Sydney.


A friend of mine, designer, activist and author, Mitra Gusheh, has been telling me about the ‘Design Thinking’ approach to find solutions to problems that prove difficult to solve such as why certain areas are more susceptible to violence as in Kings Cross. The idea is to use design research methods to explore such problems and create ‘new frames’ to gain new insights. This reframing of a problem’s context allows for totally new solution scenarios to emerge.

My presentation – attached below – attempted to bring a cultural studies approach to understanding the violence in Kings Cross within the Designing Out Crime reframing process. It builds on work I have done before including presenting at the ‘Crossroad‘ event organised by FBi Radio and TimeOut.


I argued that there are pieces in the puzzle to understand why we see high levels of violent behaviour in the Cross:

  1. That Sydney is increasingly becoming an angry city (something I have discussed before);
  2. Australia’s cultural relationship with alcohol that encourages binge drinking (think about how we celebrate events such as birthdays, weddings and promotions… with some estimates indicating that one in five Australians drink to dangerous levels);
  3. The tendency to pre-load before arriving at venues (as identified by the Deakin University study); and
  4. The experience of many young people when they arrive at venues such as feeling discriminated against.


While these tend to be deep-seated cultural and social problems, the response is one of ‘security’: that is, more bouncers, more police, more technology and more aggression towards young people. This is a severe mismatch between problem and solution and requires, as the DOC methodology states, a reframing. As such, I proposed the following solutions:

  1. Confront Australia’s relationship with alcohol moving to educating parents as well as young people;
  2. Treat Kings Cross for what it is: a weekly ‘major event’ – City of Sydney estimate anywhere between 20,000-40,000 people turn up (so we need transport, safety tents, resources, etc.);
  3. Change the culture of the area: night time markets, more small bars, different mix of venues – this requires more venues not less – which I have talked about elsewhere; and
  4. Yes, have security measures but avoid a bunker mentality!


I would like to make special mention of:

Designing out crime_Arvanitakis 13Dec2012_Online.pdf

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