Safety and Security

A safer city from a street level perspective

Safety is a paradox - it is often the case in urban environment, where perceived security and real security differ greatly. People are afraid of things that should not necessarily be feared statistically and objectively and vice versa.

However people's personal safety experiences should not be underestimated, because security is a matter of last resort. The phenomenon has been known for a long time as the so-called, broken windows theory. When people feel safe in the environment, they also help to keep it safe. However, if the environment is allowed to deteriorate and feel unsafe – e.g. if a broken window is not swiftly repaired – it has the opposite effect. It is essential that people's experience of safety in the environment has an effect on real safety.

One proven way above all others to improve safety is to carry out grass roots level research. Consideration and development of security matters must take into account those the matter most closely affects – the residents, people who work in the area and the customers who visit the area. Against this background began the Resident and customer-based security solutions for the urban environment project - known as the AATU project.

"Achieving a safe environment is much more than just policing and surveillance. The perspectives of residents, customers and people working in the area focus on issues, which are not necessarily very complex, but which cannot be dictated from the outside. Lighting, greenery and anti-littering are good examples," says VTT Researcher Jaana Keränen, who took part in the AATU project.

The AATU project concept was interdisciplinary. The project combined areas such as environmental psychology, risk management, and methods from urban geography. The result was a concrete set of information to support urban planning and business ideas for those companies who participated in the project.

"Through discussions with the people in different areas, the project's findings have refined individual observations into larger concepts and also into business ideas. Although the project was carried out in the metropolitan area, I would estimate the results are generally applicable elsewhere in Finland as well."

According to Jaana Keränen the approach has worked well, as in Finland co-operation between the various players is straightforward – also between companies and the authorities.

"Internationally, this is not always the case, and this may be one aspect that interests people abroad about the AATU project", says Keränen.


You can find out more about the AATU project at

Research Highlights by VTT: Case - AATU



Further information

Jaana Keränen


Tel. 020 722 3360

e-mail: jaana.keranen(at)