Feeling safe at night in Turin

City services and public spaces are mainly designed around activities carried out during the day when businesses, public and private services provide networking points for social protection in urban areas.

On the other hand, changing trends in urban agglomerations and lifestyles point towards public spaces becoming increasingly attractive for nocturnal activities such as social gatherings, organisation of events, exhibitions and cultural activities.

When darkness falls

During the night, however, “economic activities and services are reduced, and social protection is assigned to the public security forces, particularly the local police, whose powers rest on law enforcement and control,” explains Fabrizio Barbiero, European Project Manager at the municipality of Turin.

Most non-emergency calls made to the local police’s contact centre relate to disturbances (39,16%), vandalism (22,51%), conflicts (5,54%), disruptive behaviours (5,49%), baby gangs (1,2%), or damages to public spaces and properties (60,4%).

A growing city nightlife affects the use and livability of public spaces by concentrating more and more people in crowded areas during the night hours, raising noise and public drinking levels as well as public disorders such as street fights.

Vulnerable neighbourhoods face added security challenges because of frequent disruptive behaviours that further reduce the use of public spaces, Turin city officials say.

Community makes you feel safer

In Turin, the Dora river crosses several vulnerable neighbourhoods – specifically Aurora and Vanchiglia – where night safety perception among locals is particularly low.

Enter the  ToNite project, an EU initiative whose ambition is to make residents of these neighbourhoods feel safer, and improve urban security. This by turning public spaces into a pleasant and liveable environment, and offering social, cultural and economic activities.

people have the keys rethink and manage urban areas
— Fabrizio Barbiero, European Project Manager in Turin

“The city is not planning to do this alone,” says Barbiero. “People want access to new spaces to get together, socialise and feel included, so they hold the key to activating and promoting innovative initiatives to rethink and manage urban areas.”

The ToNite project engages the local community in developing new possible solutions. The city and different stakeholders co-designed urban regeneration initiatives aimed at improving social cohesion and protection in public spaces both in the evening and at night.

“These actions are part of overall urban policies to bring social innovation,” explains Chiara Foglietta, Turin’s Deputy Mayor for Innovation. “A crucial point for the city administration is to encourage connections between local actors who define innovative schemes to improve people’s quality of life.”

Turin will continue following into ToNite’s footsteps even after the project’s end. ToNite paved the way for a new approach through the design of nighttime urban policies, improvement to public services, the creation of new opportunities for the cultural sector and by generating new jobs connected to nightlife.

The project promoted a conscious, healthy and safe fruition of nightlife
— Chiara Foglietta, Deputy Mayor for Innovation in Turin

“The project promoted a conscious, healthy and safe fruition of nightlife,” remarks Foglietta. “It will contribute to the definition of a beautiful, sustainable and inclusive city, both during day and night for inhabitants and visitors alike, creating new economic opportunities and promoting social inclusion.”

What’s new along the Dora river

Through ToNite, Turin has co-founded and started 19 local community projects aimed at improving life conditions in neighbourhoods located along the Dora river.

Among the initiatives, cultural and sporting events are transforming the areas into vibrant places at night. For example, “Aurora in Movimento” (“Dawn in Movement” in English) proposes a weekly calendar of evening sports in public spaces for all ages, nationalities and genders, from aerobics to gymnastics, basketball, table football, hip-hop and street games.

The initiative “Lunadora” (a word play combining the terms moon and Dora) runs an outdoor nocturnal web radio co-managed by local youths, artists and migrants. It also created itineraries to discover hidden places and street art in the neighbourhood. In addition, the scheme features photography, bookbinding and creative recycling workshops, photographic exhibits and live music concerts.

“Locals are also invited to tell their stories and shine a light on their area’s positive aspects,” adds Barbiero, citing the DORAinavanti’s web radio and open-air exhibitions among the examples. Students have also produced videos and multimedia works to bring alive the Dora’s riverbanks. Any resident can attend a Chinese calligraphy workshop, chess tournament, circus laboratory, or a unique bike theatre workshop.

From music and theatre performances with the involvement of migrant youths, to neighbourhood food tours, the Dora riverside is now abuzz with activity.

Caring about people and space

Alongside entertainment and cultural efforts, other activities aim to develop civic-mindedness and foster behavioural change. For example, the “Scandagli” project involves children and teenagers to take better care school courtyards and other public spaces.

The “Manage Your Night” initiative involves workers in the nightlife sector, such as club and bar owners as well as event organisers. The idea is to raise awareness and build the skills to manage and prevent risk at night.

The “Per.Notte” scheme supports young people and club managers through creative activities to prevent and reduce risks linked to alcohol and substance abuse. Meanwhile, “ApeCare” offers primary health care and guidance to local services for marginalised communities.

Building beauty

Beautiful and pleasant public spaces encourage new uses and purposes as well as a better and safer quality of life
— Fabrizio Barbiero, European Project Manager in Turin

“Beautiful and enjoyable public spaces foster a better and safer life,” says Barbiero. For example, the abandoned pedestrian pathway – Viale Ottavio Mai – has been restored and turned into a public space where people can meet each other. Thanks to an agreement between the city and the local university – which owns the land – this area is now an outdoor campus where students can meet, study and talk to each other. The Dora riverside is accessible via a walking and cycling path; the space also serves as a meeting place where locals can organise public initiatives, play or rest.

After undergoing some structural changes, a number of private areas are now open to the public. For example, the “YallaAurora” project restored an abandoned area and turned it into a community centre. The space was co-designed and co-managed by young people and offers rooms to study, teach, read, work, as well as a movie theater for children.

Elsewhere in this area, an unused city avenue has now become the “Salotto di Miranda” (“Miranda’s living room”), an open-air salon featuring activities co-designed by residents. The project “Usanze Pellegrine” (“Pilgrim traditions”), a group of locals manages a public garden and experiments with new ways to use it. “This is a place to meet and enjoy outdoor activities like music and street performances by local artists, juggling and circus courses, movie reviews, grandparents’ stories, and to talk about residents’s needs,” explains Barbiero.

Thanks to the metamorphosis of areas along the Dora river, residents can finally experience a more positive and shared neighbourhood identity. “They were able to reclaim public areas and transform them into vibrant and safe places in which to feel safe at every hour of the night and day,” says Barbiero.

Funded within the framework of the fourth call of the Urban Innovative Actions programme about urban security, the ToNite project develops multidisciplinary solutions to manage public spaces and improve residents’ safety perception at night.

Wilma Dragonetti Eurocities Writer