Recruiting babies in the war against anti-social behaviour


Babies of the Borough

I’m not entirely sure how I feel about being watched by larger-than-life sized babies as I wander down the high street at night; but painting security shutters with the faces of real babies is an intriguing idea which might offer an answer to calming down anti-social behaviour on the high street.  

Could a baby stop a riot?

The idea hit the headlines last year when shopkeepers on a street in Woolwich had their shutters painted with the faces of  local babies by a team of  graffiti artists.  The street had been hit by looters in the riots of 2011 and owners were willing to try anything which might calm down tension in the area.   The idea is based on the principle that seeing babies’ faces stimulates a caring response in the brain  – hopefully acting as an antidote to more  violent or destructive impulses.  I guess it also helps to make the area look cared-for and connect it to its local community – a small visual nudge in the right direction.  The campaign was run by comms agency, OgilvyChange, there’s  a bit more info here.

I heard about the Babies of the Borough campaign thanks to someone in the group trying to revitalise the Roman Road.  We have more than our fair share of ugly, graffiti-ed shop shutters on the Roman, and once the shops shut – especially on dark, winter evenings – it can feel pretty hostile.

Would it work on Roman Road?

There is official Tower Hamlets guidance on what security shutters in the borough should look like:

Shopfront displays that are well-lit and visible after hours deter vandalism and theft and encourage people to use the street at night. Shopping areas become more attractive and livelier, making the Borough a better place to be.

For these reasons, the Council encourages the use of open mesh type roller shutter grilles, or perforated steel that is powder coated in a colour and curved to discourage graffiti. For best results these can be
set behind the glass.

For environmental reasons I’m not wild about the idea of shops being lit-up through the night, even if it does make the street less threatening. And the idea that the shutters should be behind the glass was ridiculed at  a recent public meeting – for the very obvious reason that while they might be able to protect the inside of the shop from burglars, they won’t stop anyone heaving a brick though the glass  just for the hell of it.  So, I wonder if babies might be the answer?

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