It’s uncommon to walk in São Paulo. Brazil’s most populous city, which is home to approximately 20 million people, is also its largest, sprawling almost 8,000 square kilometers. It’s not, however, the city’s size that prevents most people getting from getting around on foot. São Paulo’s burgeoning population over the last three decades has created issues stemming from both security and flow. (It’s ranked 46th out of 50 in relation to public safety by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s 2015 Safe Cities Index.) Crime, including robberies and theft, has increased and the city’s infrastructure has had difficulties coping. “You can park your car in the street, and it’s not surprising if it isn’t there when you return,” says local resident Cássio Calazans, president of Sociedade Amigos de Vila Madalena (SAVIMA), a local community association.
Vila Madalena sits in the district of Pinheiros. Its steep, narrow streets are lined with some of the city’s best restaurants and bars, little houses that have been converted into galleries, and walls covered with radiant graffiti. It’s a bohemian neighbourhood, home to artists, journalists and intellectuals, which welcomes Paulistanos and visitors alike, who can be seen walking along its streets well into the night.
SAVIMA was formed in the 1970s as a community association by Cássio’s father, Francisco Calazans, and Oduvaldo Donnini, the founder of the weekly community newspaper Gazeta de Pinheiros. Originally serving as a connection between residents and local businesses, it successfully brought important infrastructural projects, such as libraries and the city’s public transport network, to the neighbourhood. In 2013 the association became increasingly focused on public security because of the particularly lively carnival, where 70,000 people flooded the neighbourhood, and the following year’s World Cup, which drew even larger crowds. “Usually, there are 20,000 residents in Vila Madalena,” says Cássio. “You can imagine the impact of 70,000 people in the neighbourhood, many of whom aren’t usually there. You have trash problems, crime, etcetera.”
In coordination with Ana Lúcia Donnini, the editor at the Gazeta de Pinheiros and daughter of Oduvaldo Donnini, SAVIMA initiated a series of projects to bring citizens and businesses together. Associations were formed around specific streets and cycling neighbourhood watch patrols were created to report incidents more efficiently. “We want people to come to Vila Madalena, feel safe and enjoy themselves,” says Ana Lúcia, who has lived in the area since the 1950s. “It’s a very special place, and we want to maintain that.”
15 14 A more conventional approach to safety and security was also adopted. SAVIMA began working with São Paulo’s state police and technology partners, such as Genetec, to establish a networked video surveillance system in Vila Madalena. “The cameras aren’t only for security,” says Cássio. “They’re there to improve the neighbourhood’s quality of life. The system allows us to recognize and respond accordingly, which could be as simple as making sure trash is collected on time or identifying trees that have fallen into the streets after a heavy rainstorm.”
The networked video surveillance forms part of a larger partnership between the police, Genetec and Microsoft that began in 2012. “In comparison to our North American citywide projects,” says Denis Côté, who oversees Genetec’s Brazilian operations, “where we see systems of, say, 20,000 cameras providing surveillance and analytic data about a city, the state police have access to approximately 500 at the moment. It’s like an entire transportation system that’s only carrying one passenger.”
Vila Madalena, therefore, represents a unique opportunity. “Thanks to its partnerships with residents and businesses, SAVIMA can increase its own base of 200 cameras to thousands by connecting with existing commercial establishments and condominiums, which can be federated into the larger police system,” says Denis. “We’re working with SAVIMA to establish physical and technological connections between public and private, which will be a win for everyone involved.”
With the help of technology systems from Genetec and Microsoft, SAVIMA has the potential to address the safety and security needs of the neighbourhood while acting as a testing ground for the potential resilience of São Paulo as a whole.
“The growing availability and use of data generated by cameras and other sensors in a city is key for city developments,” says Per Bendix Olsen, who is responsible for global partner strategy at Microsoft’s CityNext program. “I’ve seen a huge development in use of sensors, from sensors that measure the quality of water to sensors that turn a camera on when they detect the sound of a pistol that has been fired. The next step in a project like São Paulo is to take all this real-time information that will be collected and identify the patterns that occur, enabling predictive analytics: when will things happen, what will the traffic be like at any given time, how will the weather impact city life and crime?” SAVIMA, Genetec, Microsoft and the residents of Vila Madalena, however all appreciate that building a resilient neighbourhood – one that is not just more secure but also more accessible – requires planning, time, and the right tools. “Though more data allows for a better view into what’s happening in a city, the trick isn’t so much in how much data is collected but how well a system and its users are able to make sense of that data,” says Pervez Siddiqui, director of strategic markets for Genetec. In some ways, Vila Madalena is already making sense of the initial data that is being collected. “During this year’s carnival,” says Cássio, “we were able to better monitor crime and other illegal activity. People were charging to enter carnival blocks, for instance, which is illegal. The data led to a number of arrests, but it has also allowed us to work closer with the police and the mayor.” For a city the size of São Paulo, successful solutions will be ones that address all functional parts of a city. Much can be learned, however, from the way in which local, grassroots initiatives, like those in Vila Madalena, respond to their specific security needs. “In Brazil it’s rare for things to start with local residents,” says Ana Lúcia, “The police are ultimately responsible for the city’s security, but we want to work with them in the hope that it can spread to São Paulo’s other neighbourhoods