Securing the urban space: on whose terms? Insights from poverty and crime baseline survey in Tamale, Ghana

  • Ernest Bagson
  • Adobea Yaa Owusu
Keywords: neighbourhood, socio-economic status, police–population ratio, informal crime control, Ghana


Typically, the interaction of official security policies, the urban tissue, and individual characteristics largely underpin the liveabiliy of cities as centres of social interaction which invoke residents’ sense of place attachment, social cohesion, and quality of life. Studies in advanced countries have contributed significantly to understanding these synergies, but there remains a large gap in knowledge in rapidly urbanizing countries. Ghana presents an interesting case study, as the security landscape appears motivated more by ideology than rationality, with what ‘works’ increasingly becoming populism rather than responsibility. Moreover, the limited researched criminology literature has focused mainly on the larger cities, neglecting medium-sized cities such as Tamale. Based on extensive fieldwork involving 450 household heads, ten key informant interviews (KIIs), and three focus group discussions (FGDs) from three socio-economic communities in Tamale, this paper examines how security arrangements in the city’s various neighbourhoods reflect and connect the urban fabric with residents. We advocate for a more geographically sensitive and nuanced understanding of each neighbourhood’s concerns and a re-consideration of security interventions, in order to reflect not only the broad spectrum of safety demands of the affluent but also those of the socially excluded and more economically disadvantaged groups in society.

Keywords: neighbourhood; socio-economic status; police–population ratio; informal crime control; Ghana


print ISSN: 0855-9414