Back to "Safety"

We promote safety for women, youth and others at high risk of violence and harassment. Through Safety Audits, research and policy work, we build safer neighbourhoods, schools, campuses, workplaces, institutions and public spaces for everyone.

Key factors explored

Fear of violence, risk factors for sexual harassment and assault, risks for those at higher risks (e.g. women, youth, LGBTTIQQ2S communities)

Safety Audits and assessments

For neighbourhoods and living spaces

For college and university campuses

For workplaces and institutions

  • Best Practice, UN-HABITAT’s Safer Cities Campaign (2008-2013)
  • Vital Idea, Toronto Community Foundation (2004)
  • Recommended for every neighbourhood, City of Toronto’s Task Force on Community Safety (1999)

METRAC’s Safety Audit Process is an action tool to build safer neighbourhoods, schools, campuses, workplaces, transit systems, living spaces and public spaces. It combines best practices of Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) with culturally competent, community development approaches, Participatory Action Research and a gender-based violence analysis. It is a catalyst to reduce sexual violence, assault, harassment and discrimination against women, youth and others at high risk and makes spaces safer for everyone.

Major outcomes from our audit includes:

  • Designated Waiting Areas and Request Stop Program in Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) system
  • parking garages well-lit in the City of Toronto, as well as other by-law improvements
  • safer living spaces through partnerships with Toronto’s Tower Renewal program and other urban/community planning projects
  • assault prevention programs and services for women and LGBTTIQQ2S communities on campusesbetter safety policies and practices in hospitals and other workplaces

“METRAC’s women’s safety audit has been used widely both nationally and internationally. It has been disseminated and adapted by groups of women all over the globe.” (“Women’s Safety Audits: What Works and Where”, Women in Cities International, UN-HABITAT)

“Over the past twenty years, the women’s Safety Audit has been used in communities and neighbourhoods from Petrozavodsk, Russia to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The Safety Audit has been adapted to multiple settings and groups, carried out jointly with local government representatives, and evaluated, such that this tool is now internationally-recognized as a ‘best practice’.” (Ask Questions About Women’s Safety in the City, UN Women)

Local and global impact: METRAC’s Safety Audit

(Photo credit: “40MP Toronto Night Skyline Panorama“, by Anton Bielousov is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

A City of Toronto Safety Audit Initiative was established in partnership with METRAC in 1999 as a response to one of the recommendations of the final report of the Task Force on Community Safety, “Toronto, my city, a safe city: a community safety strategy for the City of Toronto”. It proposed that Safety Audits be conducted in every neighbourhood.

Kid Safe is METRAC’s special adaptation of the Safety Audit for primary school-age children. The Toronto Star distributed 350,000 copies of Kid Safe materials in their “back to school” edition in 1999.

UN-Habitat adopted METRAC’s Safety Audit tool in African cities including Durban, Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, translating it into local languages. The audit contributed to upgrading of city spaces, such as pedestrianisation of streets, re-organisation of transport nodes and installation of streets lights. In Tanzania, women “felt empowered in actually being consulted as the experts” and “took implementation of some of the recommendations into their own hands.”

In its 2011 report, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, The American Association of University Women named METRAC’s Safety Audit “a promising model for how a community group can help address sexual harassment in local school

(Photo credit: from Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Colleges and Universities, Ontario Women’s Directorate)

METRAC’s Safety Audit model directly informed the Ontario Women’s Directorate publication, “Developing a Response to Sexual Violence: A Resource Guide for Ontario’s Colleges and Universities”.

(Photo credit: Jagori Safety Audit in progress, Jagori)

Jagori, an organization based in New Delhi, India, adapted METRAC’s Safety Audit to identify infrastructure issues that make spaces unsafe for women and gain insights into women’s perceptions of safety. They led over 25 audits in a variety of communities and, based on findings, launched the Safe Delhi Campaign to promote freedom from harassment in public places and on transit. “The audit has been a very effective tool to work with local communities and service providers,” says an organizational representative. “Jagori has also used the tool to understand safety concerns in the context of delivery of basic services.”

(Photo credit: from “Tower Renewal Accomplishments 2011-2013”, City of Toronto)

The Safety Audit was integrated into the City of Toronto’s Tower Renewal Project in four Toronto neighbourhoods to contribute to revitalization plans of large apartment complexes.

Women’s Initiatives for Safer Environments (WISE) in Ottawa, Canada, adapted METRAC’s Safety Audit. As a result, one community successfully advocated with their school board to have bus drivers pick students up from a safer location closer to their homes. Youth-led audits resulted in the removal of offensive graffiti, and following the murder of a young woman on Ottawa Recreational Pathways, the audit led to expansion of pathway patrol.


METRAC pioneered the first Women’s Safety Audit in 1989. In 1992, we partnered with the Council of Ontario Universities and Colleges to launch a Campus Safety Audit Process. In 1994, we partnered with the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) to audit public transit.

Ever since, our audit has been used and adapted across Canada and around the world. Chances are you’ve been in a space made safer by METRAC’s Safety Audit.