We seek to establish safe spaces in communities that experience high levels of insecurity. Our work responds to the high levels of crime and inter-personal violence through developing and implementing strategies to improve safety. Drawing on our research of local initiatives, our approach aims to empower people into action, combining the use of local rules, using design and art to express information and promoting practical actions. Our Safe Shebeen project, which we implemented in the informal settlement of Sweet Home Farm, for example, addressed harms in bars through using signs to communicate ‘dos and don’ts’, institutionalised a system of house rules, and encouraged business owners to undertake investments to enhance patron safety. A central focus of our work is on public spaces. We advocate for greater state investment in supportive infrastructure, such as street lights, the strengthening of community action to monitor these spaces, the use of art to sensitize and deliver messages and the inclusion of informal traders within an integrated strategy of community surveillance.