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Urban security

Overall definition and context of the topic

The European Union aims to ensure that people live in an area of freedom, security and justice, without internal frontiers. Europeans need to feel confident that, wherever they move within Europe, their freedom and their security are well protected, in full compliance with the Union's values, including the rule of law and fundamental rights. The European Agenda on Security aims to strengthen the tools that the EU provides to national law enforcement authorities to fight terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime, based on principles, such as full compliance with fundamental rights transparency, accountability and democratic Control, application and implementation of existing EU legal instruments, etc. In regard to public security threats, the EU has adopted an Action Plan to support the protection of public spaces (COM (2017) 612.), which among other calls for further cooperation at EU level. Furthermore, a number of directives and international conventions provide legal and policy framework to address amongst others minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime (Directive 2012/29/EU) establishing minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime , prevention and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims (Directive 2011/36/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 5 April 2011 on preventing and combating trafficking in human beings and protecting its victims) and eliminating all forms of discrimination against women (UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women).

At local level, urban security can refer to various forms of crime (including for instance human trafficking, organised crime, sexual violence, violence against vulnerable groups and minorities, vandalism, violent radicalisation and terrorism, including via cross-border health threats) and an actual or perceived lack of security. The definition of threats to urban security requires an objective, evidence-based assessment of vulnerabilities. Local authorities need to conduct this assessment through collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data, in cooperation with relevant Stakeholders and communities. Project proposals should aim to address these objectively defined vulnerabilities.

Relevance for and role of urban authorities:

Urban security contributes to a good environment to live in and has an impact on economic development. Both crime and terrorist threats and the related fear need to be tackled. Challenges are multiple; new challenges can emerge and evolve fast also because of external factors, like City development, movements of vectors of disease, economics crisis, change in the of City planning or changed modus operandi of organised crime or terrorism. Urban authorities are amongst the most important players to ensure that actual and perceived security are addressed by targeted measures, as they have a strong local presence and know the local challenges.

Security is a complex issue that should include areas such as social integration (access to good quality and non-segregated basic services including education, social and health care etc.), law enforcement, society's resilience and community empowerment against any forms of violence. It also concerns enhancing the protection of buildings and infrastructure. As a result, a number of actors should be involved in security including first responders (police, fire fighters, civil protection units), health and social sectors, schools, non-governmental organisations, civil society partners, as well as urban designers to ensure that security are built in already at the design phase of buildings and open spaces in the cities. Local interventions favour a holistic and bottom up approach, addressing community and resilience.

Prompts for urban authorities:

Urban security can contribute to the Union strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. Interventions in the field of urban security can contribute to good quality of life and to economic development. Even though Urban Security is not related to a specific thematic objective of Cohesion Policy, project proposals might support in particular the thematic objectivesof R&D&I (TO1), enhancing access and use and quality of ICT (TO2); promoting sustainable transport (TO7); promoting sustainable and quality of employment (TO8); promoting social inclusion, combating poverty and discrimination (TO9), investing in education (TO10) and enhancing institutional capacity (TO11), including on health and health prevention and promotion. The innovative proposals should respect the conditions set out in the Guidance on European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020, and in particular the Guidance for Member States on the use of European Structural and Investment Funds in tackling educational and spatial segregation and on the transition to community-based care. The proposals should capitalise on EU funded research outcomes, as stated in the Action Plan to support the Protection of Public Spaces (See details in the Action Plan).

Without being prescriptive in terms of the types of projects expected, cities are invited to consider in particular the following themes and issues:

  • Improvement of spatial design, urban planning and development of security by design concepts, including better protection of public spaces improvement of the resilience of buildings and infrastructure
  • Standardisation of processes and of technical requirements to enhance urban security;
  • Empowerment and capacity building of local communities, including enhanced risk awareness, building societal resilience
  • Increased cross-sectoral preparedness to security threats against public spaces including better coordination among first responders and different authorities
  • Support for victims of crime
  • Assessment of individual needs and support for integration of marginalised people with the view of preventing polarisation  which might lead to criminalisation and radicalisation.
  • Collection of information on unreported crime
  • Cybersecurity.