The Local Council for Crime Prevention: an experiment in good governance to prevent crime

Good governance
One of the project's milestones was the establishment of the Local Council of Crime Prevention - an exercise in good governance. Let's explore this concept and its link to security.

On April 2020, the Be Secure Feel Secure project established the Local Council for Crime Prevention (LCCP) for the Municipality of Piraeus. The LCCP is comprised of diverse stakeholders: criminology experts, representatives of the city, members of the local and municipal police corps, and has the support of another BSFS initiative -the CURIM platform.

Its goal is to promote collaborative decision making between the main urban stakeholders of the city, focusing on crime prevention. To achieve this, the LCCP studies the criminal situation of Piraeus, it provides tailor-made policies and strategies, it promotes awareness on the topic, it intervenes on the city’s facilities and operations, and carries out periodical meetings to achieve a consensus.

This is one of the project’s most important milestones, and it is an example of what the project does in terms of governance to prevent crime.
In the light of this initiative, let us take the opportunity to explore this concept and its link with security by starting with a basic question…

What is governance?


In 2009, the UNESCAP1 (The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) produced a report that provides us with a simple and effective definition of what “governance” is:


The process of decision-making and the process by which decisions are implemented (or not implemented).


While this first definition is mostly satisfactory, when we delve a bit deeper, we see that governance is one of those concepts that can be hard to define (and at times, harder to implement). Governance is not a product. A product is easy to visualize, it has clear parameters which enable it to be compared to other things, it can be easily quantified. In comparison, governance is a process.

The Australian institute of Criminology2 defines governance as the process of establishing an optimal management arrangement for any shared enterprise: how governments and other social organizations interact, how they relate to citizens, and how decisions are made in a complex world.

The notion of “good governance” has emerged to provide more nuance to the concept. What does this mean? How can we qualify governance as “good”? Is there a score?

Going back to the UNESCAP report, good governance has 8 major characteristics:

According to this diagram, good governance is:

  • Participatory: All members of society should have the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes, including marginalized and vulnerable groups.
  • Consensus-oriented: Government institutions should strive to build consensus among different groups in society, and should work towards common goals.
  • Accountable: Government institutions should be responsible for their actions and decisions, and mechanisms should be in place to ensure that they are answerable to the public.
  • Transparent: The decision-making processes and actions of government institutions should be open and easily accessible to the public.
  • Responsive: Government institutions should be responsive to the needs and concerns of the public, and should be able to adapt to changing circumstances.
  • Follows the rule of law: Laws should be applied equally to all members of society, and government institutions should be bound by the law.
  • Equitable and inclusive: policies and decisions are made with a focus on reducing disparities and ensuring that everyone has access to opportunities and resources, all members of society have the opportunity to participate in decision-making processes and have their voices heard.

 

What is the link between governance and crime prevention?


Local governments are at the frontlines of the solution of urban issues, among them, insecurity. And as crime prevention and law enforcement become more complex over time, new frameworks are required to tackle these problems.

Since the 1970s, there’s been a dramatic proliferation of local regulatory experiments at a local level in areas such as resilience, adaptation, management, and -of course- crime prevention. However, these initiatives have not necessarily been coordinated by national or regional governments. Various initiatives may be addressing crime prevention, albeit from different fronts, overlapping in target populations. Let’s say, for example, initiatives stemming from police and from schools trying to address gangs and youths. Without appropriate coordination, these initiatives, although relevant, are redundant and they may lack appropriate follow-up that hinders its perpetuation in the long term. They ultimately may confuse city dwellers in need of solutions and help.

Lack of coordination can also lead to an authority making decisions with regards to crime prevention that are not compatible with the needs or activities of other organizations or bodies in the community, and therefore, they may be hard -or impossible- to implement. For example, directions established by law enforcement with regards to surveillance may be incompatible with the correct functioning of a school or kindergarten.

According to the Guidelines for the Prevention of Crime by the Economic and Social Council resolution of 20023, evidence shows that well-planned crime prevention strategies not only prevent crime and victimization but also promote community safety and contribute to sustainable development of countries (and cities).

We must recognize that crime prevention is a multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary endeavour. Crime has multiple causes, and to prevent it effectively, it is necessary to have a balanced approach between crime prevention and criminal justice responses. To achieve this, it is necessary to have plans and programs that integrate various angles and actors. And for this, it is essential to bring together actors that have a say in the various elements

The Australian Institute of Criminology provide us with some insight on the link between good governance and crime prevention. According to them, the achievement of good governance is a key goal for delivering effective crime prevention programs.

If we go back to the definitions presented earlier,  this means that processes of decision-making and implementation that pertain to crime prevention should include multiple actors, it should be held accountable, it should actively engage its members equally (let’s just take the part of “following of the rule of law” as a given in a structure that aims to prevent crime…).

Let us take a look at an early example of governance and crime prevention in France.

 

Challenges of a council for crime prevention and lessons learned from its implementation in Piraeus

 

A local council of crime prevention is one of the aforementioned new frameworks that that gathers multiple stakeholders (in addition to law enforcement) to come together and discuss issues of insecurity in the community and the best way to address them from various angles, organizations, and disciplines. This results in a comprehensive strategy that goes beyond police action.

For a practical example, let us look at an European predecessor of such structures in France. Local Crime Prevention Councils (in French, the Conseil Local de Sécurité et de Prévention de la Délinquance) are governance structures that have been used since the 1980s in France4. In this context, it is in charge of the local coordination for the strategies of security and crime prevention. It is presided by the mayor, and fosters the exchange of information between public and private institutions (for example, social landlords, traders, residents' associations, public services present in the municipality and public transport operators). Together they define, implement, and evaluate actions to prevent crime in a given territory.

The LCCP in Piraeus is the most recent example of the implementation of a strategy of cooperation between actors in a new framework of governance. These experiments have shown to be effective, but not without challenges, such as:

  • limited leadership power of mayors;
  • insufficient involvement of certain State administrations;
  • lack of information from elected officials, partners, local actors, residents...
  • difficulty of ensuring follow-up for a long-term application of the councils;
  • lack of participation of inhabitants in the development and implementation of actions in the city;
  • articulation of multiple mechanisms and contracts that exists;
  • difficulty in linking and coordinating prevention and safety approaches and actors.

 

As we can see, and from the experience in Piraeus, several of these difficulties pertain to the natural challenges that come from bringing in actors that are not used to working with each other -they have their own agendas and goals to achieve, their own timelines and constraints, which complicates the coordination of activities. It is worth mentioning that the lack of concrete action also deters any sort of participation, be it from organizations, administration departments, and the average city dwellers. In the case of Piraeus, one of the main challenges was how to keep engagement from city dwellers and LCCP members over time.

Concrete, focused, measurable actions are key to ensure long-term engagement.

Through the experience of creating an LCCP in Piraeus, we have learned that to respond to the aforementioned challenges, a few key points to keep in mind are: 

  • clarify and rank priorities;
  • carry out few actions (priority objectives) but actually carry them out to encourage participation;
  • acquire the collective capacity to monitor actions and evaluate them;
  • adopt cooperation operating methods that are simple and highly visibility for local stakeholders.

 

 

References

  1. United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. What Is Good Governance?  2009, p. 3. https://www.unescap.org/sites/default/files/good-governance.pdf
  2. Australian Institute of Criminology. Good governance for effective crime prevention. 2009, https://www.aic.gov.au/publications/crm/crm76.
  3. United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. UNODC Crime Prevention. https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/justice-and-prison-reform/cpcj-crimeprevention-home.html
  4. Le Maire et la Prévention de la délinquance. La gouvernance locale de la prévention de la délinquance. 2009, https://www.collectivites-locales.gouv.fr/sites/default/files/migration/gouvernance_locale.pdf.
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