Sharing knowledge across projects on urban security
Among the topics discussed, we touched upon the opportunities to share knowledge between the projects. What can we learn from each other?
In the following months, the UIA experts for each of these projects will share their perspectives on these matters.
Enjoy this first installment from BSFS!
The Urban Innovative Actions provides a framework to try new and experimental ideas in several fields at a real urban scale. And urban security is now among these fields. In the past years, interest in urban security has grown among city- and policy- makers. For this reason, the topic was recently included on the Urban Agenda for the European Union, meaning that there is much to be discovered in terms of implementation. Cities and project leaders’ part of the UIA initiatives on urban security come across questions such as: who the more adequate stakeholders are? What are the best ways to engage with citizens? What is the role of technology? What are the obstacles that can be present?
Faced with these questions, communication and collaboration are paramount for each project to gauge the common and extraordinary aspects of the process, and to co-create a body of knowledge that can be useful for future projects in other cities.
Urban security can refer to many concepts, from common crime and violence to perception of insecurity. And solutions for urban security abound, from smart tools at a metropolitan scale to very punctual actions with very specific communities. Amidst such an apparently broad and multifaceted phenomenon facing European cities, what can we learn from each other?
This was at the heart of the discussions for the first meeting between UIA 4th call Urban Security projects.
The past April 9th, 2021 the teams in Piraeus, Tampere, and Turin projects met (online, of course, due to COVID-19 restrictions). During this meeting we had the opportunity to present each of our projects, our proposed strategies, the expected results, and the upcoming activities.
While in short, all projects focus on improving security for the inhabitants of their corresponding city, each project tackles a different problem, and has a different spatial scope.
- The city of Tampere leads the SURE project, which focuses on the challenges of safety and security of event areas, looking to seamlessly integrate security into the surrounding urban environment and infrastructure. The project’s solution is oriented towards data- and user-driven planning and analytics, where technology takes an important role.
- To-nite, the project led by the city of Turin, focuses on perception of security and on another particular moment: the night. The project integrates a diverse array of multidisciplinary strategies, ranging from qualitative research to technology infrastructure. A key aspect of the project is the community-based action: activation, empowerment, and engagement of communities.
- The city of Piraeus seeks to prevent crime and improve perception of security in two districts near the port through the Be Secure Feel Secure initiative. The solutions proposed are focused on fostering inter-department cooperation and implementing technology-driven solutions to better monitor crime, and to improve perception through the improvement of the built environment.
Different cities, different contexts, As experts, we discussed the opportunities to share knowledge between the projects. What can each project bring to the table?
A quick survey among TO-nite partners carried out by Valeria Ferraris, the UIA Expert of the project underlines that:
“the main contribution that To-nite project can provide is citizen engagement. To-nite is developing methodologies and expertise regarding the community engagement in validating challenges and designing services, solutions and opportunities. A further contribution could be in sharing its experience in qualitative research and in building the IT platform (in terms of architecture and data model).”
And as an expert for Be Secure Feel Secure, I agree with Ms. Ferraris' assessment: citizen engagement is a complicated but indispensable matter for a successful project of urban security. More importantly, scientific research supports that the qualitative methodologies are important and highly effective for urban security projects, but more traditional approaches prioritize quantitative tools.
Likewise, BSFS has carried out actions to create a municipal body of collaboration where leaders of the Piraeus municipality, law enforcement, academia, and citizen representatives can come together and discuss the state of crime and courses of action. Sharing findings of how this initiative was set up and the particularities of the context in which it came into form can give other projects clues as to how to proceed.
A point in common for each project is the perception of the citizen: SURE seeks to maintain a high level of security without “over-securing” sensitive areas -and therefore undermining a positive perception-, To-nite centers its decisions on the targeted populations’ assessment of urban spaces at night, and BSFS actions of improving the built environment seek to have a positive impact on how citizens perceive spaces as safe. Another point in common is the data management: what is the data available for each project to work with, what was the data missing and how were these challenges addressed.
Each project has a particular character and sets of goals and challenges. There are points where projects converge, and even where the projects differ there are lessons to be discussed. As we can see, each project has something to share and to reap in terms of good practices for implementation. These projects are testing solutions that will have different degrees of success in each context. The lessons we can identify in each project can feed the basis for more effective and long-lasting upcoming projects in European cities, and we will keep fostering opportunities for collaboration in the near future.
PS: thanks to the SURE project team for organizing this first meet-up!