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Numéro 83 84 Septembre 1999

Au risque des espaces publics

Frédéric Ocqueteau
The changing French landscape of public safety

The spatial fragmentation of cities has
made it impossible for people to provide
for their safety. The general feeling
of insecurity associated with the integration
difficulties of some young people
has multiplied policing and surveillance
activities, particularly through private
initiatives. How can the police authority
retain its role as the main co-ordinator
in this coproduction of safety ?

Dominique Monjardet
Reinventing the urban police

The centralization of the law enforcement
authority under the 1941 Vichy
regime discredited municipal police
forces over the long term and alienated
the French police from the grassroots
level. With the development of the telephone,
radio and motor car, the direct
contact of police officers with the
population has been minimized just at
a time when law and order requires
greater local presence side by side with
a large number of institutions and associations.
To cope with juvenile delinquency,
the mayors of big cities are calling
for local police forces to be brought
back but this reform is encountering
heavy resistance.

Jean-Luc Laffont
The neighbourhood policeman

At the centre of the police organization of cities
in ancient France

Municipal police forces have existed in
French cities since the Middle Ages. The
« dizeniers » in Toulouse or the « street
constables » in Bordeaux were recruited
from among local inhabitants, in the
upper layers of the working classes.
These officers, locally omnipresent, were
at one and the same time informers to
the government and its armed forces
and, above all, arbitrators in everyday
disputes. Although community police
forces were phased out after the Revolution,
they survived in some cities, such
as the dizeniers or municipal magistrates
in Toulouse up until 1934.

Simon Holdaway
Police officers and ethnic minorities in English police stations

In Great Britain, the police are addressing
the racial issue by recruiting ethnic
minorities as police officers. But the stereotype-
based police culture is steeped
in racial prejudice. The active presence
and teamwork of black and Asian officers
in the life of the police station
should defeat this prejudice which is
still afflicting the precursors today.

Elkana Joseph-Affandi
Safety and prevention in Kourou

Kourou, the overseas territory spaceflight
base, is a nucleus of strong social
and cultural contrasts. The sudden urbanization
of this new city has been experienced
as a military space- and statusbased
distribution totally at odds with
local customs. The regional immigration
that resulted from the development
of the Ariane rocket has become the scapegoat
of worsening urban aggression.
Safety measures, in the form of a coercive,
armed, electronic response which
is recommended by some authorities,
are liable to aggravate the situation by
deepening ethnic and social cleavages.

Didier Lapeyronnie
Violence, urban violence and political void

As in the theatrical work of Bernard-
Marie Koltès, excess urban violence
reflects the exclusion of individuals
obsessed by signs of mobility. With their
remoteness from the political scene
comes aggression which builds a social
identity strengthened by repression.
Their aim is to make themselves heard
and express their frustrated aspiration for
human fellowship.

Eric Macé
« Urban » violence and the city

The expression « urban violence »,
through its geographical connotation,
downplays conflicts of social domination,
which are the cause of violent acts
in everyday life. This euphemism doubtless
reflects the depoliticization of
domestic violence that can find no
public outlet other than the gratuitous
or ostentatious act. The day-to-day problems
of urban life, particularly in its
segregative aspects, can form a basis for
the expression of conflicts.

Eric Macé
Violent criminality and public order

Since the 1970s, a new kind of illegal
activity has emerged in Brazil, characterized
by the increasingly violent
control of urban areas in relation with
drug trafficking. Criminals no longer
challenge law and order but pursue their
own interests. For the moment, increased
police intervention does not seem to
be able to control this situation.

Roberto Kant de Lima
Police, justice and society in Brazil

Unlike democratic, popular justice in
the United States, justice in Brazil originates
in legal theory of a higher order
enforceable against grassroots situations.
Police enquiries prevent the public
expression of any local conflicts and the
process of law bases its decisions on a
more lofty principle of social harmony.
This heavily hierarchized but differentiated
system nonetheless includes a
series of intermediaries and special
mediation missions with civil society.

Anne Wyvekens
Territorial concerns,

Local groups come to grips with delinquency
The judiciary sets itself up as an active
partner to address fear in large housing
estates, mainly in local delinquency
control groups invented in Seine Saint
Denis near Paris. These groups act as
mediators between delinquents, their
families and the institutions and aim to
reduce the subservience of the public
space to the law of the strongest. Longterm
actions enable people to find their
bearings, mark out limits, contend with
provocation, seek to restore respect for
others and develop dialogue with people
who are different.

Joëlle Bordet, Jean Dubost
What safety ? Who for, Who with ?

Local authority councils for the prevention
of delinquency, introduced by
the French government in the 1980s,
are beginning to bring together previously
separated partners working in
the police, the judicial system, education,
local authorities and local associations.
A common language is emerging to
define local situations. However,
concrete measures are still fragmented
and cannot be defined on a community

Catherine Delcroix
Parents in cities : family prevention of risks incurred by children

When commenting on juvenile delinquency
it has become common to implicate
parents from working-class districts.
But on closer examination, as is the case
here with families of North African origin
in the Toulouse suburbs, not all
parents have given up on their responsibilities.
Some, with the lowest
incomes, are trying to attenuate their
children’s frustration by not skimping on
purchases of symbolic goods such as
branded label clothing. Others, with
higher incomes, are seeking to involve
their children in educational and leisure
activities. The fathers’personal
investment in these strategies is key to
overcoming barriers to integration.

Michael Wearing
Social misery and territorial defence among the most disadvantaged

The Waterloo district of Sydney, Australia
The Waterloo district in Sydney concentrates
the most disadvantaged people in
the city. Fear of being assaulted in the
street, the obsession with illness, withdrawal
from community life, and a
demand for more social services are the
day-to-day subjects of discussion. The
inhabitants confide their existential difficulties
to sociologists in the hope that
their surveys will strengthen the presence
of the social services.

Mike Brogden
Criminality in South Africa, legacy of apartheid ?

Headlines in the newspapers, police
reports and daily experience have placed
South African criminality on the international
agenda. The legacy of apartheid,
variations in statistical crime
figures, political liberalization, the development
of an informal economy, the
inadequacies of a mainly punitive police
force, the congested judicial and prison
system, permissiveness arising out of the
expansion of human rights, and inappropriate
advice from Western experts
are at the centre of the debate. But social
and economic inequality remains the
basic cause of an alarming criminality.

Nassima Dris
Urbanity and cultural codes in the centre of Algiers

In Algiers, urban violence results not
from civil war, as in Beirut or Sarajevo,
but from the accelerating deterioration
of customs and public spaces. Until
recently, streets in the city centre were
places of liberty, but they have grown
menacing under community pressure,
particularly for women and for anyone
outwardly non-conforming. The centre,
which is the busiest part of the city,
nonetheless guarantees that constraints
are relaxed and established codes are

Vincenzo Ruggiero
Centro Sociali in Milan

In the anti-authority dynamics of the
1970s in Italy, some young people set up
bases in a few buildings in the historical
city centres, from which to take
action against the unegalitarian consumerist
society. Since that time, their
continued patronage bears witness to
an aspiration towards an alternative way
of life resistant to the undivided domination
of the open trading system.
Investment in cultural undertakings is
now inventing new forms of integration
of urban marginality.

Julia Nevarez
Living at the fringes of Central Park and Harlem in New York

Physical degradation increases the
impression of risk for the newly-arrived
city-dweller on the streets of Harlem in
New York. Social demand for reinforced
policing masks the economic and social
conflict at the origin of unequal spatial
treatment. The embodiment of fear in
other people is undermining the enjoyment
of public places such as playgrounds.

Jade Tabet
Architecture of cities and safety

Current « urban requalification » projects
for large-scale public housing
estates in Paris have clear safety objectives.
Their principles disregard the specific
architectural and urban features of
each city or the social difficulties of the
inhabitants. Guided by the Anglo-Saxon
model of « gated communities », the sectorization
concept aims to free the
public space of all undesirable movements
or groupings. The partners to
these operations still have some doubts
as to the validity and efficiency of spatial
protection measures already out of
date owing to the use of mobile phones.

Gerda Wekerlé
From the eyes on the street to the safe city

For Jane Jacob, a shared feeling of safety
in the urban environment was the key criterion
for ideal city planning. In her view,
making such spaces too accessible breeds
fear among the inhabitants, particularly
women. These ideas have erred through
« situational prevention » methods advocating
spatial and social closing off. But
they are spreading and are being applied
with the involvement of feminist associations
in neighbourhood development,
as shown by the example of Toronto.

Pascale Metzger, Robert D’Ercole, Alexis Sierra
Implications and uncertainties in the management of volcanic

In Quito, the capital of Ecuador, the
alarming activity of the Pichincha volcano
overlooking the city has initiated
an exceptional procedure for warning
the population. The mayor has taken
the matter in hand through a modern
risk management policy. It now remains
for him and the public authorities to
make this administrative and technical
innovation a long-term proposition.

Anne Tricot, Jacques Lolive
Malfunctioning, conflicts and urban practices in the vicinity of Nice

In 1994, the exceptional floods of the
River Var in Nice raised controversy as
to the dramatic consequences of deficient
local planning. Procedures to
repair the damage have met the demand
for safety more or less satisfactorily. Is the
administrative jurisdiction, which
controls public decisions, ushering in a
new management policy of natural
hazards ?

Marja Ylönen
Environmental crime

The sociological theory of Niklas Luhmann
on the relations between societal
and professional subsystems in a complex
society enables us to understand
why disciplinary action is rarely taken
against environmental impairment. But
it can be considered that with the
increase of interaction between these
subsystems, permissiveness will decline.