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Urban security

Urban security

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Ensuring Europeans’ safety is a multilevel governance policy, hence run at the European, national and local level. At the EU level, the European Agenda on Security strengthen the tools provided to national law enforcement authorities to fight terrorism, organised crime and cybercrime. The main challenge is to ensure that people live in an area of freedom, security and justice, without internal frontiers in full compliance with the Union's values, including the rule of law and fundamental rights. Urban security policies contribute to develop a secure environment at the local level. Cities are place to various forms of crime activities and safety threats (organised crime, violence towards minorities, vandalism, terrorism, etc.) which evolve fast due to external factors –economics crisis or a change in modus operandi of organised crime; and cities internal changes –as city expansion or urban planning. Thus, ensuring public safety involves numerous fields and policy areas related to social integration, law enforcement, society’s resilience and community empowerment. Because of such complexity, a number of actors are involved in ensuring daily citizens’ safety in public places such as first responders (police, fire fighters, civil protection units), health and social sectors, schools, non-governmental organisations, civil society partners, as well as urban designers. Among them, urban authorities are very important players to ensure that actual and perceived security are addressed by targeted measures.

In order to help address these challenges, the European Commission invited European cities to put forward innovative projects that identify, assess and tackle safety threats in the 4th call of proposals:

  • Identifying threats. The definition of threats to urban security requires an objective, evidence-based assessment of vulnerabilities. Local authorities were called on to conduct this assessment through collection and analysis of qualitative and quantitative data (especially on cybersecurity and unreported crime), in cooperation with relevant stakeholders and communities.
  • Addressing social aspects of lack of security. Dealing with urban security issues requires working in a holistic approach encompassing the unsafety causes as well as the perceived lack of security. To do so, it is suggested to adopt a bottom up perspective, fostering citizen’s empowerment and capacity building of local communities, including enhanced risk awareness and building societal resilience.
  • Tackling and dealing with security issues. Different measures are brought up such as the improvement of spatial design, urban planning and development to standardization of the processes in order to improve cross-sectoral cooperation among the different stakeholders.


Tampere project

Trends of the solutions proposed

The 4th call for proposal (2018) emphasized the relevance of urban security in the European urban context as 19 urban authorities from 11 European Member States proposed innovative solutions to it.

UIA projects, solutions implemented and common issues

Three projects have been selected under the urban security theme and have been launched in 2018:

  • BeSecure-FeelSecure – Holistic Urban Security Governance Framework for Monitoring, Assessing and Forecasting the Efficiency, Sustainability and Resilience of Piraeus, Piraeus
  • SURE – Smart Urban Security and Event Resilience, Tampere
  • To-nite - Community-based urban security, Turin

The three projects address different challenges; however, some trends can be found in the way they tackle them.

Urban security is a multidimensional issue and yet urban authorities struggle to implement synergies and cross-sectoral collaboration. Indeed, numerous stakeholders need to be involved not only in the decision making process but also in the sharing information processes. The three selected projects deal with this central issue by rethinking governance schemes. The governance process designed by the city of Piraeus in its BeSecure-FeelSecure (BSFS) project combines two layers. The first one tackles information barriers by implementing an Evidence-based Collaborative Urban Risk Management (CURiM) ICT platform which enables synergies among local stakeholders towards identifying, modelling, assessing, forecasting and preventing cyber/physical security threats. It allows all the stakeholders to have the same level of information in order to take adequate and effective decisions regarding the urban security landscape of Piraeus and its citizens’ perception of safety. The Governance layer, a Local Council for Crime Prevention (LCCP) will be established in the municipality of Piraeus, in order to promote collaborative decision making between the main urban stakeholders – comprising urban authority and police representatives, scientific and technical experts. In Tampere, the operational and organizational scheme adopted by the SURE project aims to tackle the same problems of synergies in order to efficiently manage large crowd concentrations and event-related urban security in Tampere. To do so, the city is developing an interoperable and seamless strategy, which will help designing an urban security planning. Its overall aim is thus to facilitate cross-sectoral cooperation by overcoming administrative barriers such as boundaries between different urban spaces (residential, commercial, events) or strict areas of responsibility. The TO-Nite project is also developing governance tools however more related to the participative approach. Turin is facing a specific challenge related to its increasing exposure to night crime as public spaces are becoming more attractive during the night. The urban authority chose to foster the night attractiveness of public spaces rather than limiting it in order to contribute to prevent urban blight, encouraging at the same time the active inclusion of all the actors in the definition of night policies.  The strategy and the solutions implemented are co-designed with communities to efficiently improve the liveability of public spaces and their perceived security. 

ToNite project

As information is a key resource to urban security issues, urban authorities include cutting-edge technological infrastructures and innovative data management processes in their security policies strategies. For instance, while focussing on the social and spatial dimensions of security challenges during night time, the To-nite project of Turin also improves city's capabilities to monitor the rise of activities by night and understand communities’ needs. It also enable the city toto collect, processand combine, in a coherent way, heterogeneous data generated by technology infrastructure (platform, beacons, geofences).

In Tampere, the SURE project, which focuses more on ensuring security during major public events (leisure and sport),  has a technological layer in which high-technology’s tools such as smart lighting, camera technologies, video analytics, and sensors are integrated to the overall strategy and the data collection, providing opportunities to combine urban safety and security into seamless urban security systems and solutions.

As for the BeSecure-FeelSecure project, the city of Piraeus is developing a collaborative urban security platform (CURiM) used by the authority and citizens to identify specific areas with security issues in order to tackle the reduction of unreported crime, thus facilitating first responders’ work. This solution will be associated, inter alia, to the delivery of urban security awareness sessions to key citizen groups, beautification of selected abandoned or vandalized public property and victimization support. 

Most of the projects are including a wide range of stakeholders also in order to monitor the infrastructure required and to set up the limits regarding data and private life ethics and to provide open intelligence.

Tampere project

Get inspired and find more with UIA experts and UIA knowledge lab

UIA experts capture, analyse and narrate the main findings, lessons learnt and experiences coming from the different UIA urban security projects. Look for their journals (analysis on main challenges for implementation) zoom-ins (focus on a crosscutting dimension or specific component of the project) and web articles (overview of the project) to get deeper knowledge about urban security and related topics. 

Explore the UIA Knowledge Lab and search for key words such as: security; urban security





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Urban security's projects