“Complementarity is key to succeed in implementing crime prevention policies.” Interview with Rudi Vervoort, Minister-President of the Brussels-Capital Region, new member of Efus

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Rudi VervoortWhy did you decide to become member of the European Forum for Urban Security?

Because of its role as capital city, where over 10% of the Belgian population lives, and as headquarters of European and international institutions, Brussels is a special region. It has a cosmopolitan population and hosts numerous cultural, social and political events. It is thus essential for Brussels to actively take part in reflections and exchanges of experience on the main urban security challenges and practices together with our European counterparts and international experts, as part of Efus’ network.

Since the last reform of the state, the Brussels Region is responsible for coordinating regional crime prevention and security policies. To this end, we set up the public interest organisation Brussels-Prevention & Security (BPS), which is tasked with implementing a crosscutting vision of security policies in the Brussels region throughout the chain, from crime prevention to reaction.

This approach involves all the relevant stakeholders and encourages synergies through concrete collaborations and strengthened partnerships. Furthermore, it includes the social aspect of crime prevention and involves stakeholders such as the police and the justice system. In this sense, it is similar to Efus’ balanced vision of urban security, which is based on the balance between social cohesion, prevention and sanction.

What added value does working in common with other local authorities bring to Brussels?

Local authorities play a very important part in citizens’ lives. Because they are in direct contact with their population, they have very good knowledge of the situation on the ground. Responses to urban security problems must hence be co-designed with these important partners by exploiting existing or potential local talent and resources.

By working together with other local and regional actors, we can move forward preventive and urban security strategies and improve the efficiency and impact of policies at the European level through concrete, novel and sustainable solutions.

The approach followed by the Brussels region is to encourage close cooperation among all the partners of the security chain, so that everyone understands the role and complementarities of the others and security phenomena are better taken care of for the benefit of citizens.

What are your priorities in terms of security in Brussels?

In its Global Security and Prevention Plan, the Brussels-Capital Region earmarked ten problems that need to be addressed in priority in the years to come, such as bodily harm, polarisation and radicalisation, drugs and addiction, trafficking in human beings, crisis management and cybercrime.

Apart from ongoing initiatives, this plan includes a whole range of new measures: giving priority to domestic violence; harmonising the management of perpetrators and potential victims of polarisation and radicalisation; improving the presence on the ground of police officers and Peace Guards to prevent theft, burglaries, vandalism and extortion (racket near schools, pickpocketing in public transports, and thefts in cars); improving the 24h-day care of victims of human trafficking in appropriate premises; setting up an integrated communication centre for the police and the emergency and mobility services; setting up a regional crisis centre, and training local residents in first aid (both as an element of the driving licence and for emergency situations).  

Complementarity is key to succeed not only in implementing these crime prevention policies but also in dealing with other levels of governance. This is why we have improved coordination among all the security stakeholders, with the objective of curbing insecurity and providing the residents of Brussels with a pleasant environment.

Does Brussels have a municipal crime prevention strategy?

The Brussels-Capital region has designed together with its partners a global approach to crime prevention. Together with the municipal, regional, federal and community levels of governance, it is implementing a number of measures that contribute to preventing crime.

In addition, since the 1990s, national grants are contractually allocated to some local municipalities as part of the ‘security and society contracts’ and ‘crime prevention contracts’. The objectives set forth in these contracts are varied and range from access to jobs to supporting alternative measures to imprisonment, our integrated approach to drugs, and the creation of a scheme to prevent school dropout. Another dimension was added to this system in 1995 with the enrolment of Prevention and Security officers, whose mission is to reduce insecurity.

The Brussels regional government issued its crime prevention policy in 2002, with six priority themes that concern all the municipalities in the jurisdiction: social mediation, problems with youths, surveillance of the public parks, securing social housing, and fighting drug addiction. In 2009, the Brussels Prevention and Security Plan was issued with the objective of rationalising the various pre-existing plans. The priorities of this plan were to ensure that police officers were visible on the streets and reassuring for the population, to tackle anti-social behaviour, mediation, and preventing school dropout.

Since 2014, the Brussels region increased its support to local municipalities by raising the amount of the grants allocated to local security policies. After the power over security coordination was transferred to the Brussels-Capital region and with the objective of better integrating the various policies, the Brussels Prevention and Proximity Plan was included in the Global Security and Prevention Plan, which means that all the preventive and repressive measures on security are now included in one single policy document. This plan is thus now the strategic tool used by the Brussels-Capital region.

Is there a prevention scheme or programme you are particularly proud of?

Improving security requires a global approach in several political areas: training, recruitment and our engagement and deployment strategy. The Global Security and Prevention Plan has two aspects that are particularly important. The first is that security is now more focused on the Brussels region, notably through the creation of a regional school for crime prevention and security professions, where Peace Guards, public park guards, firemen, police officers and other security professionals will receive training, notably on good practices. The second aspect is that the plan includes the creation of an integrated regional communication and crisis centre. It is also a forum and a place where prevention and security stakeholders who work together on implementing the regional strategy can meet.

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