A vibrant university city of 220,000 situated in the State of Baden-Württemberg (Germany), Freiburg joined Efus in January 2016. The Deputy Mayor for Culture, Integration, Social Affairs and Seniors, Ulrich von Kirchbach, talks with Efus about the reasons that led his city to join the network and recent local initiatives in the area of crime prevention and urban security.
What led your city to decide joining the European Forum for Urban Security?
Ulrich von Kirchbach: Other German cities, in particular Stuttgart and its Deputy Mayor, Martin Schairer, with whom I am regularly in contact, recommended we join. Furthermore, I am convinced that through collective action, we can better prevent crime in our cities, and Efus offers good expertise, improved access to EU funding and great opportunities for the exchange of experiences.
What is for you the added value of cooperating with other European local authorities?
The added value of cooperation is evident as the prevalence of criminal offences in Freiburg is rather high. A coordinating council has been established in the framework of communal crime prevention as early as 1998 and since 2002, the association “Secure Freiburg” fosters preventive measures to counter crime. We have made a lot of progress since then. However, we continue to be faced with new challenges, and the resources at the local level are limited. This is why we are increasingly interested in best practice examples from other, comparable cities in Germany and Europe. We have a lot to learn from each other; we are not alone in coming up with ideas and solutions!
What are the main areas on which you are working in terms of urban security and crime prevention?
As Deputy Mayor in charge of social affairs, I am responsible for crime prevention. We intervene in many areas, such as the provision of housing, social work, the prevention of substance and alcohol abuse and crime prevention. We are also responsible for two categories of the population: senior citizens and migrants.
We created last year a new coordination council on the prevention of crime and substance abuse, as we are aiming to better connect the topics of violence and substance abuse. There are working groups on these issues, and we are considering setting up further working groups on related problems. This structure aims to improve exchange and cooperation among the municipality’s departments. It is one of our priorities at the moment.
Does your city have a local prevention strategy and a local partnership on crime prevention?
Indeed, apart from my role as Deputy Mayor, I am also chairperson of the association “Secure Freiburg”, which initiates its own projects and gives financial and ideational support to projects led by institutions and schools in Freiburg, with the aim of promoting crime prevention.
The association is the operative platform of Freiburg’s municipal crime prevention. Here, and in the municipal crime prevention’s head office, the close and trusting cooperation with the police is our best recipe for success. Other important partners with whom we cooperate closely since the launch of the municipal crime prevention strategy and of the “Secure Freiburg” association are the local retail association, citizens’ associations and schools.
Is there any project or activity you are particularly proud of?
The first project I would like to mention is Freiburg’s domestic violence prevention scheme. It was set up in 1998 and the municipality runs and funds a dedicated coordination office on this issue since 2002. The concrete expert activities carried out as part of this project are executed by three specialised departments.
Another focus of our work is to promote citizen engagement. We implement a series of measures in this respect and every two or three years, we honour individuals who have shown civil courage.
A third line of work is to curb graffiti. We have organised so far 12 public events to remove illegal graffiti. We cooperate closely with citizen associations, transport companies and the juvenile legal support office. This initiative profits greatly from the voluntary support of local painting businesses.
What issue would you like to put forward to European institutions through Efus?
One theme of particular interest for us is nightlife security. Indeed, crime and the fear of crime are higher at night time, and one of our priorities is to improve security in nightclubs and the streets during the night.
Another area we would like to work on is discrimination and related forms of violence, for example against migrants and homosexuals.
Lastly, civil courage remains a major theme.
We are looking forward to collecting new ideas and taking part in EU-financed projects in these areas through being member of Efus.