Paris/Montreuil/Aubervilliers, April 6 2012 – How does the European Forum work? What services does a national Forum provide? How is crime prevention organised in French cities? These were the main themes tackled during a visit in Paris of representatives of Serbian local authorities organised in the framework of the joint United Nations “PBILD” programme in Serbia, which took place from 4 to 6 April 2012.
Interview with Svetislav Paunovic about the purpose of their visit
The European Forum had previously contributed for the second time to a “Safer Cities”-project that UN-HABITAT implemented with other UN agencies in Serbia. Following a project in central Serbia in (2006-2008), the safer cities component of PBILD (2010-2012) accompanied 13 municipalities of South Serbia in running local safety audits and setting up local safety partnerships. The project also allowed to bring Serbian local authorities together to exchange on common problems, and provided European insights through Efus. At the final conference of the project, which took place on 27 October 2011 in Belgrade, partners decided to continue to work together, and to create a Serbian Forum for Urban Security, which would work closely with Efus.
The study visit in France was aimed at supporting this initiative. A number of Serbian officials were thus invited to meet in Paris the staff of Efus and of the French Forum for Urban Security – the oldest national Forum of the network – in order to discuss urban safety issues and inter city cooperation.
The Serbian delegation was composed of the head of the Juzno-Backi District, Darija Sain, from Novi Sad in North Serbia, the president of the Safety Council of the City of Cacak in Central Serbia, Mirko Levajac, the Secretary of the Municipal Assembly and of the Safety Council of the city of Medvedja in South Serbia as well as the Safer Cities Project Coordinator of PBILD, Svetislav Paunovic.
In line with Efus’ mission -“cities helping cities”- separate visits were also organised in Montreuil and Aubervilliers, two municipalities situated in the Paris suburbs, to discuss the organisation and institutionalisation of crime prevention in France, and issues such as violence against women, video-surveillance and Roma people. The Serbian delegation also met with officials of the police.
In Montreuil, a city that is member of Efus since 2000, the Serbian delegation was greeted at the town hall by Véronique Bourdais, Deputy Mayor in charge of safety. Together with Valérie Demonchy, officer in charge of women’s rights, Catherine Millet, officer of the municipal social services working at the local police precinct, and Elodie Caps, police psychologist, the group exchanged on the measures put in place in Montreuil to fight violence against women.
Véronique Bourdais said that “violence against women is a major crime that is not easy to detect”, and that it was one of the priorities of the city’s crime prevention programme. She stressed the importance of building a network of local actors, and to inform women of their rights and of how they can get help. An example of the actions led by Montreuil in this respect is the “Week of awareness on violence against women” organised each year with local partners, which includes debates and films. Among the many themes covered during this event is genital excision, which is still commonly practised in many parts of the world, including the countries of origin of a number of inhabitants of Montreuil.
Afterwards, the Serbian delegation was received by the police commissioner of the second district of Paris, Bernard Bobrowska. The main theme of this meeting was videosurveillance, which is increasingly used as a policing tool in Paris. Mr Bobrowska presented the new “Video Protection Plan for Paris” (PVPP according to the French acronym), in particular all the measures taken to protect privacy and fundamental rights.
The following day, the Serbian delegation was received in Aubervilliers (member of Efus since 1993) by the Director of the department of prevention and security of the city, Alain Périès, and the chief of the local police. Both officials presented the crime prevention programme of the city, and stressed the importance of working with local partners. This programme is wide-ranging and targets different categories of population: young people, victims, reoffenders and addicts, among others. Aubervilliers also carries actions to help citizens know, and use, their civic rights.
The Serbian delegation was very interested by the practices developed in Aubervilliers, although they stressed that some would be difficult to put in place in their country because of cultural differences. For instance, Serbian people might not accept the idea of a “Reference Citizen” implemented in Aubervilliers. It is a representative of civil society who can act as mediator or spokesman in case of conflict or problem. Serbians, said the delegation, would reject such a scheme as an intrusion in their private lives.
Other projects presented during this meeting were the “Welcome Point” set up for offenders recently released from prison, the shelter for drug addicts, and actions aimed at improving the social integration of Roma people.
At the end of the three-day visit, the Serbian delegation reaffirmed its objective to create a Serbian Forum for prevention and security, with the help of Efus. It was agreed that the Forum would keep working with the Serbian cities on a series of themes, such as the integration of Roma people -although it has to be stressed, said the Serbian delegation, that there is a long history of peaceful coexistence in Serbia-, violence from extreme-right minority groups, hooliganism, and substance abuse. The delegates were also interested in the approach developed by the Forum regarding the use of CCTV, in particular its Charter for a democratic use of videosurveillance. Also, the Serbian delegation noted that it would be helpful to have a Serbian version of the guidebook developed by Efus on local safety audits, because it would provide an interesting methodological basis to consolidate and develop the work undertaken with the PBILD programme.