“The manifestos give a summary of approaches, lessons learned and good practice” – Radim Bureš, Deputy Director of the Probation Service, Czech Republic

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BURES Radim

Radim Bureš, Deputy Director of the Probation Service, Czech Republic, and Programme Director at Transparency International

What are the main themes on which you have worked with Efus over the years?

I mostly worked with Efus in two major areas: safety audits and the prevention of violence in sport.

Even if the Czech Republic bases its crime prevention programmes on local safety audits, the comprehensive approach that was described and advocated through the project and in the publication was very helpful. I am happy to have been able to translate it into Czech and to publish it in cooperation with the Czech Institute of Criminology and Social Prevention.

Regarding the prevention of violence in sport, I hope that my expertise as Chair of the Standing Committee of the European Convention on Spectator violence and Misbehaviour at sport Events and in particular at Football Matches was useful to the European GOAL project led by Efus in 2009-2012.  What is particularly interesting in Efus’ approach is that it promotes and advocates the role of municipalities and their political representation in crime prevention.

 

Efus is based on the principle that prevention is an effective approach against crime. Is this is a common view in the Czech Republic?

Our philosophy in building the Czech crime prevention system was based on this assumption of prevention as an efficient approach to crime, and I welcomed the fact that Efus shares this philosophy.

In the past, this was more a belief than an approach based on evidence. But the benefits of the preventive approach have now been confirmed in the Czech Republic as in many other countries. Indeed, crime is decreasing, in particular property and juvenile crime, which are the areas where most of crime prevention activities are targeted.

Moreover, in my present position as a Deputy Director of the Czech Probation Service, I see first hand all the difficulties and drawbacks of the traditional criminal justice system, and this reinforces my belief that prison must be the last resort response to crime. And while much has been done on primary and secondary prevention, the prevention of reoffending has yet to be fully developed.

 

How important do you reckon is the local level of governance for public security policy-making?

It was absolutely clear in the Czech crime prevention practice that only a very limited area of crime can be addressed directly by the government or the police alone. The Czech government was wise enough to establish in 1995 a crime prevention fund for municipalities to develop their crime prevention activities and measures based on local knowledge. The combination of local knowledge and local actors with possible central financial support seems the most effective way of preventing crime.

However, the local level must not be reduced to mere “technical” aspects of crime prevention – the municipal police and local civil servants and NGOs. Political representatives, i.e. local elected officials, have a very important role because they are the driving force behind preventive activities since they can shape local policies in that area. Furthermore, they can listen to the needs of citizens and voice them. This is particularly important because fear of crime can be as harmful as crime itself. And political processes can very well identify what lies at the core of local fear of crime and target appropriate measures.

 

What are the benefits of European cooperation for crime prevention?

While a majority of crime prevention measures are implemented at the local level, there clearly is a need for experience sharing and exchange at international and EU levels. The key issue is the promotion of “good practice” in order “to not reinvent the wheel” (not mentioning the difficulty of presenting “good practice” with all its nuances, which may influence the actual result of such good practice). But mutual support and common actions towards national governments and European institutions are as important. When similar cities bring their argument together, it can go a long way towards promoting the benefits of prevention, even more so than scientific evidence. And even though preventive measures are often local, they also have to be supported by national or international regulations (e.g. in drugs, personal data and CCTV, etc.).

Efus has a unique position in focusing on the local level and cooperation between local administrations while at the same time cooperating with national and supranational institutions.

It is important that local crime prevention practitioners and political decision-makers exchange practical information and knowledge on “what works in local crime prevention” and Efus provides an excellent platform for this.

Furthermore, as an NGO Efus is well supplemented (and vice versa) by the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN), which gathers representatives of crime prevention bodies from EU Member States’ national governments. Then at the international level, there is a good working relationship between Efus and the Canada-based International Centre for the Prevention of Crime (ICPC).

 

What are for you the benefits of working with Efus?

The first is to be in contact with a broad range of stakeholders. In its meetings and projects, Efus gathers a mixed community: practitioners, researchers, local political representation, international experts and civil servants. To me, this is one of the main added values of Efus, because all these participants each bring their point of view and enrich the conversation. Also, they influence each other, which helps avoiding one-sided dogmatism.

In the same vein, Efus works on a wide range of topics, ideas and approaches. Its approach is pragmatic and anything but dogmatic.

Another interesting point is that respect of human rights and freedoms is integrally part of Efus’ approach. It is important especially in relation to the rights and needs of crime victims and their integration into an overall prevention strategy. Other aspects include a reasonable balance between effective crime prevention and respecting privacy and personal integrity. Last but not least, there is also a constant care for the most vulnerable members of society.

 

What projects or initiatives of Efus did you find particularly enriching?

The periodical publication of Efus’ manifestos is a great added value. The manifestos give a summary of approaches, lessons learned and good practice not only as milestones in crime prevention development but also as an important political tool in promoting crime prevention at the local level.  And this is a never ending process since elected officials change as elections take place, which means that some truths must be repeated over and over again. The manifestos and international conferences, such as Barcelona recently and before that Aubervilliers and Saint-Denis as well as Saragossa, have influence and impact.

 

What do you see as the main trends that will shape crime prevention in the future?

Given my current role in the Czech Probation Service, the prevention of reoffending is a major issue for me. Despite good cooperation between local probation offices and municipalities, in many Czech cities the full exploitation of community sanctions and prevention of reoffending will have to be further developed.

In general terms, we are witnessing a gradual shift from property crime to drug-related crime and especially cybercrime. Especially in cybercrime, effective preventive measures still have to be found, whether at local or educational level.

Another key issue is the migration crisis and related political developments regarding terrorism,  increased fear of crime, and “no-go” zones. The prevention of radicalism is but one aspect. New methods should be developed, and those existing shared, on how to work in “ghetto” areas, how to approach closed communities, and how to respond to the population’s fear of crime.  

Finally, the funding of crime prevention activities is another key issue. A comprehensive crime prevention strategy must be connected with the welfare state and social services and support the well-being of citizens. But the austerity policies put in place in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis has put local authorities in a difficult position when deciding where to best invest scarce funds. As a consequence, for crime prevention to develop further we must prove its effectiveness and that it really brings value for money.

 

[1] Guidance on Local Safety Audits – A compendium of international practice (Efus 2007) – available for free for Efus members and for a modic sum to non-members. Please contact us if you would like a copy: contact@efus.eu

[2]  GOAL: Preventing Violence in Sport (Efus 2012) – same as above

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