Brussels, Belgium, 11 December 2013 – As part of the European Audits project led by the European Forum, the Belgian Forum for Urban Security (FBPSU) organised a seminar on the role of evaluation in Belgian urban security policies, which gathered some 30 participants in Brussels, on 11 December 2013.
Titled “Methodological tools for developing local urban security policies in Europe”, the seminar was an initiative of the FBPSU, the city of Brussels/BRAVVO and the Belgian ministry of the Interior, who are all partners in the Audits project. It was attended by the partners of the Audits project and representatives of the Belgian Federal government, as well as of several Belgian local authorities and of the Region of Brussels Capital.
How to evaluate urban security measures? What are the practices in Belgium in this field? What works and what doesn’t? These were the main questions discussed at the meeting, based on a presentation of the network of “internal evaluators of community prevention services” of the Belgian Forum by the Belgian Ministry of the Interior and the city of Brussels.
Safety diagnostics and evaluations are part of Belgium’s crime prevention policy
Fabrice Delooz, of the Directorate for integrated local security of the Belgian Ministry of the Interior, explained that crime prevention in Belgium is an integrated, holistic policy based on partnership that is characterised by the central role of local authorities and mayors (who are also head of the police in their city) and by the existence of contracts between the federal government and local authorities. Entitled “strategic security and prevention plans”, these contracts require local authorities to develop their local strategic plan on the basis of a local safety diagnostic (LSD) and to evaluate their projects. They represent an important part of the funding of the local crime prevention activities.
Local authorities must identify which issues they want to tackle, on the basis of a local safety diagnostic. For each offence or crime selected as target, local authorities must state their general, strategic and operational objectives, including indicators and evaluation targets. In order to obtain funding, they also need to show how their project meets one of the strategic objectives set by the federal government.
This shows that ex ante diagnostics and ex post evaluations are tightly woven into Belgian urban security policies. Indeed, there is an internal evaluator in each of the 102 local authorities who currently apply such contracts. These posts are subsidised by the federal and regional government, which is rarely the case in other countries.
Including field workers in the evaluation process
Laure Mesnil, Deputy Evaluator in charge of methodology in Brussels, presented the benefits of local safety diagnostics as identified by a national survey. Even though there is room for improvement, these diagnostics can be used as management tools and a lever for action: monitoring plan, shared diagnostic with partners, development of micro-scale diagnostic, opportunities for citizen participation.
Ms Mesnil also talked about developing a culture of evaluation that includes field workers. This allows to integrate reflexive considerations into the whole process, which in turn helps improving the actions carried out. The tools used for these purpose are varied and include surveys, meetings with citizens, exploratory walks, monitoring sheets, mapping, and the use of FLUX electronic monitoring systems.
However, one of the main obstacles is that internal evaluators are part of the local team. This makes evaluation more difficult, in part because field workers tend to see it as a means of control rather than a tool to help them improve their work. Another hurdle is that local safety diagnostics remain in the hands of the prevention services, rather than being shared with all the other stakholders in crime prevention. In this respect, participants stressed that the knowledge acquired from projects that have been evaluated should be shared with other local authorities, via organisations such as Efus.
An example of action launched after evaluation: the Night Street Guards of Brussels
One concrete illustration of the value of evaluation was given by Ms Mesnil with the Night Street Guards of Brussels (see practice sheet here). Thanks to evaluation based on different sources of data and a door-to-door survey amongst inhabitants, it appeared that most of the problems that concerned residents of an underprivileged neighbourhood of Brussels happened at night, after the Street Guards had finished their shift. It was thus proposed to create a Night Street Guards shift that would run until two in the morning. Three years into the programme, results show a significant drop in crime and marked improvement of the residents’ feeling of security.
The AUDITS project started in 2013 for a duration of three years. Project partners (the German, French and Italian Forums for Urban Security, and the cities of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and Stuttgart, Germany) share their knowledge and expertise, while benefiting from the contributions of associate partners (the Belgian and Portuguese Ministries of the Interior, the Belgian Forum, and the city of Brussels) and experts. One of the outcomes of the project will be a guidebook on methodological tools.
For more information on the Audits project, click here