Conclusion of the PRoTECT project on the protection of public spaces

July 2021 – After two and a half years, the PRoTECT project on the protection of public spaces, led by the Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety and Security (DITSS) and in which Efus is a partner, is coming to an end. During its implementation, despite the challenges imposed by the ongoing health crisis, the project has developed a number of tools that will help local authorities and other local actors to better prevent, respond and react to terrorist threats in public spaces.

The final event, titled “Mitigating security gaps: How to support local and regional authorities in adopting a comprehensive methodology to identify vulnerabilities and evaluate solutions?”, was organised online due to the restrictions linked to the Covid-19 pandemic and consisted of three sessions held on 14, 15 and 16 June.

Sharing the project’s tools and insights

The objective was to share with other cities and actors involved in protecting public spaces the tools developed through the project and the lessons learned, as well as to propose a platform for exchange with other projects aimed at helping cities to better protect their public spaces and soft targets.  The event was also an opportunity for a conversation on how local, European and international institutions support the relevant actors in protecting public spaces.

In total, the three sessions gathered 98 participants representing 13 countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, the UK, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Israel, South Africa). The participants included representatives of law enforcement agencies, city representatives, local security practitioners responsible for the protection of public spaces, researchers, national and European stakeholders as well as the private sector.

Thirteen speakers gave presentations on their experiences and practices, both at the political/strategic and technical/practical level.

Like all other events (online and offline) organised in the framework of the project, the final event aimed to share the project’s building principles regarding cooperation and peer-to-peer exchange. Additionally, it facilitated a platform for a European exchange of views on practices and solutions regarding the protection of public spaces from both high-level and practitioners’ standpoints.

Session 1: the role of cities in protecting public spaces 

The first session was an institutional discussion on the cities’ progress in developing tools to prepare for and counter terrorist threats.

Institutional efforts to strengthen the role of local and regional authorities have been consolidating in Europe and beyond. The European Commission is committed to reinforcing their involvement in the protection of public spaces. It promotes dialogue and exchange between national, regional and local authorities and supports the development of operational projects. This is also reflected in the EU’s Security Union Strategy (2020) and Counter-Terrorism Agenda. At the international level, the United Nations Office of Counter-Terrorism are implementing a global programme on countering terrorist threats against vulnerable targets that promotes a cooperative approach involving multilevel stakeholders. This panel discussed key policy recommendations resulting from local, European and international institutions’ work to support relevant actors in the protection of public spaces.  

Session 2: sharing the PRoTECT tools and their applications at the local level

Through  intense research and practical exercises, the PRoTECT project has developed tools that facilitate cities’ role in improving their security self assessment in order to identify the vulnerabilities of their local public spaces. These tools also allow for scanning existing technological solutions for the identification and evaluation of possible responses against a given security problem in public spaces.  This session  focused on those tools and how they have been tested by cities in specific public spaces. The experiences of the project’s partner cities in the evaluation of solutions to protect their public spaces was presented in a case study format. 

Session 3: exchanging tools and experiences between EU-funded projects 

Since its inception, the PRoTECT project has sought to initiate and maintain a collaboration with other projects funded by the European Commission through the Internal Security Fund (ISF) as a way of building synergies and sharing experiences in order to improve local action but also to create collective knowledge.

The aim of this session was to exchange tools and practices developed by similar projects funded by the EU. The aim was to help urban security stakeholders explore the complementarity of the various tools and how to maintain a sustainable network beyond the PRoTECT project. The session was also intended to enhance cooperation between police authorities, academic partners and further institutional European networks on the protection of public spaces.

Recommendations for local authorities

The three sessions enabled the project’s consortium to formulate a series of recommendations for local authorities: 

  •  It is important to involve different levels of governance in countering terrorist threats in order to bring a wide range of perspectives and ensure comprehensive and effective on-the-ground capacities. Furthermore, all actors and stakeholders should be involved from the early  development phases, in particular the assessment of the vulnerabilities of local public spaces. 
  • It is necessary to develop a comprehensive approach that addresses various threats to public spaces and public security and wellbeing: apart from terrorism, petty crime, equally contributes to feelings of insecurity (both real and perceived). Any effective approach must thus be holistic and global, taking into account physical protection and prevention measures but also citizens’ feelings of security as well as  social cohesion.
  • New technologies are important, but good design and management of public spaces from the outset are crucial. Technologies should be targeted to local needs, and these need to be carefully assessed.
  • Training local authorities to help them build better protections for their public spaces against terrorist attacks is another  priority. To enable that process, it is necessary to foster the exchange of best practices, arrange regular “table top” or real-life exercises to ensure the plans still work, detect shortcomings and tackle issues related to timely and proper response and task division.

Consolidating PRoTECT’s results 

Concluding the project, this event was an important milestone for the consortium in the consolidation of the project activities. PRoTECT has not only succeeded in developing concrete tools that facilitate the work of cities in protecting their public spaces, but also the lessons learned enabled Efus to design the Secu4All project, which started in December 2020. Also funded by the European Commission, Secu4All seeks to improve the capacities of local and regional authorities to develop coordinated actions and be able to anticipate and prepare for future threats, notably through training and operational exercises.

> More information on the PRoTECT project
> For more information on this final event, you can consult the full report here 
> PRoTECT will be present at Efus’ international Security, Democracy and Cities in Nice, (20-22 October)