How to better protect public spaces from security threats? Three webinars by the PRoTECT project

Paris, France, septembre 2020 – The PRoTECT project on the protection of urban public spaces, in which Efus is a partner, held its second yearly seminar in July with a series of three web conferences on “technological and human-centred solutions to protect public spaces against terrorist threats.” The event was organised by Efus with the support of the Dutch Institute for Technology, Safety and Security (DITSS), the Centre for Security Studies (KEMEA) of the Greek Ministry of Citizen Protection, and the Dutch Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).

Over 100 people were in attendance: representatives from European local authorities and law enforcement agencies, experts, security practitioners and other stakeholders at the national and European levels from 11 European countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom).  

Cooperation, practices and technology assessment

The first webinar addressed the question of “how to cooperate with a wide range of stakeholders in order to mitigate emerging challenges in protecting public spaces”; the second one examined a series of case studies on “the protection of public spaces at practitioners’ level”; the last and third one analysed “how to assess technologies to protect public spaces” and focused on the tools developed by the PRoTECT project to help local authorities to evaluate and select appropriate solutions for them. 

Involving multiple stakeholders

The EU Action Plan and the working document on Good Practices to Support the Protection of Public Spaces state that the co-production of public space protection is key, particularly in the context of terrorism. Preventing and mitigating terrorist threats require raising awareness among local and regional authorities and training them. Furthermore, it is important they cooperate with each other as well as with the private sector. Increased cooperation is also needed between the local, regional and national levels of governance.

The contributors thus stressed the need to involve a wide range of stakeholders from public institutions at the local, national and European level and from the private sector. They mentioned a number of available EU-level cooperation platforms such as targeted funding through dedicated EU projects, practitioners’ and operators’ fora, and the EU’s Communication and Information Resource Centre for Administrations, Businesses and Citizens. Not only cooperation should be enhanced between the different levels of governance, but also between public and private security actors, in particular as regards the protection of semi public spaces.

Providing knowledge and exchanging best practices

Providing knowledge and training to local authorities is another priority, which requires more exchanges of best practices, but also adapted training for local actors. However, in spite of existing mechanisms for cooperation and coordination, it is still challenging for local authorities to keep fluid collaboration and information exchanges among stakeholders due to a number of reasons ranging from diverging regulatory frameworks, operational procedures and working cultures.

Selecting the right technologies

Another challenge for local authorities is to be capable of selecting and implementing appropriate technologies adapted to their specific needs. In particular, legislative and administrative hurdles can prevent them from doing so. The contributors stressed the need for local authorities, academia and the private sector to better cooperate in order to facilitate the adoption of relevant and efficient technologies. 

Concerning the choice of technologies, they highlighted that there is no silver bullet solution and that local authorities should use technology as part of a range of complementary solutions.

The importance of human-centred solutions

It is also important to explore human-centred solutions that reinforce the security of urban public spaces. In particular, local authorities should train their staff to cooperate with local communities and businesses in order to identify suspicious activities in any given local public space. Indeed, local authorities need the contribution of local residents to report anything that doesn’t feel right, for example an unattended item or someone acting suspiciously.

Another important human aspect is that a chosen technology or protection equipment should obviously not end up creating more feelings of insecurity among the public.

> The detailed programme, list of speakers and videos of each of the three July 2020 PRoTECT seminars are available here

> More information on the PRoTECT project here

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