Protecting public spaces to reduce feelings of insecurity

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For European citizens, security is among the top motives for concern. Indeed, feelings of insecurity within the EU tend to increase, as shown by the December 2017 Eurobarometer ‘Europeans’ attitudes towards security’ [1].
Countering feelings of insecurity at local level is thus essential. How can municipalities and local police forces better protect their vulnerable public spaces and their citizens? This is the question the PACTESUR project (Protecting Allied Cities against TErrorism by Securing Urban aReas) seeks to answer to.
The project gathers local decision makers, security forces, urban security experts, urban planners, IT developers, trainers, front-line practitioners, designers and other professionals in order to design recommendations and new European and local policies.

 >>Protecting public spaces against terrorist threats

Led by the city of Nice for three years, PACTESUR seeks to provide European local authorities with the necessary knowledge and tools to better protect their public spaces against threats, notably terrorism. Besides Nice, it gathers the cities of Liège and Turin, the European Forum for Urban Security (Efus) and the National Association of Piedmont Region Communes. 

It will reflect on standards, legal frameworks and local governance for the drafting of common standard guidelines, response protocols and soft laws; develop specialised training programmes for local security operators; raise awareness among citizens and politicians on their role in crime prevention and as security actors; identify the most adapted local investments for securing open and touristic public spaces by sharing field experience, and set up local pilot sites equipped to prevent and promptly react to terrorist threats.

PACTESUR will fund equipment to render public spaces more secure while making sure it is well integrated in the urban landscape, whether aesthetically or in terms of urban mobility. 

Such equipment will reflect the cities’ approach on securing public spaces. Nice has focused on protective infrastructures adapted to the urban environment. Turin has prioritized the prevention of crowd movements and the detection of dangerous situations through high-tech tools. Liège has focused its strategy on training police officers to respond to certain types of attack as well as on physical measures such as removable barriers. 

>>The key role of local authorities

Local authorities are responsible for the safety and security of citizens. They must be aware of the vulnerabilities of their public spaces in order to adopt appropriate measures to prevent terrorist attacks and their consequences, reassure the population and ensure social cohesion. 

Exchanges between cities and collaborative work are essential since all types of cities can be targeted by a violent attack, whatever their size and geographical location.  

As part of PACTESUR, Efus coordinates a diverse group of cities: Athens, Edinburgh, Essen, Gdansk, Lisbon, London, Madrid, Munich, Riga, and Xàbia.

These cities bring their expertise, such as the use of new technologies or innovative governance in the field of urban policies. Through the project, they will share their views on the common threats they face in order to design a common public policy response.

Apart from the group of cities, an expert committee gathering about 15 members will support local practices and experiences. These experts are specialised in a range of domains such as urban planning, crisis communication and crime prevention. 

>> A project that follows up on the Declaration of Nice 

The city of Nice inspired the Declaration of Nice, which it co-signed together with the Euromed network and Efus, and which was adopted in September 2017 by both these networks and 60 mayors from 18 countries. 

The declaration was adopted as part of the conference on “Mayors of large cities in Europe and the Mediterranean confronted to the challenge of terrorism”. The signatories recall the importance for local authorities of preventing radicalisation leading to violent extremism and their determination to cooperate among cities but also with national and European institutions. 

Furthermore, the topic of the protection of public spaces is addressed in one of the chapters of the Efus’ “Security, Democracy and Cities” manifesto adopted in November 2017. 

 >> A major topic for the European Commission

The European Commission supports regional and local authorities in strengthening their capacities to protect their public spaces. It supports dialogue and exchanges between national, regional and local authorities and the development of operational projects. 

Nice and Efus are currently coordinating the EU’s Urban Agenda for Public Security together with the city of Madrid. During three years, this partnership will enable local authorities, Member States and European institutions to work together to assert the role of cities in European urban security policies, to increase the sharing of knowledge and good practices, and to propose legislative reforms and new funding frameworks at European level. 

The partnership will also allow the sharing of knowledge gained through European projects such as PACTESUR and PROTECT, in which Efus is a partner. The objectives of PROTECT are to exchange good practices and insights in order to use technology more efficiently to protect public spaces, and to provide the partner local authorities with relevant tools, technology, training and case studies. 

>> European Weeks of Security

Events will be organised during the European Weeks of Security: in Nice in October 2019, Turin in 2020, and Liège in 2021. The programme will be available at: