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Easton, M., Gunther Moor, L., Hoogenboom, B., Ponsaers, P. , Van Stokkom, B. (eds.) (2008). Reflections on Reassurance Policing in the Low Countries, Den Haag: Boom Juridische Uitgevers, Reeks Het groene gras, pp. 227.

Reflections on Reassurance Policing in the Low Countries
Reflections on Reassurance Policing
in the Low Countries
Marleen Easton
Lodewijk Gunther Moor
Bob Hoogenboom
Paul Ponsaers
Bas van Stokkom
BJu Legal Publishers
The Hague
© 2008 Marleen Easton, Lodewijk Gunther Moor, Bob Hoogenboom, Paul Ponsaers, Bas van Stok-
kom (eds.) / BJu Legal Publishers
No part of this book may be reproduced in any form, by print, photoprint, microfilm or any other means with-
out written permission from the publisher.
ISBN 978-90-5454-863-8
NUR 741
Part I Concepts and Questions 1
1 Introductory Notes on Reassurance Policing 3
1.1 The ‘signal crimes’ perspective 3
1.2 The development of reassurance policing 5
1.3 Examination of concepts and methods 6
1.4 Structure of the book 8
Bibliography 13
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing 15
2.1 Evaluation 16
2.2 Reassurance policing 18
2.2.1 Visibility and presence 19
2.2.2 Co-production 21
2.3 Signal crimes 23
Conclusion 26
Bibliography 27
Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts 29
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance
within a Flemish Context 31
Introduction 31
3.1 The British model: reassurance policing 31
3.1.1 Broken windows policy theory and disorder policy 31
3.1.2 Innes and Jones: a plea for ‘tailor-made’ policing on a
micro level 33
3.1.3 Risk signals and antisocial behaviour 34
3.1.4 Implementation of a strategy and pitfalls 36
3.2 Reassurance policing: relation to police models 38
3.3 Added value for Flanders? 41
3.3.1 Opportunity structures in centre neighbourhoods of
nucleated towns 41
3.3.2 The urban grid: diversity of neighbourhoods 42
3.3.3 Incivilities and public order 44
Conclusion 46
Bibliography 48
vi Contents
4 Disorder Policing and Community Needs. ‘Revising’
Broken Windows Theory 53
Introduction 53
4.1 What is wrong with broken windows theory? 55
4.1.1 The theory 55
4.1.2 The theory criticised 57
4.1.3 Convincing aspects of the theory 58
4.2 Varieties of disorder policing 59
4.2.1 The alternative police strategy in Chicago 60
4.2.2 Reassurance policing in England 62
4.3 Repositioning Dutch community policing 63
4.3.1 Legitimate repressive interventions 65
4.3.2 Symbolic order maintenance actions 65
4.3.3 Limited value of social cohesion 66
Discussion 68
Bibliography 69
5 Reassurance Policing: Prospects for the Rotterdam-Rijnmond
Police Force 73
Introduction 73
5.1 Civilians on reassurance policing 74
5.1.1 Social quality 74
5.1.2 Responsibility for safety 75
5.1.3 Feelings of insecurity/fear of crime 75
5.1.4 Disorder and incivilities 76
5.1.5 Visibility, familiarity and accessibility of the police 77
5.1.6 Public involvement 78
5.1.7 Reassurance concept 79
5.2 Rotterdam-Rijnmond police officers and reassurance policing 79
5.2.1 Objective of community policing 80
5.2.2 Responsibility for safety 80
5.2.3 External influences on objectives 81
5.2.4 Feelings of insecurity of inhabitants 81
5.2.5 Perception of disorder and incivilities by residents 82
5.2.6 Visibility, familiarity and accessibility of the police as
perceived by residents 82
5.2.7 Opinion on reassurance policing as a concept 83
5.3 Reassurance policing and the local authorities 84
5.3.1 Influence on police policies 84
5.3.2 Views on community policing 84
5.3.3 The concept of reassurance policing 85
Discussion 85
Bibliography 88
Contents vii
Part III Do Citizens Need Reassurance? 89
6 Why reassurance policing ‘works’ 91
Introduction 91
6.1 Evaluative police research 91
6.2 The role of the police 93
6.2.1 Citizens’ perceptions of the police role 93
6.2.2 Encounters with the police 94
6.3 Aspects of insecurity 95
6.3.1 The construction of insecurity 95
6.3.2 Theoretical aspects 97
The role of the victim 98
The role of the offender 98
6.4 Connecting reassurance policing 100
Concluding remarks 101
Bibliography 102
7 New Security Patrols in Public Places: Reassurance,
Fragmentation, and Marketisation 105
Introduction 105
7.1 Reassurance policing 106
7.2 The rise of the new security patrols 108
7.3 New security patrols in the Netherlands 110
7.3.1 Type I. Completely public new security patrols
(no quasi-market) 112
7.3.2 Type II. Governments purchase public surveillance 113
7.3.3 Type III. Governments purchase private security 114
7.3.4 Type IV. Police charge for their activities 115
7.3.5 Type V. Private security patrol under private auspices 115
7.4 New security patrols and citizens 117
7.5 New security patrol: accepted, but only conditionally? 119
7.6 Marketisation of security and reassurance 121
Concluding remarks 122
Bibliography 123
Part IV Reassurance: A Mystifying Concept? 127
8 Public Reassurance, the Dutch Way 129
8.1 The ongoing search for the Holy Grail 130
So ... it’s busy on the concept front 131
Increased attention for feelings of insecurity 131
The ‘emotional society’ 131
But an appropriate answer has yet to be found 132
8.2 Reassurance policing in the UK 132
8.3 An applicable concept for the Netherlands? Some pros and cons 133
8.3.1 Five arguments in favour 133
viii Contents
The Netherlands also seems to have a reassurance gap 134
The ‘signal crime perspective’ also seems relevant in the
Netherlands 135
There is a great need for a clear policy concept 136
Reassurance could offer meaning and expedite the process 136
The concept arrives just in time 137
8.3.2 Five arguments against 137
There is already an abundance of new concepts… 138
The concept suggests too large a degree of manipulability
on the part of the police 138
Where the police can play a part, the concept is too narrow 139
No justice to the tradition of our safety care 140
It may lead some to pull the wrong strings 141
8.4 All in all: a usable concept? 143
8.5 From reassurance policing to public reassurance, the Dutch way 144
Bibliography 145
9 Reassurance Policing: Reassuring the Public or Reassuring the Police?149
Introduction 149
9.1 The birth of the blues 151
9.2 Community policing … 153
9.3 … and beyond 157
9.3.1 Problem-oriented policing 157
9.3.2 Broken windows policing – zero-tolerance policing (BW-ZTP) 159
9.3.3 Private and plural policing (PLP) 162
9.4 Reassurance policing (RP) 164
9.5 The future (study) of community policing? 167
Conclusion 169
Bibliography 170
10 Fictional and Factual Policing: The Case of Reassurance Policing 173
Introduction 173
10.1 Fictional policing or circumlocutions 175
10.2 Circumlocutions and community policing 179
10.3 Manic pace of change versus continuity 181
10.3.1 Change 181
10.3.2 Continuity 184
10.4 Updating Bittner and Klockars 186
10.4.1 Keeping up appearances and playing the game 186
10.4.2 Cop culture 188
10.4.3 How to incorporate the rank and file? 188
10.5 Manic pace of change and continuities 189
10.5.1 Community/reassurance policing: part of larger and
more much differentiated policing arrangements 190
10.5.2 Five levels of policing 190
Bibliography 192
Contents ix
Addendum: organisation of the police 194
Part V In Conclusion 195
11 Maximalist Policing? Risks and Opportunities 197
Introduction 197
11.1 Nothing works? 197
11.2 Back to the roots of COP 199
11.3 Diversification 201
11.3.1 Broken windows 201
11.3.2 Zero tolerance 202
11.3.3 Problem (Oriented) Policing (POP) 203
11.4 Perversion of community policing? 205
11.5 Several sources of opposition to COP 206
11.5.1 Internal opposition … 206
11.5.2 … but there is also external opposition 207
11.6 No unequivocally positive results 208
11.7 The problematic notion of ‘community’ 209
11.8 Motions of withdrawal? 210
11.9 Is there a ‘correct’ level of order? 213
11.10 Disorder and decline in marginal neighbourhoods 214
11.11 Fighting social disorganisation 216
11.11.1 Only in key neighbourhoods … 216
11.11.2 … and through integrated safety policies 217
11.12 A maximalist safety approach. Virtue or vice? 218
Bibliography 221
Notes on Contributors 225
Part I Concepts and Questions
1 Introductory Notes on Reassurance Policing
M. Easton, L. Gunther-Moor, B. Hoogenboom, P. Ponsaers, B. van Stokkom
One of the first ever texts on reassurance policing was a small paper published in
Criminology, called ‘The reassurance factor in police patrol’ (1974). Its author,
Charles Bahn, argued that citizens feel more safe when they know that a police
officer or patrol car is nearby. The public wants the return of the beat policeman,
although the metropolis with its transient mobility and fluidity is not exactly the
place where familiar relationships between police officers, storekeepers and resi-
dents are developed. For that reason Bahn stressed that the security offered by the
‘beat cop’ appeared to be a ‘nostalgic dream of a tranquil past that never was’
(1974: 342). Moreover, the preventative patrol experiments in Kansas City demon-
strated that increased frequencies of police patrols did not lead to corresponding
decreases in the crime rate. But Bahn added: ‘Yet the yearning for security sym-
bols remains.’ Even modern urban neighbourhoods need recognisable and highly
visible police officers who ‘offer continuous reassurance’. In the midst of urban
insecurity we need highly identifiable police officers working from ‘fixed posts’;
they symbolize police presence and provide a focal point for the display of social
1.1 The ‘signal crimes’ perspective
A few decades later this ‘basic’ hypothesis of symbolic communication was fully
elaborated in a theory called ‘signal crimes’. In a foundational paper on commu-
nicative policing Martin Innes – with co-author Nigel Fielding (Innes and Field-
ing, 2002) – described the social semiotic processes by which particular types of
criminal and disorderly conduct can impact upon fear of crime. Certain behav-
iours may be construed as ‘warning signs’ that may generate anxiety about future
threats. The presence of crime and disorder in a neighbourhood functions as a
signal to both residents and outsiders that is ‘read’ and used to inform beliefs
about the safety in an area. Different risks may have different ‘signal values’ that
reveal information about potential threats. Thus, not all events are assumed to
have the same ‘signal value’. Certain disorderly behaviours or objects are consid-
ered to have a disproportionate influence in shaping both individual and collec-
tive perceptions of risk or decay. In a comparatively affluent neighbourhood graf-
fiti may be seen as an indicator of potential problems because it has a ‘high disso-
nance’ value. In such areas people may be sensitive to any disorders. By contrast,
in a deprived neighbourhood the addition of more graffiti may be barely noticed.
In such an area where significant physical and social disorders are already
present, people may become ‘de-sensitized’ to any similar new occurrences.
4Part I Concepts and Questions
What are the implications of this theory for policing? Innes stresses that public
reassurance is not generated simply by having more police patrols, as Skogan and
Hartnett (1997) had already shown in their research in Chicago. The crucial fac-
tor seems to be what officers do when they are on patrol and how they gain confi-
dence. Generally one might say that the public wants a police force/police service
that is more responsive to local problems and local needs. The public is especially
concerned about the aggravated ‘in your face indignities’ that they regularly expe-
rience. Innes argues that the police should first develop ways of capturing data on
the low-level signals that are influential in shaping how communities construct
their sense of security. These low-level disorders may function as ‘open source’
intelligence to identify problem hotspots and other specific ‘fear triggers’ that
exist in different neighbourhoods. By consulting citizens the police can collect
information about these ‘signal crimes’ and ‘signal disorders’. At the same time
the police can check whether residents agree about the presence of potential
harms. Subsequently, the police, residents’ groups and other parties involved can
develop ‘control signals’. Innes defines control signals as actions of social control
that communicate a sense of regained peace and order (Innes, 2004a). A control
sign may consist of a litter warden in a specific area, removal of graffiti or taking
action against troublemakers. An example: persistent vandalism signals anxiety
and general concern and may strengthen the tendency to avoid specific streets.
Prompt attention to vandalism is a reassuring sign that ‘something is being
done’. However, police actions could also be viewed negatively (and generate ‘neg-
ative control signs’), for instance when the police fails to inform the public or
react adequately to citizen requests to intervene.
In one formula, reassurance policing aims to identify local incidents and prob-
lems that residents experience as disproportionately troublesome, and find solu-
tions in co-productive ways. Some incidents matter more in shaping perception
of risks and decay; prompt action against these threatening or annoying incidents
is required. Thus, reassurance policing fits well within current trends to raise
confidence in the police and increase feelings of safety in the community.
Innes (2004b) argues that reassurance policing should be a key component of a
‘total policing’ philosophy which recognises that neighbourhood safety is both
objective (local crime rates) and subjective (being worried about threatening
signs). Total policing integrates hard (repressive) and soft (cooperative) methods.
Within a robust problem-solving framework, it uses ‘signal events’ to target
action on those issues that generate the greatest collective insecurity.
Innes agrees that control of neighbourhood safety cannot be achieved by the
police alone. Effective control requires community coordination and support,
involving individuals and institutions outside law enforcement and beyond the
public sector. Joint action with local partners and the public is needed, recognis-
ing that residents are the experts at diagnosing problems in their own areas. Solu-
tions should be negotiated, not imposed. In these respects reassurance policing is
comparable to alternative community policing programmes like the one in Chi-
1 Introductory Notes on Reassurance Policing 5
cago, and it responds to the recent revival of ‘active citizenship’: giving local citi-
zens more say and engaging resident groups and other agencies in the co-produc-
tion of security. Like any other version of community policing there is an inbuilt
tendency to view police work chiefly as peacekeeping and crime prevention. Not
surprisingly therefore, advocates of reassurance policing have the same substan-
tial difficulties in viewing quantitative performance indicators such as arrests and
on the spot fines as 'good police work'.
1.2 The development of reassurance policing
Originally reassurance policing was a response to what had become known as the
‘reassurance gap’: in England and Wales the fall in recorded crime since 1995
was not matched by a corresponding decline in reported fear of crime. Many citi-
zens even believed that crime was actually rising. This problem was first articu-
lated by Chief Constable of Surrey Police Denis O’Connor in the Association of
Chief Police Officers (ACPO). He sought the assistance of Martin Innes and
other University of Surrey researchers to explore the reasons for this gap. By tar-
geting the risks identified by the public, the police might have a positive impact
on their perception of crime. Reassurance policing was seen as a means to
address this ‘gap’.
In 2003 a National Reassurance Policing Programme (NRPP) was set up in Eng-
land and Wales. The NRPP grew out of trials of reassurance policing in Surrey
Police and the Metropolitan Police Service. The NRPP management team has col-
laborated closely with Surrey University in applying signal crime theory to opera-
tional policing. In 2005 the NRPP was integrated in the new government’s policy
on neighbourhood policing. This change also resulted from the White Paper
Building Communities, Beating Crime, which highlighted how neighbourhood
policing differed from ‘old style’ community policing that lacked a clear crime
focus (Tuffin et al., 2006: 5). A neighbourhood policing package to increase pub-
lic confidence and reduce crime would need therefore a strongly targeted and
problem-solving approach.
The NRPP uses a more practical definition of reassurance policing: ‘Reassurance
policing is a model of community policing which seeks to improve public confi-
dence in policing. It involves local communities in identifying priority crime and
disorder issues in their neighbourhood which they then tackle together with the
police and other public services and partners’ (Morris, 2006: 1). Thus, within the
NRPP-sites the public has a direct input in defining local policing priorities. The
local activities of reassurance policing can be summarised as (Tuffin et al., 2006:
targeted policing activity and problemsolving to tackle crimes and disorder
which matter in neighbourhoods;
community involvement in the process of identifying priorities and taking
action to tackle them;
6Part I Concepts and Questions
the presence of visible, accessible, and locally known authority figures in
neighbourhoods, in particular police officers and police community support
The NRPP was conducted in 16 sites, using Innes’ conceptualisation to guide the
police in consulting the public about perceived threats to safety and develop
appropriate action strategies. The outcomes of the NRPP were evaluated in all 16
trial sites in the eight police forces which together formed the programme (Tuf-
fin, 2006). The Home Office’s evaluation presents results from six sites where it
was possible to match control areas. The key findings of the evaluation are quite
encouraging and can be reasonably attributed to the activities of NRPP. Among
other things the programme delivered statistically significant reductions (in com-
parison with measures in control areas) in crime, perceptions of antisocial behav-
iour, an increase in public confidence in policing and feelings of safety.
1.3 Examination of concepts and methods
For some years reassurance policing has been discussed in the lowlands. In 2007
the Dutch Society, Security and Police Foundation (Stichting Maatschappij, Vei-
ligheid en Politie) and the Flemish Centre for Police Studies (Centrum voor Poli-
tiestudies) took the initiative to study reassurance policing with academics and
practitioners during an international residential conference.1 The Dutch Ministry
of the Interior intends to experiment with reassurance policing in some experi-
mental sites. In this volume we want to gain further insight into the possibilities
and pitfalls which are linked to reassurance policing.
What exactly is reassurance policing? Are we dealing with a new, different police
model? Or is reassurance policing simply community policing repackaged? Cer-
tainly, reassurance policing addresses the core issues of community policing:
problem-solving, crime prevention and the mobilization of residents. So does it
offer added value? How do we position reassurance policing within the wider rep-
ertoire of police models?
The NRPP is trying to achieve a whole range of objectives that largely go beyond
‘crime fighting’, including: to reduce fear of crime, to increase public confidence
in the police, to increase community efficacy, and to improve the local environ-
ment, both physical and social (Millie and Herrington, 2005). This is an ambi-
tious programme that may easily raise high expectations; it relies on a ‘total’ or
‘maximalist’ strategy and presupposes intensive control efforts (Loader, 2007).
Are these purposes achievable and practical enough, and can this kind of police
work be integrated into the prevailing police culture?
1. The conference took place in Hoeve Biestheuvel, Hoogeloon in the Netherlands on 22 and 23
March 2007. The conference proceedings have been published in Ponsaers and Gunther Moor,
2007 and Van Calster and Gunther Moor, 2007.
1 Introductory Notes on Reassurance Policing 7
It is well-known that police departments are remarkably resistant to change. The
core work and the underlying organisation always remain much the same, what-
ever new concepts and strategies are introduced. Is reassurance policing qualified
to achieve real change in police services? Or is it the newest myth in the long
chain of police parables? In a certain way reassurance theory itself contributed
raised suspicions, because the aim to close the reassurance gap may be read as a
‘public relations’ strategy. This aim fits in with current tendencies to ‘correct’ the
views of the public, communicate real achievements, fight ‘wrong images’ and
refurbish the legitimacy of the police.
How should we interpret the positive results in the Home Office evaluation?
These (and other) findings suggest that reassurance police practices are actually
able to raise confidence in the police and reduce fear of crime. The way these
findings are obtained and the use of concepts such as ‘fear of crime’ elicit some
questions and comments.
Many inquiries as into the opinions of the public regarding the police find that
the population tends to give positive answers. Possibly the so-called ‘Hawthorne
effect’ is at work here. This effect occurs when people who are usually ignored by
the government react positively when they get attention from that same govern-
ment, regardless of the fact whether that attention actually produces effective
results (Beyens, 2005).
In the literature the relation between ‘fear of crime’ and feelings of insecurity is
still strongly controversial (Elchardus et al., 2003). There is no unanimity regard-
ing the way feelings of insecurity can be measured (Jackson, 2006) and there is
an abundance of definitions and methods available which have an impact on the
results of research. Moreover there is a tension between the measuring of ‘fear or
crime’ and the measuring of more encompassing feelings such as fear and uneas-
iness. Experienced feelings of insecurity are often projected onto criminal acts,
whereas crime itself appears to have only a very small impact on feelings of inse-
curity.2 The question therefore is whether ‘fear of crime’ can be used as a reliable
indicator for the performance of the police force.
Many researchers have pointed out that the effect of police work is very difficult to
measure (Easton and Crucke, 2005). Also in reassurance policing performance
measuring systems are used to assess the impact of police work. But are perform-
ances measured, or perceptions of performances? When the police actively
inform residents as to which areas good work have been delivered and residents
subsequently adapt their perception of insecurity, the police are in fact engaged in
public relations.
2. This strengthens the idea that unsafety is instead be linked to a feeling of dissatisfaction or ‘being
unwell’ in relation to uncertainties in the field of employment, housing, health, and so on. Social
factors such as gender or where one lives appear to play a more important role in this. For an in-
depth literature study see: Elchardus (2003).
8Part I Concepts and Questions
These critical notes are of a general nature and are dealt with by police research-
ers in many different nations. In this volume questions are added that are related
to the specific contexts and backgrounds of the lowlands. The Netherlands has a
long tradition of community policing, co-production and consulting citizens,
whose application in regions diverge strongly. In Belgium community policing
was introduced quite recently by the federal government. In the Netherlands con-
fidence in the police is relatively high compared with many other European
nations, whereas Belgium citizens regained confidence in the police after the
Dutroux-crisis in the nineties (Van der Vijver, 2007). There seems to be no ‘reas-
surance gap’ in the low countries, since in both countries the fear of crime is
slowly declining, together with the general crime figures.
Should the lowlands adopt forms of reassurance policing and if so, which ele-
ments within the ‘signal crime and reassurance package’ would be promising?
How should we interpret the positive effects that were achieved in English reas-
surance police forces, when placed in the context of police practices and routines
in the lowlands? Is it even possible to transfer a strategy from abroad to other
social and cultural circumstances?
1.4 Structure of the book
The contributions in this volume are split up into five parts. Part I is an introduc-
tory section, in which the concepts and methods of reassurance policing are eluci-
dated. Next to this introductory chapter is included a chapter prepared by Martin
Innes, the prominent advocate of reassurance policing theory. In this text called
‘Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing’ Innes
first gives a brief summary of the results of the NRPP evaluation that was men-
tioned before. He subsequently focuses upon the three key components of the
reassurance policing process: the visibility and presence of police officers on
patrol, targeting the signal crimes and signal disorders that function as ‘drivers’
of insecurity in neighbourhoods, and the co-production of solutions with com-
munity members and partner agencies. The author examines in which respects
these three components have contributed to producing the outcomes, and regu-
larly refers to findings about the related police strategy in Chicago. He stresses
that the public in the reassurance sites often attend to social and physical disorder
incidents. The ‘signal crimes/disorders’ approach shares this central role of inci-
vilities with broken window policing, but it denies the ‘disorder causes crime’-
nexus that Wilson and Kelling hypothesised.
The three contributions in part II of this volume contain reflections on reassur-
ance policing in different contexts. What might Dutch and Flemish police forces
learn from ‘reassurance’ methods and strategies that have been applied in Eng-
land? In their chapter Marleen Easton and Paul Ponsaers discuss the conceptuali-
sation of reassurance policing as mentioned earlier in this introduction. The
authors first discuss the underlying assumptions of the concept and relate it to
1 Introductory Notes on Reassurance Policing 9
the broken windows theory. Unlike this theory Innes does not presume that inci-
vilities would generate more serious forms of crime. Disorder in neighbourhoods
is more complex than the simple causal relation between incivilities-fear-crime
would suggest. Next the authors try to determine the position of reassurance
policing with respect to the existing police models such as the military-bureau-
cratic police model, lawful policing, community (oriented) policing and the pub-
lic/private police model. Does reassurance policing have the strength to become a
new police model? Easton and Ponsaers answer that question negatively: the con-
cept has an eclectic character and contains a strange mix of aspects borrowed
from other models. Thirdly – and most importantly – the authors check whether
the stock of ideas that lies behind reassurance finds resonance in Belgium, and in
which form. What can this concept mean for security and police policy in Bel-
gium? The authors point out that Belgium does not have a ‘ghetto effect’, an inde-
pendent ‘drive’ of social deprivation in poor neighbourhoods that would invite
disorder policing as it is practised in many American cities. Most crime hotspots
in Belgium are found in strongly urbanised inner city neighbourhoods that no
longer function as residential areas. For these reasons the authors conclude that
community policing in Belgium should not limit itself to a mere public order
policing strategy.
In the next contribution the broken windows theory is again placed in the fore-
front, but Bas van Stokkom does not agree with every criticism that Easton and
Ponsaers raise. He reminds us that the theory was rejected in the criminological
world because it neglected the ‘root causes of crime’; moreover the theory came to
be identified with zero tolerance policing. However, some possibly fruitful
aspects of the theory – attune police strategies to the ‘collective needs’ of the resi-
dents; making use of the ‘preventative capital’ of citizens – were neglected. To
find out its real value van Stokkom states that one must leave behind the mysti-
fied case of New York and make an inventory of various research results on con-
trolling and fighting disorder. In this respect the author discusses the alternative
police programme in Chicago and the reassurance policing programme in Eng-
land. Both programmes make considerable efforts to consult residents when it
comes to assessment and prioritisation of insecurity problems. In the last sec-
tions van Stokkom discusses in which respects disorder policing could renew the
theory and practice of Dutch community policing. He thinks that the consultation
and co-production of control signals may enhance local security, also (and partic-
ularly) in marginalised neighbourhoods in which residents traditionally have less
trust in police and police interventions automatically cause criticism. He identi-
fies many complicating factors but claims that a ‘politics of order’ offers a more
fruitful perspective for policing than ‘classic’ criminological and law enforcement
Cooperation with local inhabitants is a necessary prerequisite to reduce insecu-
rity. This statement also occurs in chapter 5. Luuk Wondergem and Lodewijk
Gunther Moor bring the following question to the fore: Would it be feasible to
implement reassurance policing in the Rotterdam-Rijnmond Police Force? Rot-
10 Part I Concepts and Questions
terdam is a metropolis which has traditionally had many crime and security prob-
lems. Although insecurity levels have dropped recently, insecurity problems con-
tinue to affect residents. Given this background, introducing reassurance polic-
ing could strengthen some classic tasks of community policing, notably co-
production with citizens. The discussion in this chapter is based on findings that
were obtained through group discussions with civilians and retailers, and inter-
views with local authorities and police officers. The findings indicate that the Rot-
terdam citizens endorse the reassurance core methods such as consultation and
co-production. Police officers are far more sceptical as to the usefulness of the
strategy, but agree that the reassurance approach might help to identify local
problems more precisely. Many police officers point at difficulties that might
obstruct implementation, such as bad motivated employees, circulating employ-
ees, and poor democratic quality of consultation. The authors point out that a
minimum basis of social cohesion in the neighbourhood is necessary if reassur-
ance policing is to succeed. This means that the strategy cannot and should not
be implemented in every neighbourhood in the same way. Wondergem and
Gunther Moor conclude that reassurance policing might be implemented suc-
cessfully within the police force, but not plainly as ‘yet another concept’. Conceiv-
ing reassurance policing as a form of further professionalizing community polic-
ing may evoke less resistance within the police organisation.
Part III of this bundle pays attention to the underlying interests and needs of citi-
zens. Do citizens appreciate reassurance policing? Is enhancing reassurance an
appropriate strategy to reduce fear of crime and disorder? Might the reassurance
function also be realised through private security patrols? Which reasons might
explain the potentially positive results with regard to the effectiveness of the reas-
surance strategy?
Most police researchers point out that the effectiveness of the police in reducing
crime is modest. This is also true for other objectives, like reducing feelings of
insecurity or improving the confidence in the police. In his chapter ‘Why reassur-
ance policing works’ Kees van der Vijver wonders why the Home Office studies on
reassurance policing show positive results. Several projects did have a positive
impact: on the level of crime that citizens experience, on their feelings of insecu-
rity and on the attitudes towards the police. What makes this strategy more fruit-
ful than many others? The author discusses several possible explanations and
concentrates on subjective aspects: the opinions, emotions and attitudes of citi-
zens. He first points out that the judgment of the public – and victims in particu-
lar is not so much orientated on results (tracking down criminals etc.) but
rather on correct police behaviour (showing interest in citizens etc.). Neverthe-
less, citizens live in a world that is to a great extent unpredictable, uncertain and
potentially dangerous. Psychological studies show that they have developed sev-
eral strategies to deal with these threats. Dissonant facts are either reduced or
eliminated. To explain these ‘redefinitions’ Lerner’s theory of the ‘Belief in the
just World may be of help. People want to be protected against criminals but do
not tend to consider victims innocent. As long as victims are viewed as blameable
1 Introductory Notes on Reassurance Policing 11
you can maintain the idea that you are safeguarded against the uncontrollable
dangers crime may bring. In other words, we interpret reality in such a way that
the image of a Just World remains intact. In terms of reassurance policing: citi-
zens want somebody to take a stand, regardless of ‘crime solving’ effects; it gives
them a feeling of safety. Van der Vijver thinks that the concept of signal crimes
and disorders is a sensible answer to the perception of insecurity: it demonstrates
that the police are concentrating on the most important problems.
In chapter 7 Jan Terpstra turns attention to the new security patrols that operate
in Dutch public places. The introduction of the new security patrols such as city
wardens, police assistants, private security workers and neighbourhood guards, is
based on the assumption that they contribute to the control and prevention of dis-
order and crime, reassure citizens and make them feel less fearful and insecure.
They could therefore exercise the same functions as the regular police, functions
that are especially stressed within the model of reassurance policing. Terpstra
questions in which respects these new security patrols correspond to these reas-
suring functions. He first describes some of the circumstances contributing to
the rise and increasing importance of the new security patrols and presents a
typology of the new security patrols in the Netherlands. Subsequently the author
discusses the meaning of the new security patrols for citizens. It turns out that
many Dutch citizens want more surveillance and security patrols. At the same
time there seems to be a lot of scepticism among citizens about the new security
patrol officers: apparently they do not have the moral authority and symbolic cap-
ital that regular police officers still possess, and it remains a question whether
they are able to reassure citizens. Terpstra concludes that the marketisation of
security and patrol may have larger negative side effects: the consumerist view of
the police may result in a demythologising of the regular police, which may
undermine the classic ‘reassurance function’.
The fourth part of this volume is devoted to the ‘image-work’ and ‘public rela-
tions’ aspects that many associate with the aim of reassuring the public. Is reas-
surance policing a mystifying concept? In chapter 8 Marnix W.B. Eysink Smeets
examines whether the Dutch should introduce the public reassurance model. The
answer is in the long subtitle: ‘Why the Dutch should be inspired by the English
concept of reassurance policing, but should not copy it blindly.’ The author pro-
vides an overview of the main pros and cons of reassurance policing. He con-
cludes that the concept is valid at a strategic level, but that its epistemological and
implementary validity for the Dutch situation is not without flaws. Some Dutch
studies have already shown the relevance of the concepts of signal crimes/disor-
ders and control signals. Often reassurance policing is considered to be the
answer to the perceived problems involving confidence and safety perception. But
the concept is too narrow, and therefore its validity too is limited. The author does
not expect that implementation will be easy. He foresees the possibility that it will
lead to a sterile kind of technical, instrumental implementation. Eysink Smeets
advocates for using the term ‘public reassurance’ rather than ‘reassurance polic-
ing’. He wants to avoid passing responsibility for reassurance to the police alone.
Public safety should – as expressed in the Dutch ‘integrated safety policy’ – first
and foremost be an administrative challenge.
12 Part I Concepts and Questions
Eysink Smeets points out that the concept of ‘reassurance’ may obscure security
realities. This line of thinking is fully elaborated in the contribution of Bob Hoog-
enboom, called ‘Fictional and Factual Policing: The Case of Reassurance Polic-
ing’. He joins police theorists who in earlier decades interpreted community
policing as the latest in a fairly long tradition of circumlocutions whose purpose
is to conceal, mystify, and legitimate police distribution of non negotiable coer-
cive force. Hoogenboom asks the question if reassurance policing could fit within
this ‘fairly long tradition of circumlocutions’, i.e. comforting narratives. To
answer that question he first of all explains the concept of ‘circumlocution’ as
used by Bittner and Klockars and outlines how this concept is applied to commu-
nity policing. Subsequently he discusses some new concepts introduced in
(Dutch) policing in the last decade. The concept of community policing is fol-
lowed by ever more concepts and strategies ranging from new public manage-
ment techniques to ‘broken windows’, intelligence-led policing, and more
recently reassurance policing. The police seem to be locked up in a ‘manic pace of
change’. All these ‘new’ policies, strategies, tactics and operational activities sug-
gest change, innovation and constant adaptations of policing. Hoogenboom
warns that police leaders may use symbolic techniques (‘keeping up appear-
ances’) to retain their relative autonomy. ‘As much as society has a need for fic-
tional police stories, so police leadership has a need for different narratives – and
even myths – to keep authorities and the public at bay with the sole purpose of
safeguarding its autonomy.’ The author concludes that reassurance policing has
meaning mostly on the fictional (symbolic) level; its ‘theoretical quagmire’ clouds
the mighty undertow of policing: reproducing order.
Police and policing, including ‘reassurance’ policing, are both made and imag-
ined. This notion is the starting point of Tom van den Broeck’s contribution
‘Reassuring the public or reassuring the Police?’. The author reviews successive
police innovations on a conceptual level. He contends that most ‘new’ policing
concepts, including reassurance policing, can be understood as varieties of com-
munity policing. What does reassurance policing contribute to the chain of con-
secutive innovative concepts of policing? And why is there anyway need for
another innovation anyway? Hoogenboom maintains that if reassurance policing
becomes a politically inspired strategy to achieve more positive perception of
policing activities, it could be considered (and discredited) as ‘keeping up appear-
ances’. If perception management remains predominant the subsequent ques-
tion is of course: who is going to be reassured, the public or the police? Van den
Broeck concludes that reassurance policing cannot be viewed as a new model or
concept, nor as a mere methodology, but rather as ‘a valuable attempt to find a
new equilibrium between competing approaches’. But he shares the concern that
Easton and Ponsaers have also expressed: by stressing that policing is much more
about order (maintenance) than about crime (fighting), community policing has
unintentionally opened a Pandora’ box. While the original community policing
model wanted to socialise the police, it is perhaps society which has become more
policed. Reassurance policing seems to amplify this trend: the concept of ‘total
policing’ legitimises the expansion of the police role and territory. It widens the
1 Introductory Notes on Reassurance Policing 13
focus of policing towards an ambitious social mission: delivering safety and
(re)building communities.
In the final part we draw up the balance. After sketching the developments within
community policing and its varieties, it is concluded that this type of policing still
arouses much criticism, both within and outside police organisations. Moreover,
this approach does not easily produce positive (prevention) effects and struggles
with a problematic concept of ‘community’. Some think that community policing
is losing its appeal, at least in the Netherlands. Also for that reason some contrib-
utors in this volume advocate for the introduction of reassurance policing. What
are the potential virtues and vices of this ‘maximalist’ police strategy (even if it is
only implemented in key neighbourhoods that suffer most from crime and disor-
der)? Reassurance policing could have far-reaching implications: the police and
other professionals would be allocated broad tasks which could pervade everyday
social life. Another problem is that the dominance of ‘maintaining order’ would
give police officers too much discretionary power, whereas ‘negotiated order’ in
collaboration with residents could put non-participating people – including many
members of minority groups – at a disadvantage. On the other hand, reassurance
policing seems to be capable of bringing back trust in the police and other public
professionals (in marginal neighbourhoods) and for the moment it has produced
some impressive positive effects.
Bahn, C. (1974). The reassurance factor in police control, Criminology, 12, 338-45.
Beyens, K. (2005). Prestatie of perceptie? De burger aan het woord [Performance or per-
ception? The word is to the citizen], Orde van de Dag, 29, 7-14.
Easton, M. and S. Crucke (2005). Performantie bij de overheid. Organisatie: lokale politie
Mechelen [Performance within government. Organisation: local police-force Mechelen].
Gent: UGent en Delta-I (unpublished).
Elchardus, M., S. De Groof and W. Smits (2003). Onveiligheidsgevoelens – een literatu-
urstudie [Feelings of unsecurity – a literature study]. Brussels: Koning Boudewijnsticht-
ing (unpublished).
Innes, M. (2004). Signal crimes and signal disorders: notes on deviance as communicative
action. British Journal of Sociology, 55 (3), 335-55.
Innes, M. (2004). ‘Reinventing Tradition? Reassurance, Neighbourhood, Security and
Policing’. Criminal Justice, 4 (2), 151-71.
Innes, M. and N. Fielding (2002). From community to communicative policing: ‘signal
crimes’ and the problem of public reassurance. Sociological Research Online, 7 (2).
Jackson, J. (2006). Introducing Fear of Crime to Risk Research. Risk Analysis, 26 (1), 253-
Loader, I. (2006). Policing, Recognition, and Belonging. The Annals of the American Acad-
emy of Political and Social Science, 605 (1), 201-21.
14 Part I Concepts and Questions
Millie, A and V. Herrington (2005). Reassurance Policing in Practice: Views from the Shop
Floor, London: British Society of Criminology.
Morris, J. (2006). The National Reassurance Policing Programme: a ten-site evaluation. Lon-
don: Home Office: The Reseach, Development and Statistics Directorate. Findings 273.
Skogan, W. and S. Hartnett (1997). Community Policing, Chicago Style. New York: Oxford
University Press.
Ponsaers, P. and L. Gunther Moor (2007). Reassurance policing: concepten en receptie [Reas-
surance policing: concepts and reception], Brussel: Politiea.
Tuffin, R., J. Morris and A. Poole (2006). The Evaluation of the Impact of the National Reas-
surance Policing Programme. Home Office Research Study 296, http://www.home-
Van Ca lst er, P . an d L. Gunther Moor (2007). Reassurance policing: een alliantie tussen burgers
en politie? [Reassurance policing: an alliance between citizens and police?]. Dordrecht:
SMVP/Gent: Centrum voor Politiestudies.
Vijver, C.D. van der et al (2006). Legitimiteit, gezag en politie. In: K. van der Vijver and
F. Vlek (eds.), De legitimiteit van de politie onder druk? Den Haag: Elsevier.
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of
Reassurance Policing
Martin Innes
Situated in a historical moment that is, according to a number of leading com-
mentators, marked by the presence of a profound and prevalent sense of insecu-
rity, events have conspired to increase the stress upon the public policing appara-
tus across the full spectrum of its activities.3 The ongoing threats to national secu-
rity have stimulated moves to reconfigure aspects of the counter-terrorist
response. At the same time, the transformative dynamics of economic and cul-
tural globalisation are bringing new forms of organised crime to the fore, requir-
ing the development of new and innovative ways of policing to provide protective
services. Concomitantly, there are more local citizen demands for enhanced lev-
els of neighbourhood security in respect of their experiences of crime and antiso-
cial behaviour in everyday life.
Confronted with this array of demands, that are sometimes coherent, but at other
times in competition with each other, police leaders are now constantly seeking
ways to reform their systems, processes, and practices so as to juggle their finite
resources. One manifestation of this ongoing reform dynamic is that there is
increasing interest from within the police service about the available ‘scientific
evidence for ‘what works’ in delivering the varied objectives of contemporary
policing. Indeed, there is a rapidly growing section of the academic literature that
pivots around this question.4
One of the recurring problems for students of policing interested in identifying
what works and explaining how and why this is so, concerns our ability to ade-
quately capture and represent the complexities associated with even the most rou-
tine policing activities. As Manning (2003) has noted, policing ‘on the ground’ is
enmeshed in a web of situational and structural contingencies. Officers negotiate
these on a regular basis through recourse to a range of what are best termed
‘craft’ skills. These are the ways of doing policing, often learnt informally ‘on the
job’, rather than through prescribed tuition, that officers employ to deliver polic-
ing services to the public in accordance with the range of pressures that they are
subject to.
3. The debates around this issue are ably summarised by Richard Ericson (2006); see also Innes and
Jones (2006).
4. See for example the collection edited by Bayley (1992) and Weisburd and Eck (2004).
16 Part I Concepts and Questions
The idea that effective policing is often more a craft than a science has featured
strongly in many discussions of both crime investigation and foot patrol work. In
this chapter, with my focus restricted to the latter, the accent is upon trying to
unpack some of the craft dimensions of the foot patrol officer’s conduct. But in so
doing, my intention is to illuminate the logics and rationalities that explain how
and why particular strategies and tactics work, in order to start to map out the
bases of what I am terming a ‘science’ of police street craft. Labelling an approach
as ‘scientific’ can sometimes provoke trouble, as it is a term that some believe is
possessed of undesirable positivistic overtones. My deployment of the notion of a
‘science of street craft’ is, however, intended in a more descriptive and pragmatic
way, referring simply to an evidence-based description of the principles govern-
ing how something works. Thus a ‘scientific’ perspective on police street craft
seeks to illuminate how it is very often not purely craft based at all. Rather, there
are distinct principles and logics in play that govern the capacity of this aspect of
policing to secure certain outcomes.
This notion of a ‘science-based craft’ of policing is encapsulated in the approach
adopted by the National Reassurance Policing Programme (NRPP) that ran in the
UK between April 2003 and 2005. The NRPP formulation of Reassurance Polic-
ing as a style of policing designed to reduce levels of neighbourhood insecurity
whilst increasing public trust and confidence in the police can be understood as
‘reinventing’ some of the core features of earlier ‘community policing
approaches. But where Reassurance Policing differs from its predecessors and
moves things on is that the policing process developed was more prescriptive,
structured and systematic than was the case with previous iterations. The NRPP
can thus be said to represent a scientific approach to police street craft in that it
set out clearly defined hypotheses about the causal changes required if police
interventions were to reduce insecurity, and boost trust and confidence.
The Chapter starts with a brief summary of the results of the outcome evaluation
of the NRPP to establish what it accomplished. The main body of the chapter
then focuses upon the three key components of the Reassurance Policing process
and unpacks their individual and collective contributions to producing the out-
comes previously detailed. In the final concluding section, some more general
reflections about the role and functions of contemporary policing and the mean-
ings of reassurance therein are provided.
2.1 Evaluation
The programme evaluation of the NRPP conducted by researchers from the
Home Office included both a process and impact study (Tuffin et al., 2006). The
latter was based upon measuring changes over time across a variety of objective
and subjective indicators anticipated as being amenable to being influenced by
the sorts of policing reforms being introduced. The process evaluation compo-
nent was designed to provide some measure of the quality of implementation in
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing 17
each site so that this could be related to the outcomes achieved. In all of the sites,
an attempt to introduce a broadly similar policing process was enacted, in accord-
ance with the key components for Reassurance Policing identified below. For the
purposes of the evaluation though, the sixteen sites were split into two groups.
Six of the sites were assigned ‘matched control sites’ that were broadly similar in
terms of their population and problem profiles. In these control sites no reassur-
ance policing type reforms were introduced for the period of the trial. The pur-
pose of these sites was to try and establish whether those with Reassurance Polic-
ing out-performed those without it, taking into account broader macro-level pat-
terns and trends. The other ten sites had no control sites, but were still subject to
both process and outcome evaluations. These were used to explore how differ-
ences in context and setting influenced the results attained.
Overall, the Home Office evaluation found that, taken together, the evidence pre-
sented provides a consistent picture which shows that positive change in key out-
come indicators in the trial sites, such as crime, perceptions of antisocial behav-
iour, feelings after dark and public confidence in the police, was attributable to
the National Reassurance Policing Programme (Tuffin et al., 2006: 93). Compar-
ing the six trial sites with their matched controls, the data gathered from a range
of sources, including a telephone survey of local residents about their percep-
tions, experiences and attitudes, and police recorded crime data, suggested that
across a number of key indicators, on average the trial sites out-performed the
others. Table 1 below summarises some of the key results:
It can be seen that with respect to confidence in the police, on average this was
ten points higher in the NRPP trial sites than in the control sites. Likewise, there
was an average five percentage point difference in self-reported victimisation and
a ten percent difference in the number of people who thought the crime rate was
increasing between the trial and control sites. This latter result is of particular
import because reducing crime, although a predicted benefit of the approach
adopted, was not defined as a key aim for the programme. Rather, the objectives
for the NRPP were to demonstrate the feasibility of engineering decreases in lev-
els of insecurity (including public perceptions of crime and fear of crime), whilst
simultaneously increasing public trust, confidence and satisfaction with the
Table 1 Percentage Difference Between Trial and Control Sites for Key Indicators
Indicator % Difference between Trial and Control Sites
Confidence in police
Self-reported victimisation
Perceptions of crime
Feel safe in area after dark
Know local police
18 Part I Concepts and Questions
Presenting aggregated data as in Table 1 obscures the extent to which there were
significant differences across each of the individual sites in terms of the indica-
tors that registered improvements during the trial period and the variations evi-
dent in terms of how much change took place. Furthermore, some of the sites
actually saw negative changes for some of the indicators, whilst more positive
shifts were present in others. That changes induced by policing have complex
effects upon levels of neighbourhood security is confirmed by the evidence from
the Chicago Alternative Policing Strategy (CAPS), one of the largest, best
resourced and most carefully evaluated attempts to implement community polic-
ing yet seen. Indeed, in the very early development of the NRPP, CAPS was an
important influence, although as described later on, the NRPP rapidly developed
its own identity and orientation.
In his interpretation of the CAPS and its achievements, Skogan (2006) methodi-
cally dissects what programme effects were achieved and for whom. His analysis
shows that different segments of Chicago’s citizenry accrued different benefits
from the systematic reforms of the police that were undertaken city-wide. The
patterns involve an intersection of race and class. White, comparatively affluent
residents saw modest gains over the decade concerned, but then their conditions
were not that bad to start with. The largest and most impressive gains from the
CAPS reforms were experienced across the black communities. English-speaking
Latino communities accrued some benefits also, but their Spanish speaking com-
patriots actually experienced a deterioration in their situation. This simply con-
firms how important it is to be aware that the benefits of community policing
reforms may not be uniformly distributed.
One aspect of the CAPS that Skogan’s discussion carefully attends to is the sheer
scale of the struggle that went into reforming the delivery of policing across the
city. At different times the impetus stalled and was only recaptured with consider-
able effort. It is also important to note that the initial gains obtained in Chicago
were fairly modest, but started to accumulate over time and as the reform pro-
gramme developed. The positive outcomes attributed to Reassurance Policing
listed in Table 1 were achieved within the space of twelve months, suggesting not
only that it accomplished impact across a range of indicators, but that this hap-
pened comparatively quickly also. This begs the question ‘how did this happen?’.5
2.2 Reassurance policing
The model of Reassurance Policing that was tested was built upon three key
ingredients. It predicted that in order to boost neighbourhood security in an area,
the police needed to:
5. Of course this raises an altogether different concern about the sustainability of these changes,
which the data from Chicago is much better placed to address than the NRPP.
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing 19
ensure that their officers on patrol were visible, accessible, familiar, and effec-
target the signal crimes and signal disorders that function as ‘drivers’ of inse-
curity in neighbourhoods through systematically and proactively developing
community intelligence on such issues;
co-produce solutions with community members and partner agencies wher-
ever possible.
The combining of these components seemed to work in different ways in differ-
ent neighbourhoods, depending upon both the particular approach adopted by
the police and also the contextual situation in which their interventions were
introduced (Innes and Jones, 2006). In what follows, I seek to explain the partic-
ular contribution that these factors made to the changes induced by this style of
Reassurance Policing.
2.2.1 Visibility and presence
The connection between police visibility and reassurance was first formally artic-
ulated by Charles Bahn (1974). Although his recommendations for increasing the
visibility of patrol officers were somewhat esoteric,6 his basic contention that
police visibility has public value, albeit this may be difficult to calibrate, was nev-
ertheless fundamentally correct. Following the publication of the results of the
Kansas City Preventative Patrol Experiment that found random police patrol had
no discernable impact upon area crime rates (Kelling et al., 1974), the utility of
traditional uniform patrol strategies was widely and profoundly questioned. What
Bahn’s formulation points to, however, is that whilst uniform patrol may have lit-
tle measurable impact upon recorded crime rates in an area, it may nevertheless
have an important role in shaping citizen perceptions of their security. Ditton
and Innes (2005) suggest that this is because high visibility foot patrols may func-
tion as a form of ‘perceptual intervention’ reassuring people that there is the
capacity for formal social control to be enacted quickly should the prevailing
social order be threatened or breached in some manner.
Early on in the NRPP therefore, a key strand of the research effort was focused
upon investigating precisely what could and could not be achieved through rais-
ing the visibility of police patrols. The findings from this work suggested that
actually the situation was quite complex. In one of the trial sites the police teams
deliberately increased the number of high visibility patrols in the area. Prior to
doing so though, they engaged in a communication campaign to inform the local
population what was going to happen and explain why. When the research team
questioned local people about their reactions to these changes the response was
overwhelmingly positive. In a second site, a similar intervention was introduced,
6. For example, he advocated employing tall red-haired officers and officers standing on podiums in
public places!
20 Part I Concepts and Questions
but crucially, no public communication campaign was performed. In the absence
of an explanation as to why there were suddenly a lot more police in the area,
local people mistakenly interpreted the increase in policing as an indicator that a
critical incident must have taken place. The difference in the public reactions to a
similar intervention thus clarifies that increasing police visibility is not always
and everywhere going to have a positive influence upon public perceptions of
security. Indeed, the engagement of ‘shock and awe’ policing tactics, such as high
profile raids conducted by officers in full public order kit, can raise community
fears and concerns, and have a detrimental impact upon neighbourhood security
(Innes and Jones, 2006).
The research evidence from the NRPP suggested that rather than simple co-pres-
ence (although this is important), the visibility of policing needed to be thought of
as a ‘cognitive’ issue. Thus rather than simply thinking about how much time or
the number of occasions that police officers are seen in an area, from the point of
view of a member of the public, their visibility actually depends upon the quality
of these sightings and what they are perceived to be doing. As such, the notion of
‘presence’ better articulates some of these more nuanced aspects of visibility and
how people react to policing in their neighbourhoods. For there are a number of
methods through which police can enhance their presence that do not rely on
their physical visibility. This is where the linked notions of accessibility and famil-
iarity come into play. For if officers are accessible to people and known to them,
then this buttresses and supports how visible they are perceived to be.
The idea that police need to be visible, accessible and familiar in order to reassure
the public was introduced in a report by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary
in 2001, thus pre-dating the inception of the NRPP by a couple of years. But the
way in which the notions of accessibility and familiarity are used in this report is
slightly misleading in that they omit from consideration some important aspects
of what the public are seeking from the police. Citizens do not just want to be
able to get access to the police, they want to be able to tell an authority figure
about the things that are worrying them and have these concerns taken seriously.
This is in contrast to a system of only being able to contact the police remotely via
telephone. Likewise the significance of the concept of familiarity requires clarifi-
cation by juxtaposing it with what it is not. For the idea of a familiar police officer
implies a scenario in which the person dealing with a call for service will be famil-
iar with the history of a place and its people and will therefore understand the rea-
sons why a particular incident may trigger pronounced concern in a community.
The contrast here is with a purely reactive police response where officers will be
despatched all over a given territory to attend to calls for service but, in so doing,
will never be able to bring to bear a thickly descriptive, detailed and nuanced
understanding about the area concerned and its particular problems.
A major problem with the visible, accessible and familiar conceptualisation of
Reassurance Policing as originally propounded by HMIC is that it posits that
police can have a positive impact upon levels of neighbourhood security without
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing 21
requiring any actual interventions to address an area’s situated problems. The
limitations of this overly simplistic and ‘police–centric’ approach were revealed at
an early stage of the NRPP research. A number of forces experimented with try-
ing to make their officers more visible, accessible and familiar, but this failed to
generate the anticipated results when members of the public in these areas were
questioned about it. An explanation for this was identified by the NRPP research
team. They found that whilst increases in visible patrolling seemed to have a
short-term positive impact upon public perceptions, after a while people’s expec-
tations ‘recalibrated’ to the new level of police presence. The intensive and
detailed research conducted by the researchers identified that when people say
that they want ‘more bobbies on the beat’, as they often do when surveyed, what
they really mean is that they want an effective police presence available that is
responsive to their local needs. As such, visibility, accessibility and familiarity are
a necessary but not sufficient condition for reassuring the public.
2.2.2 Co-production
Within the community policing tradition, the idea that solutions to local crime
and disorder problems should be co-produced has been a recurring theme. Two
recent research studies have examined in detail the significance of co-productive
arrangements for the conduct of community-oriented policing work. Patrick Carr
(2005), in an ethnographic case study of a neighbourhood where the Chicago
Alternative Policing Strategy was being developed, identifies that the deliberate
fostering of community-based collective efficacy by the police, was a central
explanatory factor for why, after two failed attempts, the community he was stud-
ying was eventually able to exert enhanced social control over local youth gang
and gun crime threats. Contrastingly though in a second recent study, this time
conducted in Seattle, Herbert (2006) found that contemporary communities are
rarely able to fulfil the demands and expectations that community policing
approaches make of them. Moreover, Herbert is quite sceptical about the depth of
the police’s commitment to engaging with and consulting communities.
Skogan’s (2006) assessment of CAPS and the value of co-production is more pos-
itive though. He found that some of the biggest benefits from engaging with the
police and participating in their social control and problem-solving efforts were
obtained in those communities that most needed such interventions. Impor-
tantly, it was not just white, middle-class neighbourhoods where the police’s
engagement mechanisms established traction, but this also occurred in more eth-
nically diverse and deprived areas. Having said this though, overall, according to
Skogan, perhaps the more significant improvements in co-production related to
the relations between the police and other City Departments whose activities have
some bearing upon community safety.
In terms of its theoretical positioning, the NRPP established a strong accent upon
the value of co-production. In practice though, it was evident that the participat-
22 Part I Concepts and Questions
ing forces adopted different approaches to co-production. Some focused their
efforts upon improving their relationships with partner agencies in the local
councils, in an effort to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in dealing with
physical disorder and antisocial behaviour, for example. This was part of how they
responded to the ways that social and physical disorder incidents often featured
as key triggers for concern in neighbourhoods, as will be discussed in more detail
in the next section. In other sites, the emphasis adopted was more explicitly upon
improving relations with members of the local communities. In two of the trial
sites in Lancashire for example, there was a particular emphasis and success in
getting local people who were living with the problems involved in identifying
and delivering solutions. The police helped to organise ‘community clear up days’
on some of the estates with high levels of physical disorder. They also invited
community representatives to participate in neighbourhood management meet-
ings and in some places, as the process has matured, these representatives have
taken over from the police in chairing these events.
Harnessing the social capital present in communities and the resources pos-
sessed by other agencies is an important dimension in terms of how neighbour-
hood police officers can act upon levels of insecurity. Effective community offic-
ers do not try or need to solve all the problems afflicting an area themselves. They
are able to draw upon a range of local resources that provide alternative ways of
manufacturing solutions according to the nature of the problem concerned. In
some instances this will involve enforcement actions utilising their police pow-
ers. Other problems may be better addressed by other agencies, and for still oth-
ers, sustainable solutions may be found by drawing upon the informal social con-
trol capacity of communities themselves.
It is clear however that, looking across the NRPP trial sites, there were marked
differences in terms of the effectiveness and efficiency of the co-productive work-
ing that was achieved. Synthesizing the trends evident in the empirical research
for this programme, together with the analysis provided by Carr (2005) and Her-
bert (2006), it appears that certain things need to co-occur in time and space if
community members are going to participate in an ongoing and deep relation-
ship with police. The three crucial factors being:
A shared definition of the situation where there is agreement between co-resi-
dents about the presence of a risk or harm, in the form of ‘signal crimes’ and
‘signal disorders’, that warrant some form of intervention. This is a necessary
condition for people to become motivated to want to try and do something.
However, in the absence of an ongoing problem, or alternatively, if the nature
of the threat posed is too grave, the likelihood of securing a collective desire
amongst community members to engage with the police over time is likely to
be seriously constrained.
Motivated individuals need to possess sufficient bonds and social organisation
to enable them to engage with the police in a coherent manner and present
their concerns with a collective voice. The capacity to articulate a collective
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing 23
dimension to their needs provides a sense of political impetus in terms of how
they are received by the police.
The police themselves need to have a genuine commitment to co-productive
In the absence of any one of these three factors, it is unlikely that a meaningful
form of partnership working between police and public will develop.
The significance of this formulation is that the evidence from the NRPP suggests
that the desire of many local communities to interact with the police in the ways
envisioned by the architects of community policing approaches may be situa-
tional. In effect, many communities do not require and are not seeking an ongo-
ing and highly inter-dependent relationship with their local police. Rather, from
time to time, in light of the occurrence of particular signal crimes and/or disor-
ders, their concerns or anxieties may become particularly acute, and it is at these
moments that they will look to the police for enhanced support, presence and
action. This concept of ‘situated need’ is important in that it contrasts with many
of the ideas about community engagement that tend to circulate within police
organisations. An assumption seems to have grown up amongst police officers
that one of the indicators of success for community policing programmes is the
capacity to build sustained relationships with local publics. This may however be
an unrealistic and unnecessary aspiration. What the NRPP data seems to suggest
is that for some neighbourhoods the nature and severity of the chronic crime and
disorder problems they experience means that sustained patterns of engagement
will be required. But for many others, what is being sought is a more bounded
interaction that can be activated as and when required. As such, the key require-
ment for the police is to establish mechanisms to enable this to occur.
Engaging with communities was absolutely central to the NRPP formulation of
Reassurance Policing. Its importance lies not only in co-producing solutions, but
also in affording a mechanism for identifying and locating the signal crimes and
disorders that are functioning as ‘drivers’ of neighbourhood insecurity. The
research conducted for the NRPP clearly demonstrated that there are marked var-
iations between individual neighbourhoods in terms of what incidents and inci-
dent types function to signal the presence of risks and threat to people (Innes,
2004). Therefore, a systematic and structured approach to the conduct of com-
munity engagement is a prerequisite for identifying valid and reliable data about
what are the signal events influencing security in any neighbourhood.
2.3 Signal crimes
The Signal Crimes Perspective (SCP) provided the ‘theoretical engine’ for the
NRPP approach. Building upon Umberto Eco’s semiotic (1976), and Erving Goff-
man’s (1972) more symbolic interactionist conceptualisations of the role and sig-
nificance of signalling processes in social life, it was developed to provide a con-
24 Part I Concepts and Questions
ceptually rich understanding of how people interpret and react to the various
risks, threats and harms that they encounter (Innes, 2004). Applied to the prob-
lem of policing communities and neighbourhoods, the SCP offers unique and
innovative insights into social reactions to crime, antisocial behaviour, physical
degradation and social control.
The central proposition of the SCP is that some crime and disorder incidents pro-
foundly alter how people think, feel or act in relation to their security. These sig-
nal crimes and signal disorders can be separated from the buzzing static of the
background noise of everyday life, that derives from the array of incidents that
induce no such cognitive, affective or behavioural changes. It is an approach that
proposes a new way of looking at crime and disorder, and it is for this reason that
it is labelled a perspective. Rather than concerning ourselves with aggregate
crime rates in any area, the SCP suggests that the key influence upon levels of
neighbourhood security are these incidents that when they occur signal the pres-
ence of risk and threat to people.
Importantly, the SCP is founded upon a formal conceptual framework which
specifies that all signals are comprised of an ‘expression’, ‘content’ and ‘effect’. If
any of these are not present, then the incident is not a signal but simply noise.
The expression is the incident itself. For example, if someone says they saw an
assault in the town centre, then assault is the expression. The ‘effect’ is the
change that is induced as a result of an awareness of the incident. So if the person
above said that as a result of seeing the assault they ‘felt afraid’ or ‘ they no longer
visit that part of town’, then these are both effects. As noted above, signal effects
can be grouped together according to whether they influence how people think,
feel or act about their security. Signal contents are connotative in nature and
relate to a sense of risk that is communicated by the occurrence of the incident in
question, thereby connecting an effect to an expression So continuing the assault
exemplar, if the person said as a result of seeing the assault they no longer let
their children go to that part of town, we can detect a sense that they perceive
there to be risks to their significant others.7
As a core component of the NRPP, extensive and intensive research was under-
taken in each of the trial sites in order to identify what the key signals in all of the
neighbourhoods were. This revealed that, in terms of making sense of their
safety, people attend to social and physical disorder incidents more often and
ascribe them greater significance, than they do the more standard types of crime
that police in the UK have increasingly focused their resources on over the past
two decades. The logic for this was concisely articulated by one member of the
public who whilst being interviewed about local problems said: “Yes it is almost
daft, but graffiti is the thing that sort of bothers me more because it is in my face
every day. I mean obviously rape and murder are more horrendous crimes, but it
is graffiti that I see”.
7. A more detailed account of the composition of signals is provided in Innes (2004).
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing 25
The salience of disorder has, of course, previously been noted by Wilson and Kel-
ling (1982) as part of their broken windows thesis. They asserted that the pres-
ence of untreated disorder in an area was criminogenic, generating fear that cor-
rodes the workings of informal social control, thereby over time leading to higher
crime. Recent attempts to empirically test this longitudinal explanation of change
have raised doubts about its overall validity (Taylor, 2001; Sampson and Rauden-
busch, 1999).
Although there are certain affinities between them, in that they both recognise
that incivilities and the material traces of these are central rather than peripheral
considerations in matters of neighbourhood security, there are also important dif-
ferences between the broken windows and SCP approaches. Most notably,
whereas Wilson and Kelling (1982) cast disorder as criminogenic, the SCP main-
tains that there are certain crime and certain disorder incidents whose occurrence
in particular situations triggers profound and consequential social reactions. So
some crimes generate insecurity, but others do not. Likewise some disorder inci-
dents change how people think, feel or act about their security, but others do not.
As such, the central concern is not to unpack the trajectory of how disorder pro-
motes crime as per broken windows, but rather how particular incidents give rise
to a range of negative effects at both the individual and neighbourhood levels.
These effects can include things like fear or a less pronounced form of worry,
attempted out-migration out of an area, investing in personal security equipment,
and labelling particular groups (especially youths) as troublesome. By differenti-
ating with precision between the varied effects that individual signal events gen-
erate, rather than misleadingly lumping them all under the broad heading of ‘fear
of crime’, the SCP enables a nuanced and textured analysis of how crime and dis-
order are shaping perceptions of security to be built up.8
Applied to the conduct of Reassurance Policing, this ‘richer picture’ of neighbour-
hoods and their problems has particular utility, in that it provides a detailed diag-
nostic of which incidents and incident types are having a particularly pronounced
impact upon citizens’ conceptions of their security. Contrasted with standard fear
of crime surveys which are typically used to determine which segments of the
population are more fearful, the SCP approach provides a form of information
about crime, disorder and social control events and their effects that has a far
more direct utility for police. For rather than just categorising individuals and
groups according to their fearfulness, it systematically identifies what are the
‘drivers’ of their insecurity. In this regard, it functions as a form of community
intelligence for the police (Innes, 2005).
It is important to clarify precisely what are the implications for the conduct of
policing of understanding neighbourhood problems through a ‘signal crime’
lens. For on the one hand it suggests that police need to widen the range of their
8. For a more detailed critique of the fear of crime concept see Innes (2004) and Ditton and Innes
26 Part I Concepts and Questions
‘radar’ in order to be aware of the ‘full spectrum’ of issues that impact upon
neighbourhood security. They cannot reassure people about their safety if they
artificially restrict their remit only to those crimes that are the focus of central
government performance targets. It is now clear and the evidence is irrefutable,
that disorder matters to people. The presence of physical and social disorder can
be troublesome for people because it is liable to be interpreted as a signal, a cue,
that the local social order is unable to exert sufficient social control to prevent the
occurrence of such a problem. Consequently, other problematic issues might rea-
sonably be expected to occur there also.
But at the same time as it requires police to think about this full spectrum of pos-
sible concerns, the SCP delimits the issues that police must engage with. Central
to its approach is the idea that not all the crime and disorder problems that occur
in an area will have an equivalent ‘signal value’. Some problems will be more
influential in a particular context and thus the requirement is that police calibrate
their resources in a way that responds directly to the situated demands and needs
of individual neighbourhoods.
In many ways, having police focus upon those crime and disorder incidents that
exert particular influence over levels of public concern and insecurity marks a
return to some of the traditional craft skills that patrolling officers used to man-
age their beats in previous eras. In a time before police had routine access to
detailed and constantly up-dated crime, incident and performance data, success-
fully managing public order on their beat required an officer to take account of
and focus upon those incidents that might impact negatively upon the percep-
tions and feelings of safety and security of their local community. Albeit in a
more structured, systematic and evidenced format, the SCP advocates something
of a return to such principles. Drawing upon theoretical insights from semiotic,
sociological and social psychological theories, the SCP develops a conceptual
framework that suggests that there are solid principles and rationales for police
attending to those incidents that signal the presence of risk and threat to people.
And for assuming that dealing effectively with these types of incidents represents
an effective route for managing neighbourhood security. In sum then, it suggests
that there is a science to the craft of patrol work.
There are now several largely descriptive accounts of Reassurance Policing in the
academic literature (Herrington and Millie, 2005; Crawford, Lister and Wall,
2003). These have, however, failed to interrogate the conceptual significance of
the idea of reassurance, and the implications it has for how we understand the
form and functions of policing in the contemporary era. For the notion of reas-
surance captures something quite important about the police function, what it
can and cannot achieve, and the public value of policing. Reassurance as a con-
cept recognises that policing cannot provide a total and unassailable sense of
2 Toward a Science of Street Craft: The Method of Reassurance Policing 27
security. Neither does it cling to the rhetorical pretence that the police can really
‘control’ crime. We live in a complex, rapidly changing world where exposure to
and the negotiation of a panoply of risks is now an ineradicable feature of every-
day life, and profound uncertainty and insecurity are increasingly prevalent con-
ditions (Ericson, 2006). The causes of these social problems lie outside of that
which policing can ordinarily directly affect. But what the idea of reassurance
does convey is the sense that, if properly configured and delivered, policing can
mediate and mitigate aspects of the insecurity that is part of our contemporary
existence. By tackling signal crimes and signal events effectively and in a timely
fashion policing may be able to reduce the sense of precariousness and uncer-
tainty that people experience to a more tolerable level. Such modesty in our aspi-
rations is important. For it places limits around what precisely we ask policing to
What the development and evaluation of Reassurance Policing provides is some
sense of definition about the role that the police can and should play in managing
both objective and subjective aspects of living in precarious times. But perhaps
more importantly it integrates into its key processes and systems evidence-based
approaches to managing the perceptual field. In this sense there is a scientific
basis to the craft of policing neighbourhoods.
Bahn, C. (1974). The reassurance factor in police patrol. Criminology, 12, 338-45.
Bayley, D. (1992). What Works in Policing. New York: Oxford University Press.
Carr, P. (2005). Clean Streets: Crime, Disorder and Social Control in a Chicago Neighborhood.
New York: NYU Press.
Crawford, A., S. Lister and D. Wall (2003). Great Expectations: Contracted Community Polic-
ing in New Earswick. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Ditton, J. and M. Innes (2005). Perceptual intervention in the management of crime fear.
In: N. Tilley (ed.) The Handbook of Community Safety and Crime Prevention. Cullomp-
ton: Willan.
Eco, U. (1976). A Theory of Semiotics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
Ericson, R. (2006). Crime in an Insecure World. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Goffman, E. (1972). Relations in Public: Microstudies of the Public Order. New York: Harper
Herbert, S. (2006). Citizens, Cops and Power. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Herrington, V. and A. Millie (2006). Applying Reassurance Policing: Is it “Business as
Usual”? Policing and Society, 16 (2), 146-63.
Her Majesty’s Inspector of Constabulary (2001). Open All Hours. London: HMSO.
Innes, M. (2004). Signal crimes and signal disorders: notes on deviance as communicative
action. British Journal of Sociology, 55 (3), 335-55.
Innes, M. (2005). What’s your problem: signal crimes and citizen-focused problem-solv-
ing. Reaction Essay. Criminology and Public Policy, 4 (2), 187-200.
28 Part I Concepts and Questions
Innes, M. and V. Jones (2006). Neighbourhood Security and Urban Change: Risk, Resilience
and Recovery. York: Joseph Rowntree Foundation.
Kelling, G., T. Pate, D. Dieckman and G. Brown (1974). The Kansas City preventive patrol
experiment. Washington D.C.: The Police Foundation.
Manning, P. (2003). Policing Contingencies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Sampson, R. and S. Raudenbush (1999). Systematic Social Observation of Public Spaces:
A New Look at Disorder in Urban Neighbourhoods. American Journal of Sociology, 105
(3), 603-51.
Skogan, W. (2006). Police and Community in Chicago. A Tale of Three Cities. Oxford/New
York: Oxford University Press.
Taylor, R. (2001). Breaking Away From Broken Windows. Boulder, Co.: Westview Press.
Tuffin, R., J. Morris and A. Poole (2006). An Evaluation of the Impact of the National Reas-
surance Policing Programme. London: Home Office.
Weisburd, D. and J. Eck (2004). What can the police do to reduce crime, disorder and fear.
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, 593 (1), 42-65.
Part II Reassurance Policing in Different
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured:
Significance within a Flemish Context
Paul Ponsaers and Marleen Easton
Is Reassurance Policing (RP) more than a new concept that is exported from the
United Kingdom to Belgium? Those who drop the term in the middle of the
police environment, will immediately notice that the concept has by no means
has settled and is still perceived as a new buzzword. Many tremble at the idea of
yet another new concept.
In this contribution we discuss the conceptualisation of RP as mentioned earlier
in the introduction of this book. Firstly we want to reflect on the underlying
assumptions of the concept of RP and relate it to the Broken Windows theory.
Secondly we position RP with respect to the existing police models (such as the
military-bureaucratic police model, lawful policing, community (oriented) polic-
ing and the public/private police model) and ask the question whether RP could
become a new police model. Can/must RP be distinguished from the existing
models and if so, on the basis of which characteristics/criteria? Thirdly we will
check the extent to which the ideas of RP resonate in Belgium, and in which
form. What can RP offer to security and police policy to Belgium? How does the
discussion translate in Belgium? In this way we want to anchor the arrival of this
‘innovation’ in the fundamental discussion regarding Belgian security and police
3.1 The British model: reassurance policing
3.1.1 Broken windows policy theory and disorder policy
Martin Innes and Vanessa Jones offer the policy theories regarding crime, disor-
der9 and feelings of insecurity which are at a premium at this moment in the UK
(Jones and Innes, 2002). For that purpose they conduct a thorough analysis of a
number of recent central policy documents in the UK. They reach the conclusion
9. For the purpose of clarity: in this contribution we use the term ‘incivilities’, which has become cus-
tomary in Belgium instead.
32 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
that the broken windows thesis of Wilson and Kelling has been very influential in
British policy thinking (Wilson and Kelling, 1982).
Innes and Jones point out that the thesis of Wilson and Kelling is a chronology, a
sequence, which implies a causality in terms of causes (incivilities) and effects
(crimes). This causality means that the non-reduction of incivilities in neighbour-
hoods, such as broken windows, will bring more disorderly behaviour and cir-
cumstances. Because of this, feelings of insecurity will emerge in local residents,
who will develop a more defensive attitude, and make less use of public spaces.
The neighbourhood will then take on a grim and inhospitable character. Those
who can afford it will leave the neighbourhood, whereas the others, who lack the
resources, will remain. The consequence of this would be, according to Wilson
and Kelling, a reduction of ‘natural supervision’ and ‘informal social control’. Ulti-
mately the former neighbourhood would cease to exist and, as it were, an ‘inva-
sion’ would take place of people with criminal intentions, who are attracted by
and survive well in such an anonymous and uncontrolled biotope. Finally, small
crime will grow from bad to worse, and result in serious forms of crime. This is –
in a nutshell – the broken windows thesis, which apparently is frequently sup-
ported in the British policy documents.
Innes and Jones conclude that this thesis suggests that such an escalating cycle
can be prevented quasi-exclusively through ‘disorder policing’. The maintenance
of public order and safety will, as it were, create a spiral that reinforces itself,
which leads to a type of urban renaissance. Disorder policing could stop incivili-
ties and – as a result – also prevent crime. Innes and Jones point out that this way
of thinking has found its way into policy in the UK in a subtle (and sometimes
pronounced) way, but was eventually transformed into the dominant policy the-
ory. More crime and feelings of insecurity supposedly result from incivilities,
antisocial behaviour and vandalism. Innes and Jones call it the uncontested
orthodoxy of the governmental approach.
Empirical grounds which support the broken windows thesis are mainly of
American origin. On the one hand there was the research of Wesley Skogan
(1990), who combined data on 40 residential neighbourhoods from five different
studies in six American cities. Skogan reported that poverty, instability and the
ethnic composition of neighbourhoods strongly correlate with neighbourhood-
bound crime and incivilities. He suggested that his findings are consistent with
the arguments of Wilson and Kelling and that direct action against incivilities is
an appropriate way to fight crime and neighbourhood disintegration. In the
meantime, Skogan’s conclusions have been contested. Innes and Jones point out
that Harcourt retested the data used by Skogan in 2001 (Harcourt, 2001). He
found in four of the five data sets no statistically significant link between incivili-
ties and crime existed. Skogan only reported on the one statistically significant
link he found, and even that does not seem to hold up convincingly under scru-
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 33
On the other hand there was of course the substantial drop in the official crime
figures in New York during the nineties. Some academics and practitioners
attributed this result to a police strategy which was based on the broken windows
thesis. They based their conclusion on the fact that the order maintenance polic-
ing strategy appeared to be effective in the underground. Incivilities were elimi-
nated and a sharp decline in crime resulted. For them, this was proof that the bro-
ken windows thesis works and that a disorder policy produces positive results.
Innes and Jones refer to Ben Bowling’s criticism of the New York success story
(Bowling, 1999). Bowling argues convincingly that the aggressive police style is
only one contributing factor in the decline of the homicide rates in New York. For
Bowling the rise, but especially the decline of the crack (cocaine) market provides
a far more empirically soilid explanation. Innes and Jones quote even more
empirical material which shows aggressive police interventions increase feelings
of fear rather than reduce them.
In short: Innes and Jones argue that the simple one-to-one relationship between
incivilities-fear-crime and disorder policing cannot be demonstrated scientifically
and that various other processes in a community play a role. Moreover they argue
that the majority of research that supports the broken windows thesis are of
American origin, which cannot simply be transposed to the UK, where the cir-
cumstances, after all, are very different.
3.1.2 Innes and Jones: a plea for ‘tailor-made’ policing on a micro level
Innes and Jones refer to the, again American, research by Weisburd et al. (2004)
on the spreading of crime in so-called micro-locations in Seattle. They observed
that crime generally remains quite stable over time in such places: 84% of the
street segments they examined revealed a stable pattern. However, they also
observed that a small proportion of these places showed explicit rises and falls.
Weisburd et al. argued that it is this small proportion that is ultimately responsi-
ble for urban crime trends. With this they suggest that crime falls and rises can-
not be seen as a city-wide process. Instead they are concentrated in a small group
of micro-locations. Based on this research Innes and Jones argue in favour of a
policy that focuses on social processes in a limited number ofkey neighbour-
hoods’ and takes into account local circumstances in micro-locations.
Another study that probingly examines neighbourhoods is that of Sampson and
Raudenbush, carried out in Chicago, again in the US (Sampson et al., 1997;
Sampson and Raudenbusch, 1999). They studied, among other things, the rela-
tion between neighbourhood incivilities and crime. The researchers reached the
conclusion that structural characteristics, mainly concentrated poverty, were
strongly related to physical and social incivilities. An increase in collective ‘effi-
cacy’10 (hereafter referred to as ‘social resistance’), however, predicted lower
10. ‘Efficacy’ can be translated as social resistance. Also called: powerfulness, forcefulness, effective-
ness or firmness. ‘Efficacy’ is defined by the authors as ‘the connection between on the one hand
social cohesion and mutual trust and on the other side shared expectations with regard to interven-
tion and support with regard to social control in the neighbourhood’.
34 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
observed and perceived incivilities, and crime figures when these structural char-
acteristics were kept under control. It is possible to infer from these results that
both incivilities and crime result from a combination of concentrated inequality
on the one hand and the level of social resistance on the other. It is therefore logi-
cal that the authors decide that an incivilities policy by means of disorder policing
can offer no barrier against criminality. After all, both phenomena (incivilities
and crime) have communal causes, i.e. the lack of social resistance.
Innes and Jones also refer to the work of Taylor (2005), again a piece of American
research. Taylor discovered that differences in feelings of fear were greater
between individuals than between neighbourhoods. Taylor points to individual
differences, e.g. gender, that modulate the concern regarding security and the
involvement of the neighbourhood. In most of the cases fear proved to be gener-
ated as a result of differences between inhabitants who reacted to similar ecologi-
cal circumstances. Innes and Jones infer from this that feelings of fear are barely
influenced by a disorder strategy within the framework of a broken windows
approach. If crime control is an important factor in urban development, it makes
no sense to use an underlying incivilities-fear-crime theory.
Innes and Jones thus conclude that much urban security policy is oriented on the
broken windows thesis whereas there is an insufficient empirical basis to justify
this. Not much high quality research on this topic is available in the UK, and the
research in the US – that partly offers support for the thesis – cannot simply be
transposed to the UK, where circumstances are very different. There is need for
more thorough research at the micro-level, research that takes fundamental
methodological progress into account, and studies the relation between crime,
incivilities and feelings of fear on the one hand, and a broader range of other
social and situational factors on the other.
3.1.3 Risk signals and antisocial behaviour
Martin Innes strongly emphasises the idea of ‘risk signals’ in the conceptualisa-
tion of what people have started to call RP (Innes, 2005a). His analysis here is
based on the subjective problems regarding feelings of insecurity. His starting
point is the observation that fear of crime should often be understood as ‘fear of
disorder’. He bases his approach on the results which originate from the British
Crime Survey (Wood, 2004) which showed that three-quarters of the respond-
ents felt that antisocial behaviour was ‘a very big’ problem in their personal sur-
roundings. Many also expressed the opinion that this type of behaviour was
increasing considerably. Young people were usually pointed out as the cause of
the problems, and vandalism was often named as the most important problem.
This conclusion is however in strong contrast with the observation that the ofi-
cially recorded crime in the UK decreased significantly or at least stabilised.11
11. One can of course ask the question whether the recorded crime is a suitable parameter for this.
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 35
Innes therefore wonders why, in a period in which it is commonly accepted that
there is a real decline in victimisation, more people are worried about physical
and social ‘disorder’.12
In order to formulate an answer to this question he carried out large-scale
research in the UK within the framework of the National Reassurance Policing
Programme.13 This research showed that people gear their behaviour mainly on
perceptions of possible risks. People apparently perceive various types of risks which
are linked to various types of problems. To one person risks are linked with them-
selves or significant third parties, others perceive risks to property, whereas still
others talk about a more general risk for the social and/or moral order. It also
became clear that this risk assessment is not related to the material circum-
stances of specific incidents, but rather to the ‘threat references’ those people
experience in their surroundings. Or the only democratic form in which policy is
conducted: this would upset the balance much.
From the research it first became clear that these ‘threat references’ differed radi-
cally from location to location and were therefore strongly geographically deter-
mined. Innes concluded that a nationally organised survey, such as the British
Crime Survey, insufficiently manages to grasp the local diversity of feelings of
insecurity (in this context it would be better to speak of fear of incivilities).
Secondly it transpired that – for public opinion – physical and social ‘threat refer-
ences’ often represented stronger and more coherent indicators for the public
than the crime types on which the criminal law body focuses, whereas the police
and judicial authorities usually experience these indicators as too trivial. Thus, for
example, respondents proved to be far more worried about the physical and social
incivilities that drug use brought along, than the drug use in itself. From these
research findings Innes infers that people ‘read’ the observed, visible incivilities
as an indicator of social order and control, and the effectiveness with which the
authorities handles this. If there are visible indicators of certain problems, public
opinion tends to interpret (to read) them as an indication of more general local
problems of insecurity.
Innes also makes a third, important, observation. When asked for a general clas-
sification of the incivilities phenomena, the strongest incivilities indicator turned
out to be ‘noisy youths hanging around’, especially because theywould destroy
property’. When the young people themselves were asked they identified ‘other
groups of young people’ as causes of incivilities, this time especially because of
‘threats and violence’. More in-depth (semiotic) analysis made clear that the
strong signal value of ‘young people’ was especially related to the lack of homoge-
12. Here again: translated as ‘incivilities’ in the continuation of the text.
13. 300 in-depth interviews were carried out with persons in 16 different regions in the UK. During the
interviews they were asked their experiences of crime, incivilities, police and social control in the
personal neighbourhood and outside.
36 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
neity in the activities of the young people and therefore the large diversity in their
behaviour. In short: young people are ‘read’ as too unpredictable.
Innes explicitly distinguishes his approach from the broken windows thesis. To
him incivilities are not important because they generate more serious forms of
crime, as Wilson and Kelling suggest, but because incivilities generate ‘indicators
of risks and threats, especially when various forms of incivilities become visible at
the same time.
Central in the concept of RP is the ‘signal crimes-theory’. Martin Innes derives
the meaning of a signal from semiotics and applies it by means of insights from
social sciences to the relation between media, crime and feelings of insecurity. He
notices that ‘What is becoming apparent is that through a combination of co-
present and mediated experiences, individuals and groups interpret and define
some forms of criminal and disorderly conduct in a way that shapes their beliefs
and behaviour about risky people, places and events’ (Innes, 2004a).
The starting point of the signal crimes theory is that some forms of crime and
incivilities have a disproportionate effect on the public perception of risk and
insecurity in the neighbourhood. A ‘signal crime’ is defined as any criminal inci-
dent that has an impact on the behaviour and the perception of the population
regarding insecurity. A ‘signal disorder’ is defined as any action which disturbs
agreements/habits regarding social order and suggests to the presence of other
risks. The latter can also be of a social or physical nature.
In practice this means that on a neighbourhood level a distinction is made
between three types of priorities, namely police priorities, acute and chronic
neighbourhood priorities. Police priorities are related to the traditional tasks of
the police, namely law and public order policing. Acute neighbourhood priorities
refer to problems which are a priority for a limited section of the local residents,
such as family problems, intoxication and abuse. Chronic neighbourhood priori-
ties are identified by a large section of the local residents as problems with a dis-
proportional negative impact on their perception of risk and insecurity. Problems
mentioned include graffiti, antisocial behaviour, illegal dumping and vandalism.
Community intelligence is required to be able to make this distinction: the police
need information from the local residents in order to be able to detect signal
crime and disorder.
3.1.4 Implementation of a strategy and pitfalls
Innes refers to reassurance policing as a strategy with three central pillars. The
first pillar is a high visibility of policemen who are known in the neighbourhood.
The second pillar is that the police focus on ‘signal crimes’ and ‘signal disorders’,
identified by the community as the most important forms of crime and incivili-
ties. The third pillar is that informal social control is stimulated by the communi-
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 37
ties themselves. This is regarded as an impulse to stimulate the responsibility of
citizens regarding safety (Innes, 2004b). In this strategy the following elements
are central (Irving, 2005):
involve local residents;
discover which incidents and situations have a ‘signal quality’ (a dispropor-
tional negative impact on feelings of insecurity and well-being);
use problem-solving methods in association with key figures and interested
parties to find a cost-effective solution;
implement the solutions in a clear visible way and encourage inhabitants
where possible to participate, or make them feel they are involved in improv-
ing a number of matters;
communicate the results in such a manner that social resistance among the
local people increases (either individually or as a group).
However, this theory is not without risks (Irving, 2005). Policy documents, con-
cerned with evaluation14 of the national programme, dwell on the pitfalls and
indicate that they cannot be avoided in the implementation of the programme.
The most important pitfalls are:
the difficulty is consensus regarding priorities which have an indicator func-
it is difficult achieving for the police to collect data about public attitudes (this
requires training);
removing problems with an indicator function does not have the desired
effect on feelings of insecurity;
the impact of the media exceeds all others;
the elimination of problems with an indicator function is unrealistic;15
the population is not always interested in participating (the result being over-
and underrepresentation of certain groups);
it is not always possible to free up the necessary resources (proportion
between local and federal governments).
To avoid these pitfalls as much as possible, an appeal was made to Martin Innes.
‘Innes provides a systematic methodology for obtaining Community Intelligence
on Signal Crimes and Disorders that are the focus of Reassurance Policing’ (Irv-
ing, 2005). So he also provided methodological support. We note that among
other things the problem-solving SARA (Scanning, Analysis, Response, Assess-
ment) method (Braga et al., 1999) is used to identify ‘signal issues’. Table 1 illus-
trates this method as it is used in the policy documents.
Williamson points out that it is important to distinguish between aspects that the
neighbourhood finds important and aspects which are important from a strategic
point of view, from a meso level. He agrees that signal crimes must be tackled but
he indicates that they must be placed in a wider context (Williamson et al., 2006).
14. The Home Office and more specific the Research, Development and Statistics Directorate are
responsible for the evaluation of the programme.
15. To what extent do the problems shift?
38 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
3.2 Reassurance policing: relation to police models
To determine whether RP can be considered as a police model, we start from the
essence of what we can consider as a police model. A police model implies basic
assumptions about the role and the place of the police in society, and in this way
generates clear answers to key questions with regard to (1) police discretion, (2)
the role of the law, (3) responsibility, (4) the relationship with the population, (5)
professionalization, (6) legitimacy, (7) prevention and (8) proactive/reactive
police force policy (Ponsaers, 2001). On the basis of these eight core themes four
police models can be distinguished: the military-bureaucratic model, lawful polic-
ing, community policing and the public-private police model.
It is essential that these police models are not viewed as consecutive in time: one
model does not follow from the other. The described models are logical deduc-
tions, not chronological episodes. This means that the choice for a model during
a police reform is not a necessary consequence of the time in which we live, but
rather a programmed choice. Thus community (oriented) policing, for example,
is not a post-modern phenomenon, but a voluntary and conscious choice from
various possibilities. From this point of view a police model always has – to a cer-
tain extent – some prescriptive aspects concerning ‘the kind of police/policing we
want’. From this it immediately follows that any police reform process is not a
unilateral process without alternative possibilities. A ‘point of return’ is never
reached; there is a constant risk of returning to more conservative models. It is
therefore possible to see reform as an ongoing process which is never completed.
During this process police models are constantly evaluated with respect to their
social effectiveness and in particular with respect to the degree to which they
Table 1 Summary of the Reassurance Policing Strategy
Preparation Engage the
public to
identify signal
Engage partners,
build networks,
Agree public
plan and
What do we
What do we
need to
Can the police
engage with
local people
Do we need to
work through
What are the
signals that are
driving local
Which signals
matter most for
the local
people? What
are the root
Who are the
who can
contribute to
What can we
achieve and
Which issues
can we target
Which issues
need strategic
and resources?
can we
allocate to
have we
Do people
feel safer?
(Source: Brochure ‘In Control’)
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 39
make a contribution to reducing crime. From this point of view a police model
also bears an empirical cognition, in other words ‘the results of the experience’.
Moreover the way in which a certain police model is dominant in an overall police
structure is related to the type of society in which the police operates. Further-
more each concrete police organisation can be considered a combination of police
models. After all a police organisation is not synonymous with a police model.
In order to be able to position RP, we briefly define four police models on the
basis of the eight core themes (mentioned above), or strong ‘archetypes’. With
this description, the attentive reader will immediately see how many elements
from the RP concept, as defined above, appear (indicated in italics). We will come
back to this a little later.
The military-bureaucratic model scores as follows on the eight topics: (1)
police discretion: mostly internal rules and hierarchy, (2) the role of the law:
especially law and order, (3) responsibility: a lot of internal and no external
responsibility, (4) relationship with the population: a large gap between popu-
lation and police force, (5) professionalization: the strict obeying of rules, (6)
legitimacy: absence of disorder and monopoly on physical violence, (7) preven-
tion: emphasis on repression and (8) pro/reactive policing: focus on control
and reactive actions.
The lawful policing model scores as follows: (1) police discretion: compliance
with the rule of law, (2) the role of the law: what can police do without the
law?, (3) responsibility: a large autonomy, (4) relationship with the population:
public as informants, (5) professionalization: high degree of specialisation, (6)
legitimacy: the law legitimises, (7) prevention: nonexistent, more focus on
repression and (8) pro/reactive policing: reactive interventions.
Community (oriented) policing is characterised by: (1) police discretion: the
need for ‘smart policing’, (2) the role of the law: the law is a means, (3) respon-
sibility: strong emphasis on external responsibility, accountability, (4) relation-
ship with the population: partnership, co-production, (5) professionalization:
tendency to despecialisation, (6) legitimacy: focus on democratic values, in
relation to democracy, (7) prevention: strengthening of informal social control, (8)
pro/reactive policing: emphasis on proactivity.
Finally, the public-private police model can be characterised as follows: (1)
police discretion: outside the limitations of the law everything is permitted, (2)
the role of the law: not the law, but the will of the customer is the guiding principle,
(3) responsibility: external responsibility with respect to customers and contrac-
tor, (4) relationship with the population: the population are viewed as possible
customers and contractors, (5) professionalization: minimum costs and maxi-
mum result, (6) legitimacy: private interests, (7) prevention: risk calculation
and (8) pro/reactive policing: proactive rather than reactive.
Based on this description, other concepts are regarded as a response to a model
(broad scope policing), a variant of a model (problem oriented policing), as a the-
ory (broken windows policing), as a political instrument (zero tolerance policing)
or as a result of an evolution (technological/intelligence-led policing).
40 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
Summarised, and visualised in the following figure, we can state that RP in itself
is no new police model but rather a strange mix of different aspects, borrowed
from the four basic archetypes of police models. It bears elements of each of
them (see elements, indicated in italics). Nevertheless, it can be argued that dom-
inant elements in a RP-approach stem from a Problem (Oriented) Policing
model, which in turn can be considered a variant of Community (Oriented) Polic-
ing. Elements from existing models such as proactive working, partnership,
responsibility, strengthening informal social control, the public as an informant,
and risk calculation are ‘recycled’ and used in the fight against those forms of
crime and disorder that have a signal function in the neighbourhood. The signal
crimes theory is used to be able to make a selection in the priorities, a selection
which up to now was a weak point in the problem-solving methodology. Further-
more, RP is defined more as a strategy than as a real police model.
Moreover RP can be considered as a political instrument in the sense that it is
aimed at a more positive evaluation of the police. After all it is the intention that
the population is more satisfied with the performance of the police or at least per-
ceives the police as more effective. Each policy maker, and certainly at a local
level, likes to show off a well-functioning police force. And in that context being
able to present decreasing crime statistics together with figures that indicate that
local residents feel safer and perceive their police as effective, is a great bonus.
Whereas these considered police models have a internal logic and a negative ref-
erence to preceding models, we cannot recognise such a build-up when it comes
to RP. In one of the brochures of the ‘National Reassurance Policing Programme
the term ‘Total Policing’16 is used, which refers to the shuttle movement between
‘hard’ and ‘soft’ policing. It recognises that safety is multiform information which
is both objective and subjective, and integrates both hard and soft methods. This
immediately brings to the fore the very eclectic character of the concept reassur-
ance policing, where all kinds of elements are brought together from various
Figure 1 Articulation of RP to different police models
16. Brochure ‘In Control: From Reassurance to Neighbourhood Policing’.
Led Policing
Military Bureaucratic
Lawful Policing
Traditional Models Modern Models Postmodern Models
Broad Scope
Policing Model
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 41
police models. This reasoning confirms the argument that RP is a variant of the
existing police models.
3.3 Added value for Flanders?
3.3.1 Opportunity structures in centre neighbourhoods of nucleated towns
In the past we have repeatedly criticised the broken windows thesis. In one of our
articles regarding this we called it ‘the parable of the broken windows-theory’
(Ponsaers, 2003; Ponsaers, 2004). It is our conviction that the broken windows
parable supports a number of ideas that in our opinion do not correspond with
the reality of what we find in the neighbourhoods of our Flemish cities. The per-
spective implies a number of presuppositions which do not square with the Flem-
ish reality, but for reasons different than those quoted by Innes and Jones.
It is true that Innes and Jones indeed offer a probing criticism of the broken win-
dows thesis, yet they do not discuss the presuppositions which, in our opinion,
are essential, particularly the assumption that the crime level is determined by
local residents, and the crime is therefore also committed by them. In other
words, their starting point is that this is an intra-class phenomenon. For Innes
and Jones inhabitants and perpetrators live together in those problematic micro-
locations, and in these neighbourhoods there are structural characteristics in a
concentrated manner, particularly poverty. The starting point of the authors is
expressly that offenders commit offences in their own neighbourhood and do not
choose on the basis of opportunity structures which certain areas – not necessar-
ily neighbourhoods – offer (Sampson and Groves, 1989).
To examine this presupposition in the Flemish context we carried out an exhaus-
tive analysis of the empirical data which we have at our disposal with regard to
registered crime in Flemish cities and municipalities (Pauwels, 2002; Ponsaers
et al., 2003; Stoop and Pauwels, 2001; Stoop, 2001). From the analysis it became
clear that almost 75% of the registered crime occurred in the nucleated cities and
in strongly urbanised municipalities, where virtually half of the registered thefts
was found in the 13 nucleated cities of the 308 Flemish municipalities. At the
same time we carried out an additional analysis, this time on a neighbourhood
level, the preferred micro-location of Innes and Jones. It was striking that espe-
cially urban centre neighbourhoods and neighbourhoods around proved to attract
the highest percentages of registered crime (Goeminne et al., 2003; Ponsaers et
al., 2005). In short: urban centre neighbourhoods in the city centres turned out to
be the pre-eminent places of perpetration. In addition to that poverty, as a struc-
tural neighbourhood characteristic, was not found to be determinative (in a gen-
eral sense) to increases in the crime figures. In other words, it was not so much
the demographic composition of neighbourhoods of perpetrators, but the oppor-
tunities that perpetrating neighbourhoods offered to those who came from else-
where, a fact which had also been emphasised by other authors in other contexts
42 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
(Stark, 1987). From our analysis it became clear that in many cases the opportu-
nity structures (that the neighbourhoods offer) were, to a large degree, determin-
ing the crime level. In other words, the opportunity characteristics of neighbour-
hoods are giving shape to the unequal spread of crime in Flanders. The main
effect that we found was that urban centre neighbourhoods in nucleated cities in
particular, ran a greater risk of a high degree of crime. Citycentres are pre-emi-
nent perpetration points.
This observation undoubtedly coincides with the historical town flight with which
urban centres in Flanders were faced, and as a result of which urban centre
neighbourhoods usually no longer function as residential centres. It concerns
rather neighbourhoods where we find people who move themselves (users of the
city, much less local residents, both victims and offenders) in high concentrations
of visitors and as a result create high concentrations of certain types of crime.
These neighbourhoods are pre-eminently places where, given the high degree of
anonymity and transience, pickpocketing (where physical density is massive, like
in the underground or train stations), shoplifting (where the shops are), theft
from cars (where many cars are parked during the day), and more, occurs. They
can generally be seen as so-called ‘hotspots’.
Moreover we estimate that urban centre neighbourhoods to a large extent are vic-
timised by theft, and that theft characterises itself precisely by low clear up rates,
usually about 15%. That implies that registered crime figures provide very little
information about offenders and their living environment based on registered
crime figures. In a recent doctoral thesis Pauwels (2006) developed some insight
into these problems by means of self-report study in a Flemish metropolitan con-
text. The thesis shows in a convincing way that socio-structural neighbourhood
characteristics, such as poverty, have no separate impact on delinquent behaviour
of young inhabitants. With this conclusion he aligns himself with the few
researchers who are no longer prepared to transpose the flow of North American
studies to the European continent without any criticism and, more specifically to
Flanders. After all, there transpires to be no ghetto effect, an independent ‘drive’
which takes deprivation characteristics in Flemish neighbourhoods as a starting
3.3.2 The urban grid: diversity of neighbourhoods
The research of Pauwels opens new, particularly interesting perspectives and
contibutes significantly to Belgian police skills. In contrast to the situation in the
UK, where the Broken Windows thesis is dominant according to Innes and
Jones, the official police policy theory in Belgium is still orientated on the original
Community (Oriented) Policing philosophy. The Belgian alternative was grafted
onto a number of essential COP pillars, of which the first is its ‘external orienta-
tion (Van Branteghem et al., 2007), which nevertheless involves something
other than the Dutch ‘territorial-bound policing’ theory. The principle of the Bel-
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 43
gian COP model is not so much aimed at being territorial, as a result of which a
possible amalgam between perpetrator and living areas threatens the living areas
again, but it is explicitly aimed at a problem solving approach. The ‘community’
in Belgium is not particularly a geographical description, limited to consultation
with the scarce occupants of urban centre neighbourhoods of nucleated cities, but
is also aimed to intensively involve the urban and neighbourhood users. External
orientation thus implies explicitly the users of the urban centres. It therefore
comes down to not narrowing the term ‘community’ merely to the living area.
‘Wasn’t it a lot cosier in the city in the old days? Wasn’t everything better back
then?’, is what we often hear people say. It then seems as if we have lost some-
thing over the course of time in our Flemish cities. We want to dispute this dis-
course of ‘the loss’. The public space in our cities has never been homogeneous.
For a long time there have been town centres in Flanders which differ greatly
from the public spaces in other residential areas. And it is precisely that diversity
that makes the Flemish town centres attractive. Essentially the city is a melting
pot, a meeting place of opposites, of tonalities of various continua, with both har-
monious and sharp, rancid sides, with both structural living density and pulsat-
ing mobility.
This emphasis implies the recognition of a type of urbanisation. A city is not just
the sum of its neighbourhoods. A city is also a network, a ‘grid’ (Boudry, 2003).
Flemish cities have layered scales or ‘overlays’. Depending on the variety of the
urban function, the geographical scale of the urban reality creates a distinct pro-
file for itself changes: the neighbourhood in the city, the city in the zone, the zone
in the agglomeration, the agglomeration in the province, the province in the
region and ultimately the region in the country. It is clear for example, that the
urban economic and employment policy needs another scale than the living,
security, culture or health policy. Between all these different urban layers exist all
kinds of neighbourhood-transcendent networks, connections, ‘communities’. A
city is a patchwork, but each bit of the patchwork also forms a picture at a higher
level. Those configurations then string themselves together at an even higher
level. This picture of the grid allows us to grasp the city as a moving whole, a mor-
phology in permanent transformation, a multipurpose fact, no longer as a static
fact. Nowadays, some geographers even feel that, from a demographic point of
view, Flanders has developed into one large urban district. The town-dweller is no
longer a barely moving atom in a living area; he has become a nomad in the met-
ropolitan environment. Displacement and delocalisation have become the rule. It
is therefore only logical that crime and insecurity – victim and perpetrator – no
longer allow themselves to be confined to the living area. The spatial control of
daily living has become a fiction.
Not only space, but time has also undergone fundamental modifications in terms
of regulation. The division between labour and free time, introduced at the time
of the Industrial Revolution, has become fluid. Today new forms of technology
and communication drastically restructure the classification of labour time and
44 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
free time. Flexibility and permanent availability have become standards in work-
ing life and in the evaluation of it (Ponsaers, 2000). This evolution inevitably also
has an impact on the Flemish urban temporality. The town dwellers and the users
of the city each have a much more diverse and more fluid time classification than
in former days. Different types of time regimes melt together and move accord-
ing to multiple rhythms. The city no longer closes the city doors when the shop
area closes the entrance door, but takes on a complex time pattern. The same
places in the city have a different climate, another function, another view and
therefore also different forms of crime, depending on the clock.
The deregulation of place and space creates new communities. These communi-
ties cut through geographical and time borders. People are not only part of their
living communities, but also form new (also virtual) communities. In this sense a
mixed society is created, in which a social and cultural mix soon becomes the rule
rather than the exception. Renewed community-specific police will have to let go
of the exclusive idea of the need of recovery of social neighbourhood cohesion.
Fighting poverty, providing social housing, ensuring a sound educational level,
and more must obviously take place, because we advocate for a socially fair soci-
ety. The argument of social justice cannot, however, become an alibi to carry out
more crime control. A socially fair policy must be pursued, but does not replace
the distress regarding multiform safety in the diversity of urban communities.
That is, in our opinion, the real, contemporary meaning of the external orienta-
tion of renewed problem solving and community-oriented police in Flanders,
who no longer believe in the over-simplistic parable of the broken windows (Pon-
saers et al., 2002).
3.3.3 Incivilities and public order
Innes and Jones emphasise that the government in the UK has started to pursue
a disorder policy from the broken windows thesis, and therefore sees this
approach as a strategy to prevent escalation of neighbourhood problems which
could possibly end in a higher crime level. We must conclude that, also in Flan-
ders, disorder policy has developed over the last decade. This tendency in Flan-
ders, in our opinion has been inspired not so much by the broken windows the-
sis, but through very different impulses.
Firstly, we can observe that the handling of some types of minor and frequently
recurring crimes was often more symbolic than real. The overtaxed offices of the
public prosecutor could no longer process the increasing flow of warrants,
became oversaturated, and – ultimately – all kinds of processes started which
have drastically limited this inflow to the criminal justice system.17 On the other
hand the results of the Belgian Security Monitor-survey (Ponsaers, 2006; Pon-
17. For example the system of administrative local sanctions, simplefied warrants or autonomous
police treatment (in these arrangments, the position of the prosecutor’s office becomes less
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 45
saers, 2005; Ponsaers et al., 2001) show that it was especially these disturbing
and unpleasant types of small, frequently occurring crimes and incivilities that
worry the citizens and are the reason for growing feelings of insecurity and wan-
ing confidence in the government (De Kimpe et al., 2006). The conviction grew
therefore that these frequent crime and disorder phenomena could no longer nor
should remain without any government response (De Wree et al., 2006).
Secondly, in our opinion, another important aspect emerged which remained
rather implicit in the discussion on this matter, and is related to the Belgian fed-
eral state structure. In our country the reform of the police continued rather ener-
getically as from 2001. This was much less the case with judicial reform, of which
it is said that it is much more encompassing, more profound, and therefore more
difficult. Nonetheless the conviction predominates that the lack of a criminal law
response to the aforementioned minor recurring crime results from the fact that
the judicial reform is a federal matter, and the conceptions of this question in the
two parts of the country are, very different and are, growing further apart. The
introduction of the Municipal Administrative Sanctions (MAS) therefore allowed
a community problem to be sidestepped. Although here it also concerns a federal
regulation; the introduction of the system allows for the introduction of manage-
rial, administrative fines (imposed by the municipality and town governing
boards) which emphasize different priorities in the different parts of the country .
The MAS-regulation therefore made it possible to resolve a potential community
conflict. Nevertheless it has created a field of tension. Whereas a criminal
approach is explicitly based on the principle of law enforcement, and the law
must be applied in an equal way in the entire country, the managerial MAS-
approach is based on the principle of public order. Such an approach leaves a lot
of space for local diversity and is barely oriented anymore on the principle of
equality. This approach therefore meets with increasing reservations.
Thirdly it must be concluded that a tendency towards the privatisation of the pub-
lic space in Flanders has taken place (Devroe et al., 2005). It includes large limou-
sines in closed car parks which claim the public street, illegal dumping, double
parking, advertising posters in the street, blocking public passages. These matters
provoke – entirely justifiably – a great deal of irritation. These problems are often
called ‘incivility’ problems. The most disturbing form of incivilities is the so-
called ‘annexation of the public space’.18 Here it is about a form of ‘group privati-
sation’ or, to link back to our earlier developed conceptual framework ‘privatisa-
tion by communities’: some even talk about ‘parochialisation’. Public markets and
squares are annexed by certain communities for a specific use and thereby
exclude those that are ‘strange’ (to their own community) ranging from the play
corners for the children, the benches of the third age, the stairs of the skaters, the
corner the dealers, to the hang-out spot of immigrant youngsters … However, the
openness and the public character of the annoyance or damage remains an
18. Like in the research of Innes, also in our research regarding (drugs) incivilities in Belgium ‘young
people’ were indicated as the most frequent category of ‘causers’ of incivilities (Decorte et al.,
46 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
important criterion for the definition of incivility. The term ‘disorder’ always
refers to a threat of the public order not of the private order. Which is disturbing
for some citizens and causes incivilities, although it is not always a problem for
the public order, and therefore not a problem that must be solved by the authori-
ties. The consequence of this has been an increasing occurrence of semi-public
and semi-private, in which the public order and public police have to make room
for private order and private police. Good community-oriented public police must
acquire and maintain their position in this situation. It can in absolutely no way
allow itself to become unnecessary and to be instrumentalised for the benefit of
certain communities at the expense of others, also: no go areas must be avoided
at all times. Here it concerns the implementation of a balanced policy, for the
recovery of public order which means: guaranteeing the free use of the public
space to everyone. Obviously this is a totally different interpretation of disorder
policing than the one resulting from the broken window thesis which Innes and
Jones justifiably criticise.
Innes argues that reassurance policing is necessary, not because of the stepping-
stone logic that results from the broken windows thesis, but because of the sym-
bolic signals that public opinion reads in visible physical and social incivilities or
risks and threats. Possibly his view is to a large extent motivated by the typical
British context, in which insecurity problems are still much higher on the policy
agenda than in Flanders, as a result of the dramatic terror attacks that the UK has
experienced (Innes, 2004a).
Fortunately Flanders has been spared this to a large degree. The safety problems
in Flanders therefore remain a much more rational policy fact, which is not char-
acterised by a type of public moral panic. This difference in context should not be
underestimated. It is not without reason that the idea of neighbourhood policing
is emphasised again in the UK and the focus is strongly on the area-bound char-
acter of it and also on the hard character of the local police work (Innes, 2005b).
The inspiration for this does not so much find its roots in well-understood Com-
munity (Oriented) Policing, but rather in the idea that the prevention of serious
forms of crime, pre-eminently the terrorism threat, starts with being known on a
daily basis in the field. That then means a police force close to the people.
In this British logic the population is an important supporter in the fight against
terrorism and they are more important to the police than the police are to the
population (Ponsaers, 2002). Such an attitude therefore threatens to end up in a
rather instrumental police conception regarding the population and to corrode
the service attitude of the police with respect to the communities (Innes, 2006a).
In this context it must be taken into account that the UK has a common law sys-
tem and a history of democratic policing, with specific emphasis on policing by
3 Community (Oriented) Policing Reassured: Significance within a Flemish Context 47
consent, visible uniformed police, minimum use of violence, … (Bowling and
Newburn, 2006).
It is thus logical that in such a context growing concern is noticeable for the nega-
tive influence which can arise from terrorist violence on the democratic order and
the routines of our society. Some people are of the opinion that Innes has encour-
aged a tendency in the UK to what is called sardonically ‘pepsodent’ police, with
the image of the wolf in sheepskin in the back of the mind. Yet we feel that this
view does not do justice to Innes’ theory. He emphasises the subjective and
micro-social-psychological processes of the feelings of insecurity among the Brit-
ish people. After all the UK has been heavily hit in the recent past and the popula-
tion has dealt with those terror attacks in a particularly dignified manner. It
seems fitting to explicitly take this into account in such circumstances. Metropol-
itan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair (2005) summarises the current challenge
as follows: ‘How do we balance the demands of serious criminal investigation
with the need for presence and reassurance in public spaces?’
The Flemish context is different, which should not mean that we do not have to
take terrorism threats into account. Nevertheless, in our opinion such an eventu-
ality will not lead to the erosion of the current Belgian COP-conception (Pon-
saers, 2001) by having to anticipate more expressly on possibility of such a risk.
The Belgian COP-variant is explicitly problem-oriented, which means that one
aims at the problems which are concretely under discussion. It concerns a no-
nonsense attitude, with the, in our opinion, correct, sensible emphasis. A proac-
tive attitude, which a COP vision also always implies, can therefore not allow pos-
sible threats with which our country could be faced to dominate.
In that sense one can wonder whether it is advisable to so dominantly orientate
the Belgian National Security plan on the so-called ‘threat image’ that is set by the
federal police. Because of this there is the risk that the objective and subjective
insecurity problems – which people concretely experience – disappear into the
background in favour of threats they do not experience as problematic. Of course
prioritising policy is always a balancing exercise between locally experienced
needs on the one hand and national security concerns on the other (Vandevoorde
et al., 2003). Local consultation and management cannot be absolute. But in our
opinion the risk of instability in our country lies elsewhere, particularly where
organisational interests of one component of the ‘Integrated Police forces, struc-
tured at two levels’ drives the federal level to give the ‘supra local, serious, organ-
ised and complex crime types’, with the terror threat at the top of the list, a more
prominent place than is necessary in a Problem (Oriented) Policing concept.
For us RP is a very useful supplement to the Belgian variant of Community (Ori-
ented) Policing.
We have become more aware than before that we must leave the overly-sim-
plistic broken windows thesis, and that European reality is really different
from this one which is being forced on us from the American continent. This
48 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
consequently implies that COP policing must not limit itself to a mere disor-
der policing strategy.
It also teaches us that local must not be reduced to a small is beautiful doc-
trine, but that the Belgian COP-police, more than ever before, must take the
layers of society, the great diversity of scales and communities, into account,
and that for this reason the structuring of a new police force on various levels
is a necessary, subsidiary fact.
Essential also is the message of Martin Innes to continue to dovetail as closely
as possible with the concrete experience and perception frameworks of the
participants in our society, even when these seem disproportional or trivial to
police and judicial authorities. COP must take people seriously, RP teaches us.
This is possibly the most important lesson which we must learn from the rich
body of thought that our British colleagues have developed over the past years.
We must be careful not to consider RP as a new, replacement police model for
Community (Oriented) Policing (Innes, 2006b). The large merit of Innes and his
colleagues is to keep the COP-dynamic lively, and to not freeze the COP-vision in
a rigid straightjacket. After all a good police vision is one that lives and trans-
forms according to societal changes. Nevertheless there is a risk that introducing
a new concept like RP draws the attention away from the actual core discussion in
the police landscape.
The trend that Bowling and Newborn (2006) indicate is more fundamental in
nature and in our opinion it deserves explicit attention. The security agenda is
becoming more and more hybrid in nature, and contains internal, external, mili-
tary, criminal and civil threats. In the future the legitimacy of the police will hinge
on their positioning as a player in the global sphere of security. This challenge is
such that in the future it will influence the task implementation of the police, at
least such as we know it at present, and will raise important governance ques-
tions with regard to democratic control and accountability.
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Media, 1 (12), 15-22.
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50 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
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technological revolution and the transformation of public order]. Panopticon, 21 (2),
Ponsaers, P. (2001). Reading about “community (oriented) policing” and police models.
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4 Disorder Policing and Community Needs.
‘Revising’ Broken Windows Theory
Bas van Stokkom
Dutch police surveys show that citizens find issues such as ‘drunkards on the
streets’ and ‘drug-related troubles’ more threatening than issues like ‘violent
offences’. When asked which situations result in feelings of insecurity, the item
‘places where juveniles hang around’ is mentioned most often. In British Crime
Surveys the item ‘young people hanging around’ also takes the lead (Wood,
2004). Apparently citizens – in certain circumstances and under particular condi-
tions – are more sensitive to incivilities and disorderly behaviour than to crime
(Innes, 2004). Dutch citizens also take the view that the police should fight disor-
der problems more effectively. The police should be more visible in neighbour-
hoods (Elffers and De Jong, 2004).
How to interpret these patterns? Theorists like Skogan (1990) and Roché (2002)
point out that accumulated disorder problems such as public drinking, group loi-
tering and school disruption give the impression that the local community lacks
moral consensus and neighbours cannot be trusted. Incidental disorderly situa-
tions are not annoying, nor are they found to be morally objectionable. But the
high frequency of these situations makes them disturbing. A mass of incivilities
may unsettle everyday life and makes them unacceptable. They might even sug-
gest that society itself has been eroded.
If insecurity feelings are correlated so strongly with neighbourhood disorder, the
police and local security policies must be affected. Whereas Dutch figures con-
cerning burglary and theft have been dropping for several years, vandalism fig-
ures are still rising (Wittebrood and Nieuwbeerta, 2006). Some disorder prob-
lems, such as persistent antisocial behaviour, are at the centre of public concern.
For these and other reasons Dutch urban policies try to improve the security and
quality of life, especially in poor and vulnerable neighbourhoods (Van Stokkom,
In this respect reassessing the broken windows theory may be promising. The
authors of that theory, Wilson and Kelling, stressed that order maintenance is
actually the core of police-work. In the criminological world the theory was
severely criticised, notably because the ‘root causes of crime’ were neglected;
54 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
moreover the theory came to be identified with New York City zero tolerance
policing. Without doubt the broken windows theory accelerated theorizing on
policing. But as a result of over-politicised discussions several convincing ideas
had no real bearing on theoretical innovations concerning police strategies. Some
potentially fruitful aspects of the theory were neglected. To find out its real value I
will pass over the mystified case of New York and make an inventory of various
research evaluations on controlling and fighting disorder.19
‘Disorder policing’ may serve as an umbrella for various approaches to enhance
security and quality of life in problematic urban areas, from aggressive
approaches like zero tolerance in New York to approaches that stress consultation
and cooperation with citizens and professionals. However I will claim that the
principles of disorder policing are only met when police programmes correspond
with some core ideas which were formulated by the theorists of broken windows:
police strategies should be attuned to the ‘collective needs’ of the residents, whilst
the neighbourhood defines what the ‘appropriate level of public order’ should be.
An example of this kind of disorder policing is the alternative police programme
in Chicago where citizens are invited to participate in a collective process of indi-
cating and prioritising crime and disorder problems. Another example is the
recently implemented reassurance policing programme in England in which
local ‘signal events’ are collectively discussed and dealt with. Can these pro-
grammes give an impetus to bring peace and order in vulnerable and problematic
urban areas?
So this chapter outlines broader developments; reassurance policing is viewed as
‘only’ one of the variants of disorder policing. I will first deal with the theory of
broken windows policing. After sketching the core principles, the main criticisms
are explicated. It is argued that the participative role of residents in defining order
is a fruitful idea, and that advocates and critics of the theory share the view that
‘disorder’ is a theoretically relevant concept, and that disorder can have many det-
rimental effects, such as lowering neighbourhood status. After this reinterpreta-
tion of broken windows theory, the Chicago alternative police strategy and the
English reassurance-programme are described briefly. As mentioned, these pro-
grammes make considerable efforts to consult residents when it comes to assess-
ing and prioritising disorder problems. In the last sections I will discuss in which
respects disorder policing could renew the theory and practice of Dutch commu-
nity policing. I will deal with some complicating factors but I will claim that a
‘politics of order’ offers a more fruitful perspective for policing than ‘classic’ crim-
19. The New York success story relies mainly on political symbolism. Many big cities in the United
States had similar crime drops as New York. Some of these cities, for example San Diego, did not
use aggressive strategies of order maintenance like New York did. While in San Diego the man-
power of the police force increased by 6 percent between 1990 and 1995, the number of New York
police officers rose in that period by nearly 40 percent. And while in New York – still in the same
period – the number of arrests rose sharply (for instance twice as many drugs-related arrests), the
number of arrests in San Diego fell by 15 percent (Greene, 1999). This suggests that New York was
far more successful in selling the radical decline of crime (Punch 2006; Manning 2001).
4 Disorder Policing and Community Needs. ‘Revising’ Broken Windows Theory 55
inological and law enforcement perspectives, especially in marginalised neigh-
4.1 What is wrong with broken windows theory?
4.1.1 The theory
In their now classic article in the Atlantic Monthly (1982) Wilson and Kelling for-
mulated their thesis as to how disorderly behaviour attracts crime and causes
neighbourhood decay. Residents tend to withdraw when they notice that antiso-
cial behaviour gets the upper hand and the surroundings are dirty and depraved.
They are not prepared to exercise informal control. ‘Vandalism can occur any-
where once communal barriers – the sense of mutual regard and the obligations
of civility – are lowered by actions that seem to signal that “no one cares”.’ Defiant
youth groups claim the streets and get more opportunities to commit crime. Con-
sequently, neighbourhoods run into a negative spiral: predatory troublemakers
from outside the neighbourhood are invited to join unruly insiders. Thus, signs
of social and physical decay would trigger a ‘criminal invasion’: ‘serious street
crime flourishes in areas in which disorderly behaviour goes unchecked.’ Con-
versely, restored social networks and clean streets would re-establish informal
social control and keep crime at a distance.
When commenting on the broken windows theory this supposed causal relation-
ship between disorder and serious crime (like assaults and robbery) gets the most
attention. But the theory comprises aspects that are regularly underexposed. One
of these core aspects is the idea that the prime task of policing – its raison d’être –
is regulating public behaviour and maintaining social order. Wilson and Kelling
stress that detecting and apprehending criminals is only a means to an end, not
an end in itself. The objective is order, an ambivalent concept to be sure, but a
concept that residents often recognise and interpret in common ways. Unlike dis-
cussions about legal rules there are no general standards to settle arguments
about order and disorder. A judge would be powerless, but the police officer is
forced to interpret disorder problems and to make a choice.
The authors point out that earlier police generations concentrated their work on
order maintenance. Only in the sixties did attention shift to law enforcement and
crime fighting. The relation between order maintenance and crime prevention
faded into the background. To protect individual rights and prevent stigmatisa-
tion the police were not to focus on the behaviour of, for instance, beggars,
vagrants, drunks and unruly youth. Rather, disreputable behaviour that ‘harms
no one’ like public drinking and prostitution should be decriminalized to end the
‘overreach’ of criminal law.
56 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
Wilson and Kelling criticise the idea that the police should stick to law enforce-
ment. The police should strengthen the informal social-control mechanisms of
‘natural communities’ in order to minimise fear in public places. ‘Law enforce-
ment, per se, is no answer. A gang can weaken or destroy a community by stand-
ing about in a menacing fashion and speaking rudely to passers-by without break-
ing the law.’ Arresting some mobsters wouldn’t help because the remaining
youngsters keep on claiming street. According to Wilson and Kelling: ‘If an arrest
is the only recourse for the police, the residents’ fears will go unassuaged.’ For
that reason the authors suggest that chasing away gangs would be more effective.
Doing nothing would demoralise the neighbourhood: ‘Failing to do anything
about a score of drunks or a hundred vagrants may destroy an entire community.’
Policing disorder, Wilson and Kelling stress, should be congruent with ‘commu-
nity needs’. The police should protect the community, not only individuals. Crime
statistics and victim surveys only determine individual harm, but do not measure
community losses.
The problem is that harm is interpreted solely in individual terms. What’s good
for the individual, is also supposed to be good for the community. But some indi-
viduals tolerate behaviour that is intolerable for many others, and the reactions of
these others – fear, withdrawal, flight – may ultimately make matters worse for
These views return in Kelling and Coles’ study Fixing Broken Windows (1996).
Citizens are chiefly concerned about daily threatening behaviour and ‘in your
face’ indignities. These experiences may be more detrimental to a neighbourhood
than incidental crimes, especially when the social fabric is affected. Shopkeepers
can manage some robberies, but not persistent intimidations. For that reason,
contextual problems that affect the local community rather than incidents should
direct police action. The police should take care that community life, conceived as
‘preventive capital’, remains intact.
Kelling and Coles argue in favour of a neighbourhood oriented crime prevention,
a kind of community policing that comprises the following aspects (1996: 158/9):
a broad policing function: keeping the peace and restoring public order;
reliance of police on citizens to get information about neighbourhood prob-
eschewing general tactics, like preventive patrol and rapid response to calls for
service, in favour of specific tactics, targeted on particular problems, in coop-
eration with citizens.
Crime prevention is the prime task, which calls for visible and authoritative police
action. The authors stress that order maintenance is risky because there is often
no legal backup. Residents may object to police decisions. At the same time order
maintenance often relies on an aggressive style, because timely intervention in
disorder problems requires ‘hands-on’ approaches.
4 Disorder Policing and Community Needs. ‘Revising’ Broken Windows Theory 57
4.1.2 The theory criticised
Without doubt the broken windows theory is innovative, simply because attention
is guided away from the ‘garden variety crime’ that generally occupies the mind
of criminologists. The theory stresses contextual factors, and may be viewed as a
theory of urban demoralisation or urban decay. The chief innovation, or one
could say, provocation, is that the root causes of crime (poverty, racism, bad hous-
ing etc) do not play a role. The solution for urban disorder problems lies in the
hands of the police and the residents themselves.
These suppositions of the theory have met with considerable criticism. Particu-
larly the presumed causal relationship between social and physical disorder and
serious crime seems to be erroneous. The claim that decay and dereliction must
lead to crime seems to be untenable. In his impressive longitudinal study of Bal-
timore city areas Ralph Taylor (2001) found that neighbourhood status and pov-
erty are far more relevant to explain crime than disorderly behaviour and incivili-
ties. And after meticulously studying Chicago neighbourhoods Sampson and
Raudenbusch (1999) concluded that social disorder and crime are both symp-
toms of deeper social and economic lags in development. Thus the sociological
root factors remain forcefully in place.
Besides, there is too much variation in the range of incivilities. In this respect the
findings of Maxfield (1987) are highly important: incivilities do not influence
crime directly, but nonetheless influence what residents believe about crime
(overestimating crime and victimisation risks). He specified that some incivilities
do not influence fear of crime, others do influence some groups in certain condi-
tions. Drunkards and beggars on the street are highly related, street litter and
graffiti (obvious signs that ‘no one cares’) are not related (1987: 33).
The repressive tone in which broken windows is articulated, evoked much resist-
ance. The authors suggest that ‘chasing away’ the homeless and youth-gangs
would offer a solution. They do not seem to reckon with displacement (and thus
postponing finding solutions) and seem to neglect respectful treatment of citi-
zens. The proposal to identify neighbourhoods at the tipping point, ‘where public
order is deteriorating but not unreclaimable’, gives the impression that some
neighbourhoods are so crime ridden that they are actually given up.
The views of George Kelling, who presented himself as the main protagonist of
broken windows, contain many ambiguities. On the one hand he moved away
from the rhetoric of zero tolerance and ‘street sweepings’. In an interview he
expressed that zero tolerance is an ‘illegitimate child’ of fixing broken windows.
The phrase is a ‘political sound bite’ and antithetical to the highly discretionary
activities that broken windows implies (2002: 129). On the other hand he advo-
cates intrusive and aggressive police action. Moreover, in Do Police Matter? (2001)
Kelling and his colleague Sousa jr, applaud New York police strategies and the
tens of thousands of arrests for ‘quality of life’-offences that are involved. Mat-
58 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
thews could be called a proponent of ‘continually recycling the same marginalised
population through the criminal justice system’ (Matthews, 1992: 47). It is hard
to understand why Kelling identifies so strongly with New York policing. Depart-
ing from some basic ideas in the original broken window article – ‘law enforce-
ment, per se, is no answer’; reinforcing informal social control – this strategy
would be no option. So Kelling’s line of thought is ambiguous: arresting huge
number of minor offenders, and giving priority to order maintenance above law
4.1.3 Convincing aspects of the theory
Nevertheless the views of the proponents and critics do converge more than one
might expect. Like Taylor, Sampson and Raudenbusch (1999: 637) recognise the
theoretical relevance of disorder. First, perceived disorder correlates strongly with
fear of victimisation (Taylor, 2001). Perceived disorder also correlates with higher
levels of distrust of police officers and other local professionals. Residents take
the view that their problems are not taken seriously and they feel abandoned by
public organisations (Skogan, 1990; Roché, 2002).
Secondly, when disorder gains momentum, residents lose confidence in their
neighbourhood; they withdraw or move to other parts of town. Dissatisfaction
and feelings of insecurity are the driving forces behind patterns of neighbour-
hood decay. They determine school choice, investments in properties, and trans-
actions on the housing market; ultimately they determine neighbourhood status
and patterns of migration. None of the main critics of broken windows theory,
not even Harcourt (2001), deny the relevance of disorder for neighbourhood
dynamics like moving decisions. In terms of Sampson and Raudenbusch: physi-
cal and social disorder comprise highly visible cues to which residents respond:
disorder problems ‘turn out to be important for understanding migration pat-
terns, investment by business and overall neighborhood viability’. For these rea-
sons disorder could indirectly have an effect on crime (Sampson and Rauden-
busch, 1999: 637).
Thirdly, the broken windows thesis simply suggests that disorder gives more
opportunities for crime. Harcourt (2001) confirms that some groups of offenders
are sensitive to signs of weakend citizenship. As stated, the argument that graf-
fiti, street litter, vandalism or rowdy behaviour would elicit serious crime is not
convincing. However, there seems to be a strong correlation between persistent
antisocial behaviour and crime (Burney, 2005; Koffman, 2006). Thus one could
agree with Kelling and Coles (1996: 243) that policing persistent antisocial behav-
iour gives information about the hard-core ’6 percent’ of youthful offenders. The
high visibility of police in areas characterised by high levels of disorder could also
send a message to ‘wannabes’ and those committing marginal crimes that their
actions will no longer be tolerated.
4 Disorder Policing and Community Needs. ‘Revising’ Broken Windows Theory 59
But regardless of these potentially preventive effects, there are good reasons to
stimulate disorder policing. The ‘classicviewpoint that security should be pro-
moted primarily through fighting ‘structural factors’ like poverty, illiteracy, addic-
tion etc. – the ‘root causes of crime’ – remains conclusive in the long run, but
does not offer clear answers. Of course improving education and social policies
does strengthen social competences, but disorder policing – aiming at the imme-
diate goal of neighbourhood stability – remains relevant psychologically in terms
of restoring trust. It safeguards everyday social contacts, regular school attend-
ance, keeping shops open, repairing properties, etc. In other words, residents
need order maintenance to prevent exit-options like avoiding streets or moving
Why not build upon the concept of ‘collective efficacy’ that Sampson and Rauden-
busch have developed? The concept points to ‘the linkage of cohesion and mutual
trust with shared expectations for intervening in support of neighbourhood social
control’ (1999: 612). The concept incorporates both a static ‘mutual trust among
neighbours’ and a more action-oriented ‘willingness to intervene for the common
good’ dimension. This concept is clearly empirically stronger than the broken
windows theory in explaining the connection between disorder, crime and neigh-
bourhood problems (Hancock, 2001). But the question is whether it can provide
guidance in everyday situations. The theory is coupled with deep-seated urban
variables such as ‘concentrated disadvantage’. The reduction of social-economic
disadvantages seems to be a distant prospect and presupposes radical social-eco-
nomic policies (Bottoms, 2006: 268). The question as to which ‘here and now
interventions could disempower disorder and crime seems to be more urgent. In
short, in vulnerable neighbourhoods where collective efficacy is most needed, it is
less available, and also very difficult to realise. This demanding type of social cap-
ital is hard to develop.
Fighting neighbourhood disorder requires active and sometimes intrusive polic-
ing strategies. These strategies contain a risk that is often mentioned: they are
concentrated on marginal groups as street kids, beggars and prostitutes. How can
negative implications for these groups be prevented? Is there a type of disorder
policing which may protect these groups? Perhaps radical forms of consulting the
neighbourhood population offer a way out.
4.2 Varieties of disorder policing
Disorder policing can be viewed as an umbrella for various policing strategies to
counteract disorder and ‘quality of life’-problems, ranging from aggressive strate-
gies like zero tolerance policing in New York City to more responsive strategies
which focus on cooperation with other local professionals and citizens. It seems
however more logical to limit disorder policing to programmes that take the
‘community needs’ of residents as their starting point, exactly because order is so
difficult to define. According to Wilson and Kelling the neighbourhood indicates
60 Part II Reassurance Policing in Different Contexts
what the ‘appropriate level of public order’ should be. So disorder policing aims
to make use of the ‘preventive capital’ of citizens, not arresting massive numbers
of citizens for ‘quality of life’ offences as is the case in New York.
What is the ‘appropriate level of public order’? Wilson and Kelling stress that
‘order’ is an ambiguous term and difficult to assess. In Disorder and Decline
(1990) Wesley Skogan reflected further on the problematic nature of determining
order. In former times when the police exuded more authority and communities
were more homogeneous, citizens did not specify order in contested ways. But
nowadays every social or ethnic group within a neighbourhood seems to have its
own view. It is difficult to reach agreement on questions such as what are threat-
ening or depraved situations, and when should one intervene in street conflicts.
What one citizen experiences as ‘nuisance’, is ‘freedom’ to another. In heteroge-
neous neighbourhoods neither the police nor citizen-organisations can claim that
their vision on order is authoritative and is readily complied with. In these condi-