Political Culture as a Basis for Concepts of Local Security and Crime Prevention. A Comparison of the Conditions in Germany and the Netherlands

By Schulze, Verena; van den Brink, Henning | German Policy Studies, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Political Culture as a Basis for Concepts of Local Security and Crime Prevention. A Comparison of the Conditions in Germany and the Netherlands


Schulze, Verena, van den Brink, Henning, German Policy Studies


Abstract

In the present discussion about the actual and supposed necessity of new concepts of local security, one fact is often neglected: the success of these concepts strongly depends--apart from the legal and institutional circumstances, the amount of resources and the qualification of the staff involved--on the adaptation of these strategies to the respective national political culture. How pronounced is the citizens' need for safety and order? Which role, in the people's opinion, should the state play with regard to the maintenance and restoration of safety and order? Do the governmental institutions measure up to the citizens' expectations concerning security and does the population have trust in these institutions to fulfil the task properly? Are the citizens willing to participate or do they even wish to? What are their conditions for participation? We will analyse and compare the national shapings of the political culture of Germany and the Netherlands with regard to four distinctive elements in the following article: the comprehensions of state, democracy, citizenship and safety and order. The aim of this article is to demonstrate the relevance of these elements with respect to concepts of local security using an example of a two-nations-comparison.

1. Introduction

Since the 1990s the topic of local security in many countries of continental Europe has been increasingly brought up for discussion. Moreover, it has been discussed under different circumstances. Due to its tight connection to reforms of public administration and the police--with the key words governance, new public management and Neue Steuerungsmodelle--the issue has gained growing attention. The municipal level as a locality characterized by a multitude of social and economic problems is especially becoming a matter of great importance. Security becomes a local task, local crime prevention even advances towards a key issue of rehabilitating and integrating local politics (Pratorius, 2002: p. 76). Certain incidents which reduce the quality of life of the local citizens and spoil the appearance of the community (graffiti, neglected public areas, insufficiently lighted spaces, etc.) lead to rising pressure to meet the expectations of the citizens and, additionally, to a growing interest of the community to improve the local security situation.

Accordingly, the concepts of fighting and preventing crime receive more of a local focus. The key words community policing and community crime prevention stand for a development within which local security strategies undergo a completely new form of articulation and acceptance. Behind that, many different measures are concealed in order to stop the rising fear of crime and/or crime rates. Just as heterogeneous as the extensive measures are the institutional conditions, the practical implementation, the personnel lineup, the thematic emphasis and, finally, the volume of resources. The focus on the cooperation of local participants in particular is new in these developing arrangements. Crime prevention committees are institutions which mainly initiate, support and reinforce inter-institutional cooperation. Several forms of cooperation exist between the police, municipal authorities, private security services and citizens as well. Many of these projects in Europe, however, are still in a testing phase.

How successful the few, already established and institutionalised cooperation projects actually are--with respect to the fight against and the prevention of crime, disorder, incivilities and fear of crime--can often not be statistically proven. Scientific evaluations are rare and often face great methodical problems. From nation to nation there are at times very different political-administrative and legal-institutional conditions, so that the scope of certain models and measures is a priori limited and a one-to-one-transformation is only rarely possible.

One important factor often neglected in the discussion on the transference of particular strategies, in some countries successfully applied, and their prediction of success, is the respective national political culture. …

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