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MARGIN Report Summary

Project ID: 653004
Funded under: H2020-EU.3.7.

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - MARGIN (Tackle Insecurity in Marginalized Areas)

Reporting period: 2015-05-01 to 2016-04-30

Summary of the context and overall objectives of the project

Findings from EU-funded research projects on crime and deviance outlined a paradox: while according to police recorded data crime in Europe is decreasing, survey-based data demonstrate that people feel more insecure. The MARGIN project (Tackle Insecurity in Marginalized Areas), coordinated by the University of Barcelona and funded by the European Union under the Horizon 2020 Programme, offers a comparative analysis of five countries (Spain, Italy, France, Hungary and the UK) to explain the reasons for the mismatch between crime and perceived insecurity. The conceptualization of insecurity adopted by the research team involved in the project is multidisciplinary and heterogeneous, as well as the problem that we face: Why do people feel insecure?

The project addresses four key dimensions: the objective dimension of insecurity (referring to the actual diffusion of crime as recorded by police forces); the subjective dimension (focusing on personal, emotional, cognitive or behavioural reactions that people have in relation to the fear of being a victim of crime); the socio-geographic dimension (also known as “neighbourhood effects”, which refers to the characteristics of the place where people live); and the socio-economic dimension (analysing the social consequences of poverty and social exclusion on perceived security). Based on this conceptual framework, the underlying hypothesis of the project is that public perceptions of insecurity can be explained by different socio-economic and socio-geographic conditions that affect subjective perception. As such, our goal is to provide policymakers with evidence-based tools for creating and evaluating targeted strategies aiming at the reduction of insecurity among different social groups. The quality and effectiveness of the project’s activities is ensured by the participation within the Consortium of some of the leading institutions in the field of crime victimization surveys (CVS) and crime statistics.

The MARGIN project implements a mixed methodology with a view to achieving a better understanding of the root causes of insecurity and fear of crime at the European level and its specific objectives are to:

1. Compare and analyse two different sources: official police and criminal justice data (police recorded crime, or PRC) and findings from crime and victimizations surveys that are usually treated separately;
2. Analyse the relationship between socio-economic inequalities, victimization and crime, examining how victimization impacts upon and is experienced differently by a range of groups and individuals;
3. Investigate the influence of neighbourhood characteristics and social composition on public and personal perceptions of insecurity. Throughout the research, the MARGIN project favours the neighbourhood dimension as the primary scale of analysis since the specific surroundings where people live might contribute to different forms of exclusion and risk perception;
4. Develop an anthropological fieldwork (in-depth interviews, participant observation and focus groups) to explore how citizens assess their own security. By directly involving citizens in the project, the objective is to analyse the social construction of crime-related issues in order to offer a deeper understanding of victimization in contemporary society with a primary focus on marginalized urban areas;
5. Evaluate the various political and policy responses to victims of crime and victimization in general, as well as to assess the role of CVSs in supporting policymakers with targeted intervention in the field of security.

By achieving these five objectives, the coordination activities of the MARGIN project are intended to make a substantive contribution to the creation of sustainable networks and modes of cooperation between leading EU researchers and stakeholders in the fields of crime and victimization studies.

Work performed from the beginning of the project to the end of the period covered by the report and main results achieved so far

The project is divided into three main phases.

During the first phase, between May 2015 and February 2016, the team collected secondary data with the aim of comparing existing crime and victimization surveys (CVS) and official statistics on crime (PRC) in the five countries involved in the project: Spain, France, Italy, Hungary and the UK. Contextual factors have also been addressed in order to conceptualize the socio-economic and socio-geographic determinants of the perception of insecurity. The main result at the end of this opening phase was the State-of-the-Art Review of crime trends in the above-mentioned five countries both in terms of police recorded crime and self-reported victimization. Furthermore, we generated the “MARGIN database” enabling a comparative analysis across five European countries for identifying a range of demographic, socio-economic, and socio-geographic determinants of insecurity. The statistical treatment of the information gathered in the MARGIN database permitted the achievement of the following goals:

• Calculating the “dark figure” of crime (i.e. the amount of crime that exists in the general population but is not reported to or recorded by police and is thus not reflected in official police statistics) in the five countries involved in the project;
• Analysing correlations in the MARGIN database with respect to a range of indicators of insecurity;
• Developing a classification of neighbourhoods according to their degree of insecurity;
• Identifying factors associated with perceived insecurity.

The second phase of the project focuses on the identification of factors for assessing insecurity. A structured method based on surveys that involved a panel of 12 experts (Delphi method) was implemented in order to select a set of survey questions designed to assess the impact of insecurity on different demographic and socio-economic groups. The results from the Delphi method informed the design of the first version of the MARGIN survey that will be presented to the Consortium Meeting in Barcelona (June 2016) for the approval of the Scientific and Technical Core Group of the project. The MARGIN survey will be tested in Italy among a stratified sample of around 15.400 respondents (CATI system) throughout 2016. Simultaneously, it will be translated into 6 languages and performed in the remaining countries (around 100 respondents in each scenario).

The third phase covers the period between April 2016 and March 2017, during which the partnership will carry out the anthropological fieldwork in five urban contexts in the EU (Barcelona, Budapest, London, Milan and Paris). Prior to the data collection which officially began on May 2nd, 2016, the researchers involved attended a training week (from the 11th to the 16th of April 2016) organized by the coordinator of the project in Barcelona in order to establish a standardized framework for the collection of data and to review the procedures for mitigating ethical risks associated with the fieldwork. The idea was to enable the researchers to manage their work themselves, independently but in a coordinated fashion, and sharing a common work-plan. The following data collection technique will be performed over the coming months in each urban scenario: in-depth interviews (50), focus groups (10) and participant observations (over 6 months). The objective is to analyse and compare perceived insecurity in two neighbourhoods with opposite characteristics (one relatively affluent and another relatively marginalized). As such, the implementation of these activities guarantees a qualitative dimension to the project.

Progress beyond the state of the art and expected potential impact (including the socio-economic impact and the wider societal implications of the project so far)

The MARGIN project was designed to provide grounded knowledge allowing for a deeper understanding of the root causes of insecurity in contemporary society. As such, this coordination and support action addresses the “Secure Society” Challenge as set out in the Work Programme adopted by the European Commission in December 2013. It is our strong belief that crime-related issues need to be tackled through an interdisciplinary and integrated approach that can contribute to increased efficiency and efficacy in the management of security policies.

Thanks to the work carried out so far, the partnership has been able to achieve some promising results that could have a positive impact on the three target audiences of the project: policymakers, researchers and citizens. The creation of a database for a “smarter aggregation” of crime-related information allowing for a comparison of objective measures of insecurity (i.e. police recorded crime) with subjective ones (i.e. victimization data) stands out as a powerful outcome that can be further exploited by stakeholders. Moreover, by performing a statistical analysis of the data included in the MARGIN database, the partnership has been able to identify a comprehensive set of indicators influencing perceptions of insecurity in five EU countries.

The Consortium is confident that the results they obtain in the coming year will have an effect on public policies, academia and civil society. The project is expected to make an impact at different levels by disseminating and supporting the exploitation of its outcomes, most notably: the MARGIN survey and the results of the quantitative and qualitative data collection.

At the most basic level, it should be stressed that despite the huge potential of crime victimization surveys (CVS) as a tool enabling the assessment of crime and its impact on society, they are currently barely exploited. CVSs are not generally used to assess the unequal impact of crime-related issues on different social groups. With a view toward filling this gap, the partnership has been developing a high-profile survey for the analysis of fear of crime and victimization. The MARGIN survey has great potential for at least three reasons: it has been designed and validated by an international panel of 12 experts in the field of victimization studies; the questionnaire consists of a set of items enabling the assessment of how demographic, socio-economic and socio-geographic variables influence public and personal perception of insecurity; and, more importantly, the results of the MARGIN survey (with a sample size of around 15.400 respondents) could be used in further research related to crime and functions as a powerful instrument for planning and evaluating policies aimed at reducing insecurity among targeted demographic groups. From this perspective, the project is particularly concerned with enhancing the socio-political potential of CVSs for orienting policymakers in the field of security.

Furthermore, results from quantitative research will be contrasted with the qualitative data collected in order to identify potentially overlooked factors influencing insecurity perception. A study at the national level will be carried out to explore the socio-cultural dimension of insecurity by employing three qualitative and complementary methods of data collection (in-depth interviews, participant observation and focus groups) in selected areas of Barcelona, Budapest, London, Milan and Paris. The results arising from the anthropological fieldwork are intended to explore how ethno-cultural specificities are related to other population parameters such as gender, age, occupation, etc., with the objective of informing social protection policies that may be used to mitigate increased fear of crime and the risk of victimization.

As such, our project is expected to have a direct impact on public policies as the knowledge and results provided can feed into current practices for insecurity assessment. Through its research findings deeper insights will be gained into the potential applicability of prevention programmes with victims, offenders and citizens at large. Further objectives include supporting victims and/or family members in recovery from the consequences of what they have experienced, by providing them with information on the causes and consequences of victimization experiences. CVSs are important tools for capturing the general public’s experiences with crime and their interaction with the justice system. They can help to determine and assess citizens’ expectations and the degree of satisfaction with police services. At the very least, public trust and confidence in institutions, especially among marginalized groups, are vital for a democratic society as they lead to an overall improvement in citizens’ compliance with the law.

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