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MARGIN Report Summary

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

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - MARGIN (Tackle Insecurity in Marginalized Areas)

Reporting period: 2016-05-01 to 2017-04-30

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, whose acronym stands for "Tackle Insecurity in Marginalized Areas", coordinated by the University of Barcelona 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 faced: Why do people feel insecure? As such, it is our strong belief that in Western societies, where crime and victimization are relatively uncommon events (compared to other parts of the world), fear of crime and the perception of insecurity become a pressing issue as urgent as crime itself.

The MARGIN project implemented a mixed methodology and its specific objectives were to:

1. Compare and analyse two different sources – official police statistics and survey-based data on crime and victimizations – across the five countries involved in the project;
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;
4. Develop an anthropological fieldwork to explore how citizens assess their own security.

Over the course of the two years of its lifetime (2015-2017), the MARGIN project provided a substantive contribution to a deeper understanding of the root causes of insecurity in contemporary societies. The results of the multi-method approach implemented in five EU countries show that insecurity arises as a very heterogeneous concept that needs to be considered in conjunction with a range of other aspects including personal wellbeing, social integration and the characteristics of places in which people live.

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 was divided into three main phases.

During the first phase the team collected secondary data with the aim of comparing existing crime and victimization surveys and official statistics on crime in the five countries involved in the project. The statistical treatment of the information gathered permitted to calculate 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) as well as to turn to a series of regression models that enabled us to test a range of demographic and socio-economic variables in terms of their association with different aspects of perceived insecurity. It was found that the factors that impact on an individual’s feelings of insecurity fall into three distinct categories: victimization, individual characteristics (sex, age, health and economic status) and neighbourhood characteristics.

During the second phase of the project a Delphi method was implemented in order to inform the design of a new thematic questionnaire (i.e. the MARGIN questionnaire) that was used to carry out a large-scale survey in Italy among a stratified sample of around 15,428 respondents (CATI system). Consistent with previous research, the results emerging from the analysis of the MARGIN survey revealed that sex and age were shown to be strong predictors of feelings of insecurity. At the same time, the survey revealed the incidence of health and financial precariousness and self-perceived stigmatization on people’s perception of insecurity. In particular, our findings support the idea that people’s concerns about the deterioration of their health and/or economic situation coupled with the perception of being looked out upon by others due to religious beliefs, sexual orientation or ethnic background may, in turn, increase people’s feeling of insecurity.

During the third phase covered the partnership carried out the anthropological fieldwork in five urban contexts in the EU (Barcelona, Budapest, London, Milan and Paris). The following data collection technique will be performed over the coming months in each urban scenario: in-depth interviews (N = 50), focus groups (N = 10) and participant observations (over 6 months). The research material produced during the fieldwork highlights the incompleteness of a strictly criminological definition of urban insecurity. The relation between objective risks (deviant actions and incivility) and the subjective worries of the citizens has become very complex and controversial. The constant and noteworthy renewal of the socio-demographic composition of the neighbourhoods, the transformation of the economy and the local businesses, the conflicts among people who have different access to public spaces, are all intertwined. They generate a diffuse sensation of lack of control over one’s own daily life in the urban settings. The concept of urban safety is actually more complex than typically understood theoretically and politically. Not only does it strictly pertain to public order, law enforcement, crime control, but it also includes notions such as urban, physical and social quality, in other words, the wellbeing in the city and in social relations.

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 effort produced in the framework of the MARGIN project was oriented towards the design and implementation of policies targeting people’s perceived (in)security through an in-depth measurement and analysis of the determinants of insecurity. Identifying and analysing factors that may determine variations in terms of perceived insecurity among citizens does not simply mean gathering new knowledge but, more importantly, recognizing a number of risk factors that could be addressed by policymakers in order to tackle insecurity more effectively. In an attempt to foster a total change of how the data and statistics about security are understood and used by policymakers, the results obtained feed into current practices for insecurity assessment and are expected to generate a direct impact on public policies. Drawing from the empirical material collected, urban security emerges as a complex matter that requires diversified actions and tools in order to address the countless number of factors involved. The most important are: the geography of the place, the urban model, the demographic changes, the cultural and religious differences, community membership and cohesion, the role of the associations, the concrete opportunity of local policies, the situations that cause discomfort and intolerance. At the same time, our results support the idea that people’s perception of insecurity is increasingly linked to social causes. Accordingly, there is the need to extend the semantic scope of the concept of “(in)security” to a series of aspects pertaining to the quality of urban life, especially the social and economic dimensions. Even though the perception of insecurity is related to the occurrences of deviant and delinquent phenomena, it is actually more directly related to social exclusion, changes pertaining to urban and architectural aspects (transformation and/or decaying of structures) as well as the social morphology of the city. All these elements should be taken into consideration prior to plan and structure social policies.

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