Perception Matters - Citizen Safety
Outbreaks of citizens' perceptions of insecurity can have political implications that require a rapid response specifically targeting causal factors. Such feelings of insecurity can result from a range of issues — from prostitution, to use of public space by vulnerable groups, to more systemic problems.
Common responses to insecurity rely on increased police presence and visibility, which generally don’t tackle the underlying problems. Such responses may result in a temporary cessation of criminal activity. For example, in Catalonia, a few weeks after a police raid, the local situation reverts back to 'normal'.
When researching the real-world problem on which their Tool should focus, the Department of Interior of Catalonia decided to focus on the issue of groups of empty apartments being taken over by drug dealers and their customers — so-called 'narcopisos' — and the impact on citizens' perceptions of insecurity in one neighbourhood of Barcelona. Despite recorded victimisation rates not having actually increased, citizens' perceive the risk of falling victim to crime as being very high. In January 2020, residents took their displeasure to the streets and demonstrated against their perceived increasing insecurity.
The Perception Matters Tool, which was elaborated with in the frame of the CCI-Project, is a manual comprising five parts that guide local practitioners through the process of understanding and responding to citizens' feelings of insecurity. The Tool supports public prevention officers and senior police managers to properly identify the underlying causes of citizens’ feelings of insecurity and to articulate a comprehensive public response.