20 augustus 2006

Camera Cohesion and Real Cohesion

Last Thursday I attended a debate between several Dutch politicians organised by Stichting JEP (Jongeren En Politiek/Youth And Politics). The second topic was the already much discussed issue of camera surveillance. This appears to be a very good solution to improve safety in public spaces here in the Netherlands. Many people also disagree, however, because they see it as a violation of their privacy. When I asked the politicians whether it wasn’t better for me to get to know my neighbours in order to feel safe in my neighbourhood in Amsterdam than to put up a camera, the only one who replied was Diederik Samson of the PvdA (Labour Party) who said that he thought the lack of cohesion in neighbourhoods was indeed a big problem in cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam.

After talking with some people about this topic, I find myself even more willing to start working on this social cohesion thing. I think it is better for politicians to talk about the root of the problem of citizens feeling unsafe, rather than provide us with the best solution possible without addressing the cause. I tend to be of the opinion that if people were to create a sense of trust in their own neighbourhood, this would also help them with trusting or helping strangers in other places. Some people do not have any difficulties with talking to strangers, but many do. If politicians, our leaders, would also try to address this, next to thinking about other good policies (which might be camera surveillance), as something in which citizens have their own responsibility, I think it would help.

Some of you might remember my blog ('Sommige dagen' of 'Burgerplicht meets Mannelijkheid') of a few months ago in which I wrote about de Publieke Zaak (DPZ). This is an association of people who want to the government, the business sector, civil society and individuals to work together on creating tomorrow’s society. I was about to start making a contribution to this worthy cause when suddenly the internship at the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo was offered to me. After getting back from Japan (where I saw that people are starting to get worried about social cohesion among citizens as well), I was happy to find that my input is still welcome and last Friday I had a discussion with DPZ’s Barbara in Amsterdam’s beautiful Vondelpark.

Barbara and I talked about DPZ setting up De Slinger (chain) in several cities. Whereas DPZ’s main activities are in the field of discussions about improving society, De Slinger is meant as a platform-like organization in which projects meant to improve social cohesion in a Slinger-city can become part of the Slinger-chain and join forces to eventually become a real movement. My new ‘job’ will be to go to activities in Amsterdam and to write about them for the Slinger-website… can’t wait to start!

6 opmerkingen:

William zei

Only Samsom replied, however Sander Dekker was absolutely the winner of the evening:) You ask why? He drank the most beers afterwards and that.....really counts.

Agnoek zei

One of the interesting aspects of those this kind of discussions what the politicians actually want to achieve. Do they want more safety or do they want a greater feeling of safety. Because those two are not the same. (aka, you can get greater safety and feeling greater safety, greater safety and still the same feeling of unsafety, and same safety but a greater feeling of safety)

It has a lot to do with perception (which in a great part is influenced by mediums like the media)
A friend of mine remarked that allthought the percentage of pedofile criminal acts in Britain and Japan was roughly the same, the amount of public discussion as well as concern about those issues differed substantially. That is to say in Britain it was a major theme in the news while in Japan it received virtual no attention.

Something like surveillance camera`s is something that has te capability for some people to increase their feeling of safety, and for others in recreates an image of Big Brother is watching you of Orson Welles.

I don`t have much of a solution either, but thought I would share my thoughts on the subject


cheruchan zei

@william: Of course your hero Sander Dekker did a fine job as well! I think the VVD's emphasis on people's own responsibility is a good thing too. As for your criterium to select the winner of the evening, I guess I disagree on both the means and the outcome :)

@agnoek: Although I did not make the distinction between safety and perception of safety in my blog, your point is interesting, thanks! I tend to think, however, that feelings of unsafety increase real unsafety. Scientific proof would be welcome, but wouldn't it make sense to say that people who feel unsafe keep to themselves, therewith enlarging the space in which unsafe-makers operate, making this space even more unsafe, while the unsafe-feelers are reluctant to intervene, etc etc etc??

What do you think about what I wrote on camera's not being a solution that take away the cause of the problem? (lapmiddel?? ;) )

machiruda zei

@william, Dekker the winner of the evening? Hmm, have got to agree with cheruchan on this one :-)

I agree with Agnoek that the feeling of safety is quite different from safety itself. For example, it sometimes happens that I see a lot of police walking around the station or some such place. That immediately makes me feel less safe, because something must be going on. On the other hand, in reality it must be a pretty safe place with so much police around :)

I love your enthusiasm for these initiatives like De Slinger and the Publieke Zaak! I really hope you will find a way of putting it in practice, maybe this will be a first idea.

Agnoek zei

Hey Rachelle,

One point connected with the points raised earlier, is that it is impossible to create a 100% safe society. If I stick with the example of Japan (the area of study we share:-)) it is a wellknown fact that for most Westerns it feels like a much safer place than home. The reason is the very low of petty crime. This leads some to believe that there is no crime at all in Japan, but the fact is that it does not take place on the level of petty crime, but is run by the Japanese maffia, the yakuza. Apperently it is because of the control of the petty thieves by the yakuza that there are so little crimes.
It comes down to the point that the feeling of safety in Japan is for most foreigners a lot higher than they are used, althought the actual crime rates might not differ that much.

On the issue of camera`s, it is not necessary that I don`t think they are a solution. But I think their function lies more in the field of conveying a feeling of safety, than in really giving it. Because a camera records only, it can`t act. And it stays very random, on which part it is focussed. On top of that I guess that most reactions will be in line with how people now react against `flitspalen`.


cheruchan zei