The Margin Project analyses perceptions of insecurity in five European countries and regions

The Margin project[1], financed by the European Commission within the framework of the Horizon 2020 research programme, has allowed for the development of collaboration between administrations and public universities in: the UK, Catalonia, France, Hungary and Italy.

The aim of the project, which was carried out between May 2015 and April 2017, is to analyse perceptions of insecurity in Europe in accordance with individuals, the groups they belong to and the neighbourhood they live in. It also aims to provide public actors and citizens with tools of analysis and reliable public policies to contribute to the study and to the reduction of perceptions of insecurity.

The systemisation of the information gathered by the surveys in these territories allows for an insight into aspects such as perceptions and behaviour linked to insecurity but also information relative to worries about security.

Perceptions and behaviour linked to insecurity

Crime surveys measure many perceptions linked to insecurity. On a smaller scale, some analyse behaviour deriving from conduct related to protection or avoidance. These aspects are conceptualised in a similar way to the surveys but the formulation of questions may vary considerably depending on the country.

Surveys include questions about perceptions of security or insecurity but with differences: Catalan and French surveys frame the question in the home, neighbourhood, town or city; surveys in England and Wales, Hungary and Italy ask about specific aspects like going home alone at night. They all measure the intensity of such feelings except the French one, which quantifies its frequency.

The pilot survey of the project applied experimentally to Italy, unlike the rest, measures fear of unlawful acts: the emotional reaction in a particular country, its intensity and its frequency in the short and the long term. This survey and the English one measure the impact of fear on daily life. All the surveys address the psychological aspect of crime: the Catalan survey is based on an open question; that of England and Wales based on a detailed list of questions.

 Most of the surveys address conducts of self-protection adopted after suffering a crime. This normally involves a conduct of avoidance: not leaving home, or avoiding certain environments or people.

Worries linked to security

Perceptions of security are explained not only by crimes experienced but also by other parameters like the socio-economic environment or certain impressions and opinions. Crime surveys try to measure these preoccupations about safety with the assessment of crime, evaluation of police services and of justice, the gathering of the interviewees’ perceptions of security in their neighbourhood and the measure of preoccupations of a social nature.

As an important element of the Margin project, a guide of good practices has been drawn up which tries to offer criteria for the collective use of several instruments and indicators to carry out a security diagnosis. A series of methodologies and strategies gathered in the fifth chapter must be stressed. On the one hand, it promotes the collective use of quantitative and qualitative data, both from the police and surveys of other ambits (social, economic); also, the participative design of a new survey to study social determining factors of the perceived insecurity. On the other hand, it gathers criteria to convert the diagnosis into security policies and strategies; and finally, it gathers measuring tools and relevant security-related strategies.[2]

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