Professor Adam Crawford delivers opening plenary at international conference

Professor Adam Crawford was invited to give the opening plenary address at the recent international conference on ‘Security, Democracy & Cities: Coproducing Urban Security Policies’ in Barcelona.

Organised by the European Forum for Urban Security, the Government of Catalonia and the City of Barcelona, the three day international and interdisciplinary conference was dedicated to the coproduction of urban security policies.

The conference marked the thirtieth anniversary of the European Forum for Urban Security (EFUS) since its founding in Barcelona in 1987. The work of EFUS – a network of over 250 European cities - is based on the belief that security is a common good that must involve the coming together of multiple stakeholders in urban life and that relies on a balance between prevention, sanction and social cohesion.

The conference was attended by some 800 delegates from around the world. They debated and shared experiences concerning ways of tackling vulnerabilities and discrimination, organised crime, victim support, the governance of public spaces, nightlife management and the prevention of violent radicalisation, amongst other issues. The conference addressed the subject of shared governance between different territorial levels as well as the participation of the private sector and of civil society – particularly citizens- in security policies.  

Professor Crawford’s opening speech – entitled ‘Thirty Years of Urban Security Policies: The Road Taken and the Challenges Ahead’ – reflected on the development of urban security policies across Europe, as well as the future challenges that both practitioners and researchers will need to confront in forthcoming years.

He began by acknowledged the considerable progress that has been made on the journey from the 1980s when crime prevention was a ‘Cinderella’ function of the police, often acting alone. The road from fragmentation through cooperation to the goals of coproduction has benefitted immensely from the vital work the European Forum has done both in stimulating a vision of security that is open, inclusive and tolerant of diversity and in fostering city-to-city learning and sharing about evidence-informed best practice.

However, he cautioned delegates that progress in realising the ambitions of the genuine co-production of security through inter-sectoral partnerships focused on harm prevention has been hesitant, uneven and often constrained. The talk of ‘partnerships’ and ‘co-production’, he argued, still belies the reality of single agency responses, whereby state agencies often preserve their control over segments of the crime control ‘turf’ like fiefdoms. Delivering a ‘joined-up’, approach has proved more complex and the obstacles much more stubborn than were often assumed in the early ‘honeymoon’ years.

In looking to the future, he suggested that how city-based partnerships respond to the politics of austerity will be crucial. This may result in organisations retreating into their silos, focusing on their core priorities and retracting from shared goals. Alternatively, it may prompt organisations to think radically differently about the collaborative advantages to be secured through collective endeavours, innovation and investments in up-stream prevention rather than costly punitive responses.

He concluded by highlighting the challenges for European cities with aging populations, growing inequality and greater mobility to manage living confidently with increasing diversity. With the likely implications of global warming precipitating new transnational security threats, how people interact with nature and emerging technologies will become evidently more important. In that context, the relationship between security as a public good and other social values will continue to be crucial in terms of the societal impact of security, as will the appropriate balance between liberty and security.

The years ahead may usher a crossroads in the journey of urban security policies, as city partnerships across Europe look to secure the safety of their citizens and visitors by harnessing the activities and capabilities of diverse organisations, groups and communities. Whatever the future holds, the work of the EFUS is likely to continue to play a vital role in advancing a progressive understanding of the importance of just and safer cities for all in the face of both new and old threats.

An array of international commentators provided responses to Professor Crawford’s speech drawing on particular jurisdiction-specific developments and assessments: Rossella Selmini (University of Minnesota), Andre Lemaitre(University of Liege), Vasco Franco (Nova Lisboa University), Claudia Laub (Director of Projects at El Agora, Argentina), Susanne Wolter (Crime Prevention Council of Lower Saxony), Bernard Rivaillé (Deputy Mayor, City of Lormont), and Josep Lahosa (Director of the Spanish Forum for Urban Security).

More information about the conference is available at: