The preventive turn in the policing of urban space as experienced by citizens (IUAP Project, Work package 2)

Anneke Evenepoel, Jenneke Christiaens, Els Enhus

Research Crime & Society (CRiS)

Interuniversity Attraction Pole (IAP) funded by the Belgian Science Policy, 2013-2017


In the past several decades, prevention has clearly become the new core principle, ‘the defining logic of governing crime’ (Groenemeyer & Rousseaux, 2007) and is often referred to as the preventive turn (Edwards & Hughes, 2009, 2005). Like in other countries announcing a more repressive antisocial behaviour policy, in Belgium a similar move can be observed. With legislation on municipal administrative sanctions, the enforcement authority of local governments expanded to include incivilities. We can see the emergence of incivilities as a new field of intervention at the local level, whereby new initiatives are merged with the already existing crime prevention practices. The result is the establishment of numerous projects to specifically tackle anti-social incivil truant youth who hang around in urban public spaces and constitute a ‘risk’. To date, there is no scientific research available on this topic. Therefore this project focuses on existing initiatives in the city center of Brussels. It aims to examine how they function in day-to-day practice and how the youngsters involved experience these practices.

First of all, we want to get more insight into the preventive field regarding the disturbance of public space by youngsters in Brussels. To do this, we will contact several municipal prevention services and other related organisations to find out about the initiatives they offer and how the youngsters are engaged. Secondly, we will focus on some of these initiatives and study them in depth. The selection is based on the insights from the first phase. After having selected these cases, we will study the actual practice by conducting a participant observation at the service responsible for the initiation and elaboration of the intervention. And finally, through semi-structured interviews we will try to create a clear image of the experiences and opinions of youngsters who have been subject of this type of prevention initiatives as well as the views of the actors involved.

Relevant publications:

Christiaens, J. & Evenepoel, A. (2013). Jeugdcriminaliteit -en geweld. Resultaten uit een Europees onderzoek omtrent perspectieven voor preventie en aanpak (onuitgegeven onderzoeksrapport). Brussel: VUB.

Christiaens, J. & Evenepoel, A. (2013). Giving voice to youth of today: young people’s views and perspectives on youth crime and its prevention in Belgium. Journal of Criminal Justice and Security. 4 (15): 424-438.

Goergen, T., Evenepoel, A., Kraus, B. & Taefi, A. (2013). Prevention of juvenile crime and deviance: adolescents and experts’ views in an international perspective. Journal of Criminal Justice and Security. 4 (15): 531-550.

Bauwens, T., De Koster, K., Enhus, E. & Evenepoel, A. (2013). The pains and gains of a social constructionst perspective on policy supporting research. In K. Beyens, J. Christiaens, B. Claes, S. De Ridder, H. Tournel & H. Tubex (eds.), The pains of doing criminological research (p. 39-57). Brussel: VUB Press.

Evenepoel, A., Bauwens, T. & De Backer, M. (2013). Gemeentelijke administratieve sacties, jongeren en publieke ruimte: het pedagogisch argument. Tijdschrift voor Jeugd en Kinderrechten. 14 (4): 372-378.

Christiaens, J., De Backer, M. & Evenepoel, A. (forthcoming), Jongeren en de publieke ruimte, tussen vrijheid en controle. Reflecties bij een complex vraagstuk. Cahiers Politiestudies. 34.