Case study of Brussels

In the frame of the “Reducing Boundaries” project, in Brussels the matter of urban (in)security has been analyzed from an interdisciplinary perspective, aiming at drawing together the different disciplines, namely Law and the Sociology of Law (Brazilian research group – Unilasalle); Urbanism and Social Sciences (European research group – Latitude).

Moving from an accurate literature review, a number of issues has been highlighted, such as the fragmentation of the city; the stigmatization of certain neighborhoods as “dangerous” and “no go” places; the disconnection of common citizens with European institutions in their everyday life; the matter of trusting local and central authorities; the long-lasting negative perception of the city in terms of environment and security, especially by the middle and upper classes.
Constituting the starting point of the research, these topics has been addressed through in-depth interviews both with citizens and local experts and professionals as well as through direct observation and data analysis.

Moreover, while it hasn’t been possible to extensively cover the consequences of the newly emerged issue of security related to terrorist attacks in people’s perception of the urban space, an initial discussion and observation of the adopted anti-terrorism security measures has been included.
In fact, the recent events, contributing to the polarization of the above-mentioned issues, clearly do change the matter of (in)security within this particular urban context, influencing the research’s results.

As such, while the main research objective has been the analysis of the perception of (in) security within Brussels’ urban context, especially from the point of view of the upper classes, more specific research questions has been:

1. What is the perception of fear by wealthier classes in Brussels and how does this influence both daily life and the construction of urban space?
2. Which defensive systems and devices are built/adopt in order to overcome insecurity and the risk of violence, especially in public spaces?
3. Is the risk of terrorism attacks starting to change the people’s perception of the city and urban space, for example through the implementation of defensive systems and devices?
4. How is the issue of (in)security influencing public politics, particularly concerning video-surveillance and administrative orders?

Moving from this questions and after discussing and confronting the research objectives with Latitude, the research group of Unilasalle has decided to concentrate on:

I. Video-surveillance in public space within the theoretical frame of the “culture of fear” (Prof. Marcos Catalan; Prof. Renata Alemida da Costa).
II. The role of municipal administrative orders for the issue of urban (in)security and their impact on the local politics of the city (Prof. Cristiane Catarina Fagundes de Oliveiras).

 

Methodology

With the aim of comparing the case studies of Brussels and Porto Alegre concerning issues of safety and security, the adopted research methodology included:

• meetings with citizens, local experts and professionals
• Data collection and analysis
• Direct observation of behaviors and public security measures
• Mapping of the city concerning security devices (e.g. security cameras)