USAK Center for Social Studies Held a Conference on Urban Safety and Security
USAK House hosted another important conference on Urban Safety and Security on 16 November. The guest speakers of the conference were Prof. Dr. James O. Finckenauer, Rutgers University; Prof. Dr. Tulin Icli, Hacettepe University; and Assoc. Prof. Sibel Kalaycioglu, Middle East Technical University. The conference was held as a part of the Istanbul Urban Security Project, which is conducted by the USAK Center for Social Studies. The guest speakers shared their experiences from their own projects on urban security and discussed several issues ranging from the socio-cultural reasons for crime in cities, crime prevention strategies, and Turkey’s role in preventing international crime. Professor Finckenauer, who was the visiting guest of the Conference from the Rutgers University, School of Criminal Justice, commented on the previous speeches of the two professors and elaborated upon the topic in general. The following is part of his speech.
Professor Finckenauer’s Closing Speech:
Professor Finckenauer started with a comparison of crime and the fear of crime in Turkey and in the US. He stated that although not claiming to be an expert on Turkey, he would like to share his experiences with security studies in his country. He commented on the Istanbul Urban Security Project and about some research that is ongoing in a framework that relates to this issue of local and national and international. First he emphasized the importance of the crime and politics as local phenomena: “We have the same in the US that all crime is local. … Same that all I found that politics are local. What that means is that irrespective of the origins of the particular crime, the impact of crime ultimately is down with the local level. That’s where people who were victimized by crime, where people formed their perceptions about it, and their fear of crime and so on is very much on the local level.”
Following his statement on the locality of the crime, he continued highlighting the importance of the construction of the perceptions on security by different factors: “And as even heard in the presentations, there are all kinds of influences that shape those perceptions. Some of them are based on reality; things that people actually experienced in their neighborhood and in their communities; but a great deal of it comes from their perceptions shaped by media, for example things they read in the newspaper, things they see on TV, they watch movies and they form these images about crime and the dangers of crime and what kind of crime there is and so on. So they have this variance in terms of shaping of their perceptions.”
Apart from his comments on the sources of information on shaping people’s perception on security, he talked about some measures that can be taken to prevent crime with local tools: “What will be the implications of the fact that all crime is local? It means that the basic combating of crime has to be ultimately, mainly localized. It means that local neighborhoods and local communities have to be energized in terms of dealing with their own deviance issues and their own crime issues. And, of course, it raised the question of what should be the role of the police in working in those local neighborhoods and local communities.”
Departing from the concept of locality he also emphasized the role of community policing, which was also among the major titles covered in the Istanbul Urban Security Project: “One of the popular interventions of policing over the last probably 10 years is something called community policing; and the idea behind community policing is to have police become more disaggregating and the world down to local communities with citizens in those communities focused on crime prevention, not simply reacting to the crime. That is simply coming in after a crime has occurred and making an arrest and preparing the case for prosecution. But actually working with citizens of those local levels to clean up areas or to try if you have, for example, areas with local communities where you have teenagers who are hanging out. We all know that teenagers hang out in non-supervised areas for long periods of time. So what you have, the police can work with people in local communities to deal with those sources of issues. Perhaps what you need is recreational areas. Perhaps what you need is alternatives for what those young people are doing in streets just hanging on the corner. And the police can insist that local community leaders in those neighborhoods develop those sorts of things. At a low hub of police in Turkey feels about this. What I know is that many of the police in US are very resistant to this because they think this is turning into being social workers and they don’t see their jobs as doing what they call social work working with citizens in local communities. What we have spent a lot of time doing this try to convince them that this is not the social work, this is crime prevention.” Further, Professor Finckenauer said that the effective use of the police forces, in accordance with their professions, could allow states to transfer police sources to real serious crimes instead of having to deal with minor issues at the local level.
Professor Finckenauer also discussed the Broken Windows Theory, which was developed by two criminologists in the mid-1970s. Regarding this theory, he stated: “We talked earlier about the whole broken windows concept. The notion that people’s perceptions in security is not only influenced by serious crimes, it is also influenced by perceptions in the images that they have in their local neighborhoods. If they see broken windows, if they see garbage thrown around, if they see homeless people on corners, if they see that trash is not being picked up, they get a feeling of insecurity, they get a feeling that there is not enough care there, and this creates an environment that tends to be a sort of facilitator, if you will, for a crime occurring. And again is picking up the garbage a police job? No; but the police can be instrumental in ensuring that the responsible agencies are working together within those local communities to make sure that windows get repaired, that some recourse shelters are there to deal with those homeless people, that the garbage is being picked up, that the area is clean and then people feel safe in those neighborhoods.”
Moreover, Professor Finckenauer talked about measures to be taken at the national and international level as well: “At the national level, what you see is a responsibility that where there are certain levels of deviance and certain levels of crime that require more expertise and require more resources that are beyond the capabilities of people at the local level to deal with. And you get activities that are regional in nature, that are not localized in particular neighborhoods and in particular communities, but they spread out over a more regional area. There you need a more national focus and to bring these national resources. Then if we move to international level, as was mentioned a great deal, Turkey in particular is strategically located to be a focal point of transnational crime. You’ve got major airports, you’ve got major seaports, you’ve got linkages between Asia and Europe, you’ve got major waterways, and these are all locations, all strategic spots for people to smuggle all kinds of things, to move from east to west in a variety of ways. What kinds of things are getting smuggled? People for one thing; one of things I talked about in this recent conference in Antalya is human trafficking. This tends to be people moving from one place in the world to another. One of the places that they get moved quite often I noticed, because I worked with several doctorate students who bring their anticipation on this topic, is Turkey. There is a great deal of sex trafficking going on in Turkey; women coming from countries of the former Soviet Union and from Central Asia into Turkey and they are working in commercial sex businesses. Those commercial businesses tend to be linked with other kinds of criminal activities, gambling, drugs, etc. They tend to go together in packages with this kind of a culture of tolerance that gets created in those communities. These are very difficult to deal with by people at the local level. This is where you need sort of regional and national focus and commitment of resources to deal with those kinds of problems. What else is being smuggled: drugs, firearms, cultural artifacts. You know, I went to a museum yesterday in Antalya. Turkey is rich with cultural artifacts. These artifacts are hugely valuable items to be smuggled out of Turkey elsewhere or of elsewhere to Turkey to be smuggled to somewhere else. These are transnational crimes; they either end up here or they pass through Turkey on the way to somewhere else. Human organs are smuggled a great deal, with trafficking in things like kidneys and lungs and so on. Because there are people elsewhere in the world usually in US or in Western Europe where you’ve got people who can pay a lot of money and you’ve got poor people who give up a kidney because they are poor and because they can get a lot of money for doing this. Again, Turkey, because of its location, is impacted by those sorts of things.”
Professor Finckenauer concluded his remarks by focusing on the significance of taking local measures and employing multi-agency policies to provide security in the major cities in Turkey.
Edited by Tuna Balıkçıoğlu