Report on the Members' Conference
Vienna, September 30 - October 1, 2016
EUNWA founder Karl Brunnbauer invited the international Neighbourhood Watch Community to hold its third annual conference in Vienna. 44 participants representing 32 organizations from 14 countries were happy to join him in Vienna.
The conference covered a wide variety of subjects:
Since the recent migration movements affect Austria rather heavily, there were contributions to the topics asylum seekers, migration, and integration. Another field was, of course, how to make our cities and neighbourhoods safer using several approaches. Organized crime and crime prevention were also discussed. We also heard some more talks about cyber-crime and nuclear safety.
The conference started with a warm welcome to all participants and guests. Silke Kobald, head of district administration Vienna 13th District, greeted the audience and Karl Brunnbauer introduced the presentations.
1. Integration and Refugee crisis by Michael Girardi, Austria
Mr. Girardi from the Austrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs talked about Austria’s efforts to integrate great numbers of so-called refugees who flooded our country in 2015 and still keep coming in big numbers. The crucial question of where people go who are not granted asylum could not be solved, the question: “Are they sent back?” Mr. Girardi had to answer with no.
Nonetheless, he told us to see diversity as a “chance, not a threat” and Austria should make use of migrants’ skills since integration “is the duty of the government”.
2. Introducing Street Associations - broadening the appeal of Neighbourhood Watch by Martin Graham, Birmingham, UK
Martin Graham’s message was: Crime prevention becomes so much easier if people know each other”. With his logo “I love my street” he showed us examples of how creating a 'Street Association' can make any Neighbourhood Watch group more attractive. Although it is focusing on crime prevention, it can also bring friendship, fun, belonging, and a helping hand to the participants even in racially mixed, troubled residential streets with anti-social behaviour. Something artificial helps restore what was once quite natural.
His activists meet once per month and invite people to parties or Easter egg hunts and similar activities by going from door to door, which is not always easy.
3. Introducing Nextdoor – why a neighbourhood app and how does it work? by Tamar van de Paal from Nextdoor Nederland
Tamar’s belief is: Social networks lower crime rates, and: Since the phone is part of the problem it should also be part of the solution!
So many people (1/4) do not know their neighbours. Knowing each other and interacting (like offering something or talking about a problem) will bring cohesion among the participants - which will bring about more safety. Since people are not present out of doors within their closest neighbourhood so much anymore, he has developed an app for digital neighbourhood watch as a Public Agency platform to be used also by police and local government.
4. Migration and Integration in Austria – recent developments by Lisa Fellhofer, Austrian Integration Fund, Vienna
The Austrian Integration Fund was founded in 1960 by the federal government and the UNHCR.
More than a fifth of the Austrian population has a migrant background. In addition, some 117,000 persons applied for asylum in the last year and the first months of 2016. If all these people should stay and live together in Austria peacefully, enormous efforts will be necessary to make this possible.
Out of 88,340 asylum applications, over 19,000 were decided positively. Where the 70.000 remaining applicants went, Mrs. Fellhofer could not say.
Austria grants asylum which is reviewed after 3 years to find out if these people could return safely to their home country, and subsidiary protection which has to be renewed every year. Today the biggest groups of asylum seekers are Afghans: 25,563 mainly males aged between 15 and 35 years, and 24,547 Syrians. There are also many so-called refugees from countries where no war is going on.
The fund has so far been able to reach 7,000 of the 117,000 asylum seekers with integration/orientation courses. These courses last 8 hours and are intended to acquaint the refugees with our values and customs, e.g. they learn that we shake hands “even if the person to be greeted it is a woman”. The modules comprise a brief overview of history with a special emphasis on WWI and WWII and their implications for present society, e.g. the “Verbotsgesetz” (national socialism prohibition law), the Austrian education system, the German language, labour market orientation and qualification training, information about our health system and social insurance, as well as the phone numbers for emergency calls. Refugees are also taught good neighbourliness, house rules and waste sorting. The Austrian constitution, fundamental and human rights, cultural integration, respect and tolerance and the nature of voluntary work are also mentioned.
5. Inspec2t – Solution towards the New Generation in Community Policing by Panayiotis Papanikolaou, KEMEA, Greece
‘INSPEC2T INSpiring Citizens Participation for Enhanced Community PoliCing AcTions’
INSPEC2T Project platform has the purpose to enhance citizens’ collaboration with the Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) and further extend citizen contribution in providing valid information to the authorities. It is intended to facilitate early identification, timely intervention and efficiency in crime reporting and to lead to an overall strengthened community feeling.
Panayiotis quoted Aristotle who said “The human being as a zoon politikon, a social animal, requires a politikon bion or public ...“ A person who chooses to be private and keep solely to himself he called idiot.
6. City Angels Italy and Switzerland by Mario Furlan, Italy
After the lunch break, Mario Furlan, as founder, introduced the so-called “City Angels”. They are a multi-racial, multi-ethnical and multi-religious group of volunteers who help all people in difficulty, trouble or distress and prevent and fight crime. They work for solidarity and safety. Groups of three or four walk the streets together, each working only 3 hours per week. The association was founded in 1994 and is now active in 17 Italian cities with more than 500 volunteers. In 2014 a branch was set up in Lugano, Switzerland.
“Blue beret, red jacket - makes people aware: here is a friend”. Mario is very selective in recruiting new members. Trainings, courses in self-defence, martial arts, and, most important, psychology are required.
Half of his collaborators are women, a quarter are foreigners. City Angels are financed almost entirely by the state and the city. The “Angels” also support the homeless through material and psychological help.
Milan City Angels want to be messengers of positive energy. Mario is hopeful to find activists in other countries interested in founding local “City Angels”. He is willing to supply know-how and support to everybody contacting him under email@example.com.
7. Strong multilevel partnership in countering crime in all of its forms and manifestations by Tiina Ristmäe, Estonia
Ms. Ristmäe explained the Estonian experience of partnering and supporting community initiatives to support law enforcement.
4% participate in NHW. Groups start with personal community meetings of several citizens and one local constable, where people get to know the police officers better. The police do not organize such meetings but do take part.
In Estonia in general, the fear of crime is low because there is only little crime, and the crime rate is still going down (but not in the parts populated by Russian-speaking residents).
People are keen to get involved in their own safety and many join either NHW or the Estonian Defence League who are kind of police assistants with more authority. In Mrs. Ristmäe’s eyes this prevents radicalization.
8. Coyards – For efficient Neighbourhood Watch by Alexis Nicou, Grannkompaniet AB, Sweden
In 2014, Alexis co-founded Grannkompaniet AB, which develops and operates various communication platforms tailored for different audiences. He says his apps are “user-friendly”, i.e. extremely easy to understand and work.
The platform gives more security by better crime and damage prevention and quick communication.
9. Establishing NHW in a new country – The Polish experience by David Huse, Warsaw
Mr. Huse was invited to give us an overview of the Polish situation from a neighbourhood watch perspective and to speak about the challenges he faces and possible solutions. Having moved from England to Poland recently for private reasons, he intends to form some kind of neighbourhood watch scheme possibly modelled after the English and other international examples. Since he only started his activities in Warsaw 8 weeks before the conference he did not so much talk about achievements but his plans and would gladly learn from all the other participants.
10. Analysis of preventive effects of alarm systems by Peter Komposch, Austria
Mr. Komposch told us that 60% of burglar attempts are successful. The detection rate is poor in burglaries – only 2,5 % in Germany. Therefore it is no wonder that police and insurance companies support and recommend mechanical safety and inhibitory invasion measures for private homes. But these preventive measures are useless without control! Since 80 % of built-in safes are emptied Komposch’s advice is to place really important or valuable goods somewhere else in the house.
Analyses have shown that every house that can be invaded without risk is considered a good target for burglars, and that witnesses of burglary attempts are dangerous for criminals.
11. Project “Courageous Community” by Stefan Ofner, INA, Austria
Mr. Ofner described his pilot project „Courageous Community“ which is promoted by the Austrian Ministry of the Interior. He explained that having authority has much to do with taking on responsibility. The most important parents’ sentence in a “crisis” is: “I love you but I can’t accept your behaviour” showing children that they are still accepted by their family even when they misbehave.
To be successful, parents must be present, caring and interested. If problems arise, he recommends a team of coordinators and counselling. Concrete steps must be taken and the solution has to be documented.
12. Activities and projects of Aditess by Liza Charalambous, Cyprus
Ms. Charalambous presented the company “ADITESS” which deals with all kinds of security questions from crime prevention to digital forensics analysis.
She said: “One of our main areas of activity is enforcing security and preserving safety in critical infrastructure setups considering as many influencing aspects as possible of the admittedly multidimensional problem.
13. Cyber Crime, a rising threat by Kate Algate, NHW England & Wales, UK
Ms. Algate explored key issues from the ‘dark net’ and highly recommended the book “The Dark Net” by Jamie Bartlett. She told the audience that the dark net is a kind of internet-underworld that stretches from popular social media sites to the most secretive corners of the encrypted web. Beyond Google, YouTube and Facebook there exists a vast and hidden network of sites, communities and subcultures “where people can be anyone, or do anything, they want”. Of course, this dark net is used for illegal activities like child pornography, drug dealing, hacking and political extremism.
The Silk Road and Bitcoins sites such as 4chan, fark and the use of facebook in ways the “normal” user does not come across were also mentioned. Traditional web browsers cannot access the dark net, only via anonymising software called TOR (an acronym for The Onion Router).
14. Avocet – Applied crime prevention by Clive Lloyd, Avocet, UK
Mr. Lloyd informed about his firm Avocet and showed in quite interesting clips how their high security locks work. Unfortunately, Avocet have not yet found an Austrian company to work together for selling these locks in Austria.
We were told that the usual Euro cylinder locks can be broken quite easily whereas Avocet’s ABS high security locks with “unique patented snap secure technology meet the highest safety standards”, better than any other locks at the market. It is possible to “upgrade” locks in an easy and proven way of combating against lock snapping and bumping. The patented locking cam totally blocks access into the lock case which makes quite a difference to burglar attempts.
15. Voisins Vigilants - France by Sébastien Arabasz
Sébastien Arabasz who founded a kind of proNachbar in France, shortly talked about his project “Voisins Vigilants“ (watchful neighbours) and its expansion into Belgium.
Since there is a burglary every 90 seconds in France, the population is alarmed. Voisins Vigilants is a movement which helps people to provide more safety among each other. Every day, 30 new vigilant neighbours are added. The idea is that watchful neighbours as a deterrence measure can bring back trust and easygoingness.
16. Fight against national and international organized crime – cases, strategies and best practices: the Austrian way forward by Andreas Holzer, Federal Ministry of the Interior, Criminal Intelligence Service Austria
Andreas Holzer was a police officer and is now a criminal detective at the fugitive unit.
In Austria, there are 33,000 police officers and administratives in uniform or plain clothes working for security. The Austrian BKA (Federal Crime Agency) is organized in 6 subunits which are geopolitically organized.
Mr. Holzer presented the biggest international organized crime cases which affected Austria and the strategies to combat organised criminal groups. His unit fought the Hells’ Angels and many other criminal groups, like “Alcatraz” who recruit their soldiers in Serbian soccer clubs. These groups are very well organized. They do not trust their applicant members but require them prove their criminal disposition by committing actual crimes, so it is difficult to place undercover agents with them who are not allowed to commit crimes.
17. The contribution of civil society in the field of crime prevention by Isabell Plich, Crime Prevention Council of Lower Saxony, Germany
Mrs. Pilch started her presentation with a quote from Cesare Beccaria: “It is better to prevent crime than to punish it” and talked about some current examples and trends in voluntary, civil and neighbourly commitment in the field of crime prevention.
There are several initiatives for integration, “refugees welcome” provides housing to refugees, there is much done in crime prevention to motivate refugees to sports activities – integration through sports. This primary prevention will also prevent sexual violence, said Mrs. Plich. A big problem is domestic violence and Mrs. Plich thinks it can be solved by “social control in a positive way”.
An important concern of the Crime Prevention Council of Lower Saxony is the fight against right-wing extremism.
18. Do You Feel Safe? Perceptions of security among the citizens of Graz by Jeremy Stöhs
Jeremy is a former police officer and an ACIPSS researcher. He presented an empirical study on security in Graz, the second biggest Austrian city. A qualitative survey was conducted in 2014 – 2016 to find out how safe the population feels, what worries residents most and what they propose to make the city safer. 75 participants from all districts answered more than 100 detailed questions about their living conditions, personal experiences, media habits, their security situation and crime. Generally, the citizens of Graz feel safe. Many do not go out after dark but take little action for their personal safety like installing better locks or buying fire extinguishers.
The municipal authorities in Graz make an active effort to raise the subjective feeling of security in the population by funding “SLiG” who are paid to find out where better lighting or landscape planning, etc. could help.
19. Nuclear Safety – What does it mean for residents? by George Vayssier, Nuclear Safety Consultant, The Netherlands
Nuclear energy is used in the world on a large scale. Public focus is on the perceived risk of nuclear power plants but not on the risk of radioactive radon in our homes. Mr Vayssier’s speech included the comparisons of the risk from radiation to other risks in normal life and a short explanation of how nuclear energy works.
Although Austria does not have nuclear power plants, it cannot ignore the ~ 20 NPPs in the surrounding countries. The energy exchange with neighbouring countries includes nuclear energy.
In George Vayssier’s eyes, the biggest nuclear risk is the proliferation of atomic weapons (e.g. so-called dirty bombs in the hands of terrorists). In NPPs the cooling of the reactor must never be interrupted as the nuclear core then will be overheated and set free radioactive emissions from the nuclear fuel.
What risks other than NPPs are there? Car accidents are most dangerous. In 2015, they killed 455 people in Austria and 1.250,000 worldwide! Whereas there are a few aircraft incidents every year, there was not even one casualty from radiation in western nuclear power reactors.
The conclusion was: The nuclear safety risk for the Austrian population is negligible compared to other risks, but one should stay alert! In case of an accident in a neighbouring country people should stay inside the house, close any ventilation, listen to radio/TV for government instructions and let children stay at the schools.
Risks from radon radiation exist, but are small, too. Houses should be vented in summer and winter, the best precaution is to stop smoking.
20. Crimmigration and Human Trafficking: Victims and Aggressors by Maria João Guia, CINETS, Portugal
Maria João Guia enthusiastically reflected upon policies of criminalization of immigrants in the last 30 years and how it may have generated prejudice against supposed “aggressors” while many of the involved are actually victims. She also talked about the European Union’s focus on the fight against human trafficking involving non-nationals.
After the last presentation, Karl Brunnbauer gave his closing statements and invited all participants to the next conference. The participants went back home fully loaded with new ideas, information and impressions.
Günter Halvax was honored for his support and the outstanding work he did in establishing EUNWA.