Civilian participation in public security

Security and crime prevention / Reporting

Civilian participation in public security

(full text only available in Dutch)


Civilian participation in public security is a pluriform phenomenon. There are courageous individual citizens daring to stand up when confronted with criminality in public space, but also Community WhatsApp groups of local residents sharing information among each other and with the police on suspicious situations in the neighbourhood. Others join a neighbourhood watch group or become a police volunteer. But apart from describing these various forms the authors in this issue have tried to distinguish the ‘active substances’ of civilian participation: under what circumstances are participation projects effective? Several authors offer original insights in the phenomenon. One of these is that the role of the administration is changing under the influence of civilian participation. Another author found that the success of Community WhatsApp groups can be (partly) explained by the reward for attentive members, which consists of the appreciation of their fellow residents. Of course civilian participation has moral implications too. There is a risk of perverse effects like excessive social control, ethnic profiling and age discimination (towards young people). Every observation of a person or event different from ‘normal’, can be framed as a potential threat or as ‘suspicious’. Therefore a critical reflection on the participation of cititens in public security and its integration into security policies is needed. Also, we should be aware that there is no consensus among the population on what public security means, while the motives of people to get involved in public security activities differ greatly. Mobilising citizens on the basis of fighting crime therefore bears the risk of producing differences and conflicts in society instead of creating open, tolerant and inclusive communities.

Publication data

Place of publication:
The Hague
Boom juridisch
Year of publication:
Justitiële verkenningen 2016/05