Revista THEOMAI   /  THEOMAI   Journal
Estudios sobre Sociedad, Naturaleza y Desarrollo / Society, Nature and Development Studies


número 8 (segundo semestre de 2003)  
number 8 (second semester of 2003)




Overcoming the Welfare State.
Local safety policies in the Venetian area

Francesca Vianello* & Francesco Faiella*


* Researchers at the Institute of Sociology of the University of Padova, Italy. E-mails:,
** Francesca Vianello wrote the Introduction and part I.; Francesco Faiella wrote part II.


This article intends to describe a process of transformation recently affecting the whole Europe. It is the progressive overcoming of welfare State traditionally meant as garantuee for all citizens of the essential services for their own subsistence and wellbeing allocated on the basis of the principles of universality, solidarity and equity. Since it is a process that largely affects all social policies, we have thought it right to choose a definite visual angle from which to observe from closer the evolution and strenghtening of the neoliberist trends. We have choosen the visual angle of security itended as a public good, the substanzial definition of which appears to be profoundly linked to the idea of the State and society to which it refers.
Our starting point is the passage from an attitude of concern linked to the topic of public order to a diffuse sense of alarm related to the urban security. This shift has been underlined by several authors. In the public communication, this shift can be seen as a changing point of observation: the general accountability of the central State in managing its citizens security has been, or at least can be, replaced by that of the local communities. Therefore our interest has moved to the local contents that are often characterizing the traditional theme of public safety, especially in relation with the different strategies of prevention and security. It is in fact in the tension between a preventive and a repressive point of view that we can foresee the possibility of a real change, tied to the local dimensions of the new security projects.

Current researches show that the shift from public order to urban security is developing at the same time with other relevant transformations. They are able to explain the new tension directed to the local (often metropolitan) dimension of the policies, and they show that we are in front of a structural tendency, whose different aspects have to be analysed in relation to the birth and growth of the new projects on security.

The criminal justice system crisis

The most visible aspect is the criminal justice system crisis. Both the criminal justice systems based on deterrence and rehabilitative programmes seem to be able to reach their own goals. What we are in front of is a real impasse of criminal law, involving both its way to operate and, widely, its functions. Particularly, this crisis involves the effectiveness of the function of prevention of criminal law, constant aim of juridical constructions (Robert, 1984). The search for prevention, conducted by different modalities according to distinct periods, shared by both systems based on retributive and rehabilitative assumptions, does not seem to demonstrate the hoped success (Gilling, 1997; Crawford, 1999).

Concerning general prevention, the deterrent effect of criminal sanction remains doubtful: although the great amount of studies on the subject, empirical researches continue not to attest significant levels of verifiability and repeatedly show the methodological lacks of surveys and the consequent permanent lack of effective knowledge of the subject (Eusebi, 1990). The fact that the effect of deterrence seems to depend to a greater extent on the perception of the certainty of punishment and on the quickness of its imposition (Ciappi, Coluccia, 1997) is clearly not encouraging for the actual criminal systems, usually characterised by a high dark number of offences and very long reaction times.

Regarding special prevention, i.e. the evaluation of preventing the recidivism of single authors of crime, research results do not seem much more encouraging. Not only there is no evidence of a deterrent effect of the sanction on the authors of crime (at least not in cause-effect terms), but empirical research also highlights the inefficacy of most of rehabilitative programmes, both on deviant behaviour and re-socialization (Ciappi, Coluccia, 1997).

The criminal sanction crisis is the crisis of criminal law tout court: the different functions assigned to criminal sanction in a general preventive perspective seem to have run out of options. On one hand, the resignation to praxis expresses the renounce to the goal of a rational criminal policy; on the other, as alternative to the materialization process of the modern criminal system and the consequent collapse of juridical warranties, the renaissance of the retributive idea within the actual criminal systems seems to turn into a defence of the formal criminal law (Eusebi, 1990). The search for a strict formalization of conflicts clearly expresses the disillusion about the attempts to trace the effectiveness of law transgression back to the social reality: the continuous call for legality, deprived of any substantial reference, turns into the search for the mere conformity of behaviours (Mosconi, 2000). The criminal justice organization seems to be able to offer now only a symbolic answer to the subjective insecurity, but it is not able to guarantee a suitable safety level (Hebberecht, Sack, 1997; Roché, 1999; Mary, 2001).

From the right to safety to the certainty of rights

It has been convincingly said that the symbolic use of criminal law can be overcome only by re-reading human needs and (penal) risk situations, looking at the system of fundamental rights and the entire constitution (Baratta, 2000). From an abstract point of view, we can hypothetically assume two different models of safety policies, according to their direction towards either the right to safety or the certainty of rights. Showing how the first hypothesis could be only the result of a constitutional perverse construction, Baratta builds the second one as an integral policy of protection and satisfaction of fundamental human rights. Under such a perspective, a broad notion of citizenship rights becomes crucial, in order to look at the urban safety issue not just as a fear of being victim of a crime, but as a need for being guaranteed in the exercise of all fundamental rights - right of living, right of free development of one’s own personality, right to quality of life (Ferrajoli, 2001; Zolo, 2001). The model of certainty of rights is also a legitimate pattern since it is corresponding to the ideal validity of constitutional norms and the demand for their implementation. It is under such a perspective that safety and prevention policies cannot be reduced to criminal policies, but have to include the struggle against social exclusion and mechanisms imposed by neo-liberal globalisation of economy (Baratta, 2000).

The changing nature of conflicts

Organisational crisis of criminal justice could probably be faced in a proper way with local projects of rationalisation and creation of “networks” between state repression agencies and the other social control agencies (Hebberecht, Duprez, 2001), more than with national reform programmes which – especially in a country like Italy – can fail because of the relevant cultural and social differences on the national territory.

In fact, the causes of new conflicts do not longer appear governable at a State level, and their effects (sufferance, privations, social costs, fear) tend to take specific dimensions on the base of local variables: the nature of effects appear to depend to a much greater extent on local dimensions inside which conflicts produce un-safety. Although the new conflicts have distant roots, they produce a nearer un-safety. The greater attention focused on the social consequences of conflicts, given the disillusion about the effective capacity to govern their causes, necessarily pushes the perspective of the institutional intervention towards the local dimension, the dimension in which the conflict produces its effects (Pavarini, 1999).

However, the international nature of criminal policies must not be forgotten: national policies of safety government seem to be more and more bound to international strategies and managed by control agencies which are independent from national governments (Green, Rutherford, 2000). Not only it seems that the new conflicts cannot be traced back to the classical paradigm of the capital-labour conflict, but they also appear to escape any classical contraposition. On one hand, conflicts seem to take root in the metropolitan way of life; they involve wide social areas and not individual subjects, flows of behaviours and expression of needs that intersect on the territory. The difficulty of defining today the borders of deviance exemplifies the nature of new conflicts, hard to classify and thus to manage. On the other hand, the nature of new poverties makes impossible to explain and manage them at a national level, tracing them back to the effects of globalization, the North-South gaps and the migratory flows. For these reasons, national policies seem to be more and more linked to international strategies. The globalization, as management of economical production released from the territorial dimension, creates effects hard to manage at a national level, causing movements of people and resources in uncontrollable flows.

The legal culture of law and political operators

Social-legal research, mainly of Anglo-Saxon origin, has underlined the relevant role of juridical culture of law operators and police in carrying out the juridical and criminal policies, elaborating ideas like those of local legal culture (Kritzer, Zemans, 1993) and embedding (Perrucci, 1994; Ulmer, Kramer, 1998). Such ideas give importance to the role of the local dimension of safety policies, particularly the role that law and political operators assume in their implementation. Under such a perspective we can argue that the different definitions of the safety concept, as proposed by different political forces, subtend a comprehensive vision of social spaces, social ties and social identities, over at a local level. Then, the aim of the research must be to analyze the different definitions of safety and the claim for identity they subtend. The hypothesis is that the safety topic can act as a catalyzer for anxieties, fears and claims that pass over it. Moreover, since the new local safety policies are the result of the relation between local needs and national trends, researches have necessarily to deal with the cultural, social and economical territorial dimensions.

The interest for victims

The sociological interest for the study of crime victims began in our country in the last two decades, in connection with some important changes in criminological studies and penal policies: the restart of empirical researches on predatory criminality (Barbagli 2000), resulting in the first victimization research carried out in Italy by ISTAT (1998), in the development of victim-offender mediation in the juvenile criminal justice system (Bouchard 1999; Pisapia 2000) and more in general in the consolidation of projects and studies on crime prevention.While the Italian debate on the local government of public safety continues to be generic and confused and the most diverse options of social and criminal policies are proposed and legitimated under the “safety” label, it is important that in a few theoretical debates, linked to the “Progetto Città Sicure” (Safe Cities Project) of the Emilia Romagna Region, the government of safety has been discussed as a content of a new conception of welfare. According to this second perspective, the need of safety is no longer seen as a need for protection against crime or against the risks of victimization (Pitch, 2001) and everyone who is not guaranteed in his own rights can be recognised as a victim.

Then, in the context of these premises, what we have tried to do, through interviews with the governmental delegates and the analysis of the approved safety projects, is to analyze the safety policy in the Venetian area in order to identify the development of some of those leading tendencies we have spoken about and the relevance of the different components that define the policy direction. The goal is to be able to answer to the single questions of Alessandro Baratta’s model - which we are going to present - questions that define what model of safety we are in front of (Baratta, 2002). Each safety model pursued, as a matter of fact, contains in itself a precise idea of the State and society. By its promotion structural transformations affecting the whole social development are pursued and consolidated. In describing that, two questions have guided us in the research on safety local policies in the Venetian area. The first one is: what defines the direction of a safety policy? The second one is: how can we evaluate a safety policy? In Part I. we will approach the first question, in Part II. the second one.

I. What defines the direction of a safety policy? Local safety policies in the Venetian Area.

The first question is: what defines the direction of a safety policy?

According to Sébastian Roché, the character of safety policies is not directly linked to the political area of the governmental party; the character of policies seems more strictly linked to the general vision over the management of the common good (Roché, 2002). We normally suppose a relation between these two aspects, but, as the Italian Massimo Pavarini says, there are some institutional and political variables that seem today to be more determinant for the direction of the development of safety policies than the political area of the government. Pavarini links the development of the “safety” topic in the different European Countries to some common leading tendencies (Pavarini, 2002):
- the crisis of the welfare state
- the expansion of the neo-liberal policies
- the crisis of what we call the paradigm of deficit, that causes the crisis of social prevention
- the renaissance, as underlined by Adam Crawford, of an environmental criminology, that causes the renaissance of situational prevention (Crawford, 1999)
- finally, the crisis of the State of social control, in favour of a local and decentralized model.

As Pavarini says, those variables, shared by different European Countries, favour the development of safety policies. Those are the variables and not the other ones, such as victimisation or safety perception rates, that we normally put in relation with that development.

We could thus state that European Countries share today the same political paradigm, that we can present as the overcoming of the first item of the following couples of terms:
- central State versus decentralisation (but we will argue later that is quite an apparent opposition)
- public management versus private management of services
- police of the State versus community police
- welfare services versus problem solving services.

According to these premises, our argument is that the implementation of a local safety policy depends to a greater extent on the leading conception of State, decentralization and public opinion than on the goals it publicly states it pursues. For that reason, in order to avoid a predefinition of the topic, the interviews we carried out with governmental delegates of the area had the goal to drive them to an autonomous definition of the safety topic, through their own proposal of:
- a definition of welfare
- an analysis of problems related to local administration
- a description of their own governmental jurisdictions.

The results are quite interesting also because the regional Venetian government is leaded by the same political coalition of that being now on power at the national level. Moreover, the general policy of the regional president strictly follows that expressed by the central government.

What kind of State

We investigated which States have in their mind the delegates of the regional government, what conception of welfare guides their jurisdictions. We found that their trouble is to combine the defence of the welfare state, which in Italy is still a strong point, with the elaboration of a federalist perspective, that the new national government and particularly the Venetian Region, are trying to implement. We are here talking about the couple “central state versus decentralisation”. But, as we were saying before, it is an apparent contradiction. Actually, we know that the Italian devolution project is quite a particular one. Indeed, as the author Luciano Vandelli says, the Italian devolution project is characterised by a sort of schizophrenia: the central state, on one hand renounces to organise and manage the whole system and delegates to the local authorities important socio-economical functions; on the other hand, it aims to hold in its hands the most of the decision-making power on public expenditure (Vandelli, 2002).

This apparent contradiction finds its unity in a unique goal: the overcoming of the universalistic welfare system and a strong redistribution of spheres of intervention between public and private sectors. We are here talking about the second couple “public management versus private management of services”. Such choices, like the cuts in local resources imposed by the centre or the push towards centrifugal experiments carried on by Regions, become tools for a structural transformation of the public institutions role. The fundamental purpose is to weaken the system of protection of rights, as it is imposed by the liberalist logics which are spreading across Europe. Then, the two ways, devolution and centralization, starting from opposite points, can converge in the same objective.

Concerning the specific case of the Venetian Region, the interviews we have carried out so far can be organised around three points:
- first, the definition of welfare, difficult to abandon, but to be urgently redefined. The statement we collected “I have an other welfare in my mind” could be taken as a slogan. The will is to keep the word “welfare” changing in part its essence. The assistance is limited to the weakest people, while we must end with the welfare for everybody: “we must overcome” we were often told “the traditional conception of welfare”. “A State”, as our President of the Senior Chamber of the Parliament said “which suffers of cuddling social protections that are unjust and expensive”. We see here another couple: “welfare services versus problem solving services”.
- Second, the proposal of a new local welfare, outcome of a decentralization process already started up but still confused, more adherent to the local needs: what we were told is “our objective is the welfare community: the real innovation is the community that has to take care of the weakest people to be differentiated locally, because today the welfare has to be conceived at a local level, in order to give answers that are closer to the citizen”. We find here the couple “central State versus decentralisation”;
- but (third) the management of this welfare at a local level has to be carried out through the appeal to the private sector as supplying of services. What is happening, as Vandelli states “is a reduction of the role of public Institutions for the warranty of civil and social rights, better a reduction of the sphere of those rights”. “The State” we were told “risks not to be that efficient, we must increase the value of the local resources: the local authorities, the voluntary service, the no-profit sector, but also the Chamber of Commerce and banks”; we must think of a welfare which “finds also in the private sector the opportunity to improve social services”, because – as President Pera said in a sort of glorification of the free market, “the beauty is in the spontaneous order of the society and the duty of politicians is to support this order”. And here we are at the couple “public management versus private management of services”.

The local government and the relation between local government and citizens

Concerning the specific situation of the Venetian Region, interviews show a local context based on a social system founded on family and catholic ethics, as well as on the character of Venetian people devoted to work. Those characteristics have led to the so-called “North-East economical model”. The interviews underline the difficult fusion between old Veneto of the past times and today’s socio-economical development requirements. Just as examples, according to the statements of the welfare delegate, the new right of family, its freedom, “is now finally that of choosing between public and private welfare services”; and again, the favourite point of the Venetian region is the flexibility that has always characterized its productive firms and that is exactly the flexibility that the today’s globalisation is asking for.

An ending point concerns the communication between local government and citizens. The interesting element, here, is the distance between the rhetoric call for the citizens involvement and the actual possibilities of communication between them and governmental delegates, most of all at a regional level. On the other hand, the interviewees strongly affirm the value of representative democracy, which clearly defines who is accountable and then leaves free initiative for what concerns the implementation of the programmes adopted during the electoral campaign. Forums, ad hoc committees and even referendums are considered participative tools that, nevertheless, undermine the democratic organs. What the interviewees say is: “When the citizen gives me his/her vote I want to be free to develop my programmes without any political ties.” And also “the local representatives are democratically elected. An excessive use of referendum can undermine the role of the Venetian Parliament”. As Gerry Johnstone has pointed out, the point is in the difference between a populist and a participatory model, the first one a formally democratic model, the second one a substantially democratic one (Johnstone, 2000).

Safety policies

Only in the Venetian region we have a local authority for the safety policies. It is named “council for safety policies and migratory flows”. The name itself looks meaningful. Our Constitution has been modified in order to give specific competences to Regions, also in the local police field. The local government has then taken a range of initiatives, among which we can mention specific projects for marginal areas, Observatories on crime in collaboration with Universities, projects of education to legality.

We just want to present some points, that came out from the interviews, that we think are central for the definition of the Venetian safety policy:
- first, the affirmation that the region is particularly attractive for crime activities. That is due to the diffusion of wealth and the development of firms, both recent aspects in the regional history, to the point that citizens are not used to considering themselves as an attraction for crime. The consequence is a deep feeling of un-safety, in memory of, as we were often told, “when the house doors could be left open”: these are the premises for an environmental prevention model.
- second, the necessary partnership among different agencies in order to assure the public good of safety: all agencies have to participate, without excluding the direct participation of citizens. This is the context where the local police receive a new legitimation, a police which has to be professional, but above all visible in the area, a police of proximité, which must have, as we were told in an interview, “the characteristics of the good pater familiae”. This trend advocates for a more present police as tool of prevention.
- third, the legitimation of Institutions: the governmental delegates affirm that was the citizen himself to put the safety matter among the first points of the political agenda: “Safety is the matter that today’s citizen has at heart”, we were told, and again: “what citizens ask for is to live and respect the rules that the community has given itself”. What political delegates say is that the uncertainty of penal sanction disorientates citizens. “The actual problem”, they say, “is the uncertainty of law”, both in the sense that “it often happens that a crime remains unpunished”, and that “the Italian way to write the law makes it always interpretable”. It is always clear that their problem is the credibility of Institutions. In that sense, we can affirm that the safety topic is first of all a communicational vector, an identity claim, a moral appeal: citizens that claim the legitimacy of their own rules of living together, on one hand, and Institutions in search for their legitimacy that have to continually redefine their intervention priorities, on the other, open a space where un-safety imposes and spreads itself. Even the complaint for the alarm created by mass media on crime, and the consequent proposal of instituting scientific Observatories in order to better know criminal phenomena, is always presented as functional to the fact that, as we were told, “citizens know that we are doing something”. The same we can say about the distinction between objective and subjective safety, that once was the favourite piece of less repressive penal policies because it questioned the relation between fear and victimisation, and that now is called just for saying that fears have to be seriously considered.
- Fourth, the safety right as right to personal defence from crime and vandalism: our proposal, advanced in the interviews, of considering the safety right as a whole of different rights is never understood by the interviewed; as an emblematic case, we can consider the association between the work rights and the safety topic, as proposed by a governmental delegate: an increased income allows citizens to buy more appropriate technical tools of property defence, as armoured features or private vigilance.
- Last, the politically correct statements about the relation between safety and immigration that hide the implicit connection between immigration and crime, exactly as the local authority name does: the regional authority for safety policies and migratory flows maintains to work on two separated matters and focus the second one on the theme of social integration.

Yet, we were told that it is not possible to face the immigration topic only in humanitarian terms, since there is the necessity to guarantee to the immigrant the same work conditions of the Italian citizens, paying anyway attention to the fact that, in the words of the North Lega delegate, “on 99 honest extra-communitarian workers we could find one with bad intentions”. We wonder how many of them we could find on 99 honest Italian workers.

II. How can we evaluate a safety policy? Local safety policies in the Venetian Area.

As Massimo Pavarini states (Pavarini, 2002), the general tendency that involves the local administration in the policies on security can take different directions at the moment of its concrete political and administrative implementation. In short, there are two extreme tendencies that can generate two opposite ways of managing security:
- an administrative government of social control: according to this perspective, suggested by the actuarial criminology, perfectly explained by Loic Waquant, the local government of security should just elevate the control threshold with the objective of containing the criminal attitudes and behaviours of the so called “dangerous groups”. The principal risk with this kind of policies is to strengthen the social alarm on crime and induce the local administration to gain an higher consent asking very often the central government to intervene with repressive measures;
- a government of security as a content of a new conception of welfare: according to this second perspective, adopted in Italy by the Città sicure project, the management of security should be a part in a project of a new comprehensive definition of welfare not limited anymore to the satisfaction of economical needs, but tightly connected with a full enjoyment of rights.

In this contest, the need of security is no more seen as a need of protection from crime or from the risks of victimization
In the last years, Alessandro Baratta concentrated his attention on a new definition of “safety” and the directions that a policy of management of safety can take. According to his perspective, the carrying out of social inclusion policies must be pursued through the implementation of an economic policy in favour of human development, where the risk and un-safety decrease as consequence of the satisfaction of all rights. On the base of these preambles the author has constructed two opposite models of prevention and safety policy, using Weber’s tool of ideal type, in order to distribute the models dominant in Europe, in relation to the two opposite policies inclusion/exclusion, for minor or major approximation.

Models of Safety Policies

Tactic: Out/In



Safety for whom:


Security for the stronger against offences by the weaker and excluded

Security of all the rights of all people

Which political tools:


Technocratic security policy directed to the conservation of the status quo of society

Democratic security policy directed to empowerment of the underprivileged

Which models of policy:


Central, authoritarian policies

Local, participative policies

Which safety:



Reduction of demands for security to demands for punishment and security against criminality

Deconstruction of the demands for punishment in the public opinion and reconstruction of the demand for security as demand for security of all rights

Which relation with the crime policy:


The whole security policy is a criminal policy

Criminal policy is a subsidiary fragment within an integral policy of security of rights

What is safety:

Business/public utility

Private security policy. Security is a business. Citizens become policemen (neighbourhood watch)

Public security policy. Security is a public service. Policemen become citizens (community police)


Relation with equality

Equality/inequality ;


Security policy based on taken for granted inequality and on self limitation by the potential victims in the use of public spaces

Recognition and fulfilment of equality and unlimited use of public space by all persons

Which relation with the rights:

Right to security/security of rights

Security policy based on limitation of fundamental rights (penal functionalism, right to security)

Security policy within the limits of the constitution and in a framework of fundamental rights (minimum penal intervention, security of rights)

Which policy for Europe:

Fortress Europe/open Europe

Security policy as policy of the ‘fortress Europe’

Security policy as policy of an ‘open Europe’, directed towards human development in the world

Elaboration from Alessandro Baratta (2002) Conference: "To rule the safety", Bologna, Italy.


Social exclusion/social inclusion

The social exclusion process is linked to the strengthening of neo-liberal economic policies and to the consequent withdrawal of State welfare functions. Such policies appear to be bounded to increase not only the number of outcasts, but also the precariousness and uncertainty of who is inserted in productive processes. In this way, immigrants and poor people become the target of easy criminalization from all social classes, the scapegoat of all insecurities that such policies are generating. Accordingly, in order to give the illusion of a greater security, many governments are implementing policies tended to the neutralization of the social sectors defined “at risk.”

On the contrary, the social inclusion process is based on an economic policy at the service of human development, a policy directed to the satisfaction of all rights (Baratta 2000). Even if the differential access of individuals to citizenship rights is anyway linked to the distribution of material resources (Melucci, 2000), it must be underlined how a social inclusion policy should have as object the enlargement of rights, not only the economic ones. The satisfaction of all rights implies a decrease of risk and insecurity. In specific regard to immigrants, one can add that they are often not recognised by the reception society as owner of a substantial portion of such rights. In this sense the inclusion process of these subjects should necessarily pass trough an extension of the rights already recognised to natives. The exigency to modify the concept itself of citizenship traditionally based on closing should be taken into consideration. An idea to develop in this sense may be that of adopting the notion of “citizen” based on the concept of “living in the city” and combine it with the notion of “citizen” as “owner of rights” (Pitch, 2001).

Safety for whom: few/all

In a model of exclusion, the right for safety is a right of the socially and economically strongest groups against the demands for enjoying the fundamental rights coming from the weakest ones. This is the consequence of the circumstance that the neo-liberal economical policy is the base of such model. In the opposite inclusion model where the economy is implemented for the human development, the conditions for a decrease of the risk and un-safety in favour of an increase of the safety of the rights of everyone can be created (Baratta, 2002).

Technocratic /democratic tools

A technocratic and authoritarian government is based on a policy of administration of Status quo, where the politicians are technicians. It guarantees the safety to strong social groups against the risks coming from weaker ones, i.e. excluded and poor people. In a democratic model of government, the policy is seen as a project and citizens become politicians. Condition for its implementation is the empowerment of the weaker. The conditions for their social inclusion can be realized by means of an increase of the social power of marginal people (Baratta 2000).


Local dimension can facilitate the birth of new political experiences based on citizens’ active participation. In the local dimension, a shift of the place of policy from the public opinion, actually the statistical average of private opinions of isolated and passive subjects (Baratta 2000), can be carried out to the basic political discussion, which sees the inhabitants of city as active protagonists of policy. The passage from the technocratic to the democratic model assumes the character of a political experiment, a kind of public confrontation among citizens, but also between citizens and functionaries of institutions (Baratta 2002). Participation of citizens in community decisions must not be confused with self-defence committees that are often the result of decisions adopted in a given community by a dominant group, which imposes its own interests and values on the other groups belonging to the same community, as effect of a moralizing authoritarianism (Crawford, 1999). The notion of “community” is notoriously ambiguous and cannot be brought back to its ancient meaning of traditional and homogeneous community. The modern cities present a far more complex reality made up of inhomogeneous by age, culture and social identity. Within a given community the conflicts around what generates local problems, their origins and solutions, need to be negotiated among all the inhabitants and cannot result in the search for easy solutions of authoritarian mould. In this sense the creation of public space, where the deeper reasons of everyone can be listened to, does not consist of reducing democracy to the mere rule of majority and techniques of rule, a pure procedural administration of consent (Melucci, 2000).

Reduction /extension of safety

If in a social exclusion model the demand for safety is exclusively a demand for the certainty of penalty and safety from crime, in a social inclusion model the demand for safety must be deconstructed and reconstructed in terms of satisfaction of all rights. Such a goal must be reached by scientific research and basic political communication (Baratta 2000). Only by warranting the citizens’ real needs and rights, the dissatisfaction of which we have seen to be the main cause of crime alarm, the real urban safety can be carried into effect. Researches on public opinion confirm this assumption. The public good of safety must be intended as need to feel safe and guaranteed in the exercise of all one’s own rights (Pavarini, 2001).

Criminal/integral policies

A technocratic and authoritarian government treats safety in terms of criminal policy and end selling to citizens illusory remedies that do not guarantee objective safety, but aim to temporarily satisfy only a subjective safety linked to the symbolic strength of crime law. In a democratic government founded on basic political communication, criminal policy plays a partial and subsidiary role in the whole of a more general policy of protection and realization of all rights (Baratta 2000).

Business/public utility

In a technocratic government, safety is delegated to private people. This process has considerably spread in the United States, where a commercial management of prisons imposed itself.

In Europe, even if we are still far from a similar experience, yet we can register phenomena of privatization of the safety good. The widespread example is that of private police services that have reached a remarkable extension. Yet, another aspect of privatization is more alarming: the transfer of violence monopoly from State to citizens. It is the phenomenon of “neighbourhoods watch”, the defence committees of neighbourhood, diffused in Great Britain. They represent a sort of pre-modern self-defence (Baratta 2002). With privatization, safety becomes a purchasable good on the market and, like all the goods of this kind, its price varies according to quality and efficacy, determining an inequality in terms of protection against offences.

In a democratic model, prevention and safety are the exclusive object of public policies directed to warrant the same opportunity of defence and control to everyone. If in a neo-liberal government citizens become police corps, in a democratic government policemen become citizens (Baratta 2000). It is the idea of community police closer to citizens’ exigencies and needs, not necessarily linked to protection against crime.

Inequality/equality; Auto-limitation/fruition

The shift from the attention on criminals to victims and the researches on victimization have had the consequence to make citizens responsible towards the risk. The survey that particulars bands of population run risks more than others has induced to assign to potential victims the onus to adopt prudent attitudes (Pitch, 2001). Forms of non-violent self-defence have been inserted in prevention programmes and consist of a sort of auto-limitation in the fruition of public spaces. An example in this sense is represented by the suggestions of auto-limitation made to women, “do not go out on your own”, “do not go around at night”, taking for granted that dangerous places are in the city. In this way one asks women to renounce to a part of their own rights and it becomes clear, at this point, that such programmes are founded on inequality. The other way round, the desirable pattern is that based on a unlimited enjoyment of rights carried out by programmes directed to the filling of streets and squares with people willing to communicate with the “other” (Baratta 2000).

Functionalism of penal system/minimum penal law; Right to safety-safety of rights

On one hand, a pattern based on a restriction of fundamental rights, where a space can be found for a right to safety for few, for groups integrated in society, and a functionalism of penal system which pretends to make the machinery of penal justice system more efficient and rapid, often at the expenses of the accused’s rights. On the other hand, a pattern of a safety of all rights where the weaker subjects, outcasts and immigrants, find protection and become themselves users of safety policy, too. In this last model a space can be found also for a safety against offences not necessarily linked to micro-crime, and, therefore, to economic, ecological, corruption offences, which bring social disintegration (Baratta 2002).

Fortress Europe/open Europe

The inequality which national and regional safety policies are based on is produced at a worldwide level. The internal borders between socially guaranteed and excluded groups, European citizens and “extra-communitarians” are a smaller reproduction of the borders erected between Europe and the world (Baratta 2000). The barriers erected by each European country against migratory flows (immigrants, but also refugees), and generally all safety policies represent only immediate and urgent answers to the inauspicious consequences of the neo-liberal economic development in the world. In this sense, each safety and prevention policy based on exclusion “is illusory if it is not inserted into a global policy development of the world” (Baratta 2000).

According to Baratta’s model, apart from different institutional cadres, different philosophies oppose the policies of social exclusion to those of social inclusion. Although the common goal is the production of safety, we need to distinguish the policies of exclusion from those of inclusion, through the sharing of answers to single questions (Baratta, 2002).
Some examples:
-To whom must we address the public good of safety we want to produce? To few people - i.e. safety for strong people against the risks coming from weak and excluded people - or to everyone – i.e. safety of all rights of all people?
-What political tools have to be adopted? Technocratic policies directed to the maintenance of the social status quo, or democratic policies directed to the empowerment of weak and excluded people?
-What political patterns have to be adopted? Central and authoritarian policies or local and participative policies?
-Which safety are we talking about? In the model of exclusion, the request for safety seems to be reduced to the specific call for the safety against crime and, consequently, to the call for an increase of penalty; in the model of inclusion, instead, the public request for penalty has to be deconstructed and the call for safety reconstructed as a call for the safety of all rights.
-What is the relation between safety policies and criminal policies? An overlapping relation, that is to say, a reduction of the former to the latter, or a subsidiary relation where criminal policies are only conceived as a small part of the whole safety policy?
On the base of this model we will try to offer a first evaluation on safety policies of Veneto Region.

The regional Law and the definition of safety.

Before analysing the projects of safety in the Venetian Area, it is useful to take a look to the regional law that finances them.
Veneto Regional Council, on the wave of the social panic generated by crime alarm, passed a bill to contrast what has often been defined from the local politicians themselves as “the spreading of deviance phenomenon and its digressing into problems of public order and security”.

The regional law, with the title “Regional interventions for the promotion of legality and safety”, marks the central role of the region, as a consequence of the 2001 amendments of the Title V of Constitution, in promoting projects of urban safety that favour prevention. It is not a substitutive action of the region in public order matter, for the central government remains the only holder of the penal repressive instruments. Yet, administrative interventions of mere contrast against crime, acted at local level, may run the risk, as Pavarini notices, “to cross the borders between crime and administrative sphere, operating real frauds of label” (Pavarini 2001). In order to fully understand the definition of “safety”, which the law intends to promote, it is useful to analyse the document that accompanies the law itself. What strikes immediately, by reading such document, is the phrase with which the document opens: “the problem of safety is the first in order of importance for Venetian citizens”. It is a locution, which seems to demonstrate the validity and efficacy of its media effect that its use has in the political ground. It is a safety explained in terms of insecurity perception originated by “widespread crime”, “linked to the immigration phenomenon”, by the conflict of the public spaces”, and by “vandalism acts”. This document shows all the political rhetoric, originating from United States, which since some years has been filling Italian newspaper pages, both right and leftist political programmes, some intellectuals’ studies, whose path of exportation all over the world has been well described by Loic Waquant. It is a path that does not limit itself to the assimilation of categories, such as “urban incivility” or “vandalism acts”, but that is realized through the adoption of the American model even if with specific adaptations on the base of the political and cultural tradition of single countries (Waquant, 2000). The document is characterised by an alarming declaration on the spreading of crime in Veneto, which comes from national statistics on crime, researches on victimization and citizens’ fear of crime, which assigns to Venetian region the seventh place in Italy for suffered offences. This is an evidence of the great relevance that the empiric research appears to assume in the public debate on urban safety; research that scientifically sustains the position taken by the local authorities on such a subject. The limits of statistic data on crime are well-known. A complex whole of variables affect the trend of offences. It is sufficient to mark here the objective intensity of the phenomenon, the citizens’ attitude to report, the police’s predisposition to receive and formulate the reports and the way to transmit the reports themselves for their statistic elaboration (Mosconi, 2002). Even the enquiries on the victimization, thought as a tool able to reveal the obscure number of offences and useful in drawing profiles of potential victims and therefore in the adoption of various policies of prevention, present some important limits. As Tamar Pitch points out (Pitch, 2001), they produce an individualization of the risk and an individual responsibility to face the risk itself. In this sense the potential victims feel to adopt cautious behaviours and attitudes that limit the freedom of movement (not to go out in the evening, not to walk in some public spaces). Furthermore, such enquires present the problem of an a priori selection of the offences to be considered, a choice decided on the base of what is considered, elsewhere and by someone, dangerous and productive of unsecurity. One finds the same problem of pre-selection in researches on fear, based on the perception and evaluation of the risks of suffering an offence. Bauman has pointed out the inconsistence of the fear of crime, its role of container of anxieties that takes origin from an existential condition of uncertainty (Bauman, 1999). A recent research in some areas of Padova city, conducted by Giuseppe Mosconi and Dario Padovan, has also demonstrated this assumption (Mosconi, Padovan, 2001). The alarm on crime spread by media and politicians, in Bauman’s words, represents an intelligible inclination of political elite to shift and localize the deeper causes of anxiety, the existential un-security of the individual, into the general concern for the threats to the personal security, that is the struggle against crime. It represents a political stratagem efficacious to relieve anxiety and gain electoral consensus.

On the basis of such preambles we can move to analyse the above-mentioned regional law. This law fixes the sphere of interventions that the projects on urban safety, proposed by local authorities, must follow to be financed.
They are:
a) carrying out of forms and coordinated systems of vigilance of local territory and of quarters and safety;
b) technological, logistic and organizational adjustment of local polices;
c) interventions of prevention and support to the weakest sector of population exposed to crime acts or at risk of personal safety;
d) interventions to contrast usury, crime against property, surveillance of the territory to repress offences linked to the use of drugs and alcohol and in favour of road security;
e) equipment of technologically sophisticated visual surveillance systems, systems for rapid call of aid, data processing systems for safety;
f) re-qualification of abandoned buildings that are considered having an impact on safety.

Moreover, the Law provides that the Region can acquire buildings to be bound to offices for local policies. This has always been a strong point of the Region President who, in several occasions, announced the project to build new police barracks in the whole regional area. In the last days the process of dislocation of the new barracks was accelerated. Finally, the law provides the region with an Observatory on Safety, still in progress, to support the interventions on the promotion of legality.
A subsequent Regional decree fixed the modalities, procedures and methods of financing assignation.

As to this aspect, it is important to point out that the projects with defined objectives to be reached within 18 months can be admitted; the priority is assigned to those projects where a minor amount of regional contribution is required. Therefore, as one can notice, two phases define the access to the allocation of financial contributions: the coherence with the spheres of intervention and the correspondence to the indicated methods of inexpensiveness and verifiability.

At a first look, the lines to be followed, described above, tell us much of the path that the Region is going to take. Only the point c) seems to be a form of social sustain to sectors of citizens at risk. Yet it is not clear if such support is in favour of socially and economically weak people susceptible to carry out criminal offences, or of weak people that can potentially be victims of crime, such as elders, children, immigrants or other sectors of population. In other words, it remains obscure if the point regards interventions aimed at taking care of needy subjects, intervening on the social causes of crime, or, the other way round, actions that are merely addressed to the protection of particular categories of people, turning out in an environmental prevention. In this last case, this point would not be different from the others and what emerges is that the Veneto region gives much importance to forms of environmental prevention.

Since the above-mentioned points are not clear, only an analysis of the presented projects can tell us much about the tendency taken by Local Authorities by receiving the guidelines of the Region. On this purpose we have analysed the projects of Venetian Provinces, financed by the region.

The provincial projects on safety

If one supposes that the strategies of response to what has been defined, by the projects themselves, alarming episodes of micro-crime, can take in Italy different directions according to the political colour of the local government on power, this would be proved wrong by the analysis of the projects. By reading them the first element to be noticed is that their content does not depend on the circumstance that the government on power belongs to a right or left wing political coalition.
The project of Vicenza Province, governed by a centre-right coalition, aims at the control and vigilance for the protection of public and private goods with the involvement of private subjects, totally leaving the vigilance in the hands of the private sector. It is a whole of agreements between the Province and some smaller councils and the Province and some private firms for protecting and preventing robberies and vandalism acts through the control of the territory exercised by private agencies. Far simpler is the content of Padova province’s project. The province, leaded by a centre-right coalition, has preferred to point its attention on the installation of sophisticated video surveillance in two schools, in order to prevent and punish vandalism acts.

The centre-left government leading Rovigo Province is implementing a project concerning the organizational and technological adequacy of the local police, by providing the police patrols with portable computers in order to allow the policemen to clock in and out directly in their car, and facilitate the consultation of rules and regulations. The idea is to allow the police to act timely on local territory. Since the Province traditional police’s competences have always regarded the sectors of hunting, fishing and environment in general, the interest in developing the organizational capacities of intervening on such subjects on behalf of the patrols could be innovative. Actually, as the project underlines, all local police corps have, according to law, the possibility of acting in the public security sector. In recent times, although this eventuality is depicted by law as exceptional, local authorities’ pressures for a greater involvement of local polices in a sector of intervention traditionally belonging to the exclusive competence of national police, asserted themselves. Whilst in Parliament the law on “devolution”is being discussed, which intends to assign to Regions legislative power in safety subject, some formative courses for preparing operators of local policies in struggle against crime are being held in Regional territory.

The fourth financed project is that of the province of Belluno, leaded by a centre-left government. Its object is the protection of young adults at risk of personal safety because of the high rate of crash accidents linked to the abuse of alcoholic substances. It involves public and private sectors, health board and police on one hand, voluntary services on the other, showing the importance assigned to the no-profit sector by local authorities; a point that has emerged from the interviews. This last project is a sort of a combination between environmental and social prevention, in which the diffusion of informative material to convince young people not to drink and the formative courses held in driving schools on the effects of alcohol is accompanied by the presence of the police at the entrance of pubs and discos. We can notice here an attempt to prevent a problem involving a series of different actors belonging both to public and private sector, from health services to associations of social private, commercial categories of public concern, police forces. As Peter Goris points out, multi-agency cooperation for the prevention of crime generates conflicts and tensions, for each agency sustains its own analysis and propose different solutions. Yet, these tensions are also a consequence of the impact of structural differences of power of each agency. If such tensions can be overcome by communication forms among agencies that share the same basic ideological assumptions, as it may happen among welfare agencies, more difficult appear to be the communication and cooperation between welfare agencies themselves and police agencies (Goris 2001). This happens because the final goal of communication is different: support to marginal people for the former, preservation of order and security for the latter; in our case safety of youth for social operators, safety on the roads for police. Moreover, there are two different modalities of intervention. On one hand a prevention action conducted also with proximity social operators, on the other a prevention carried out with repressive instruments of administrative nature (fines, withdrawal of driving licence, and so on).

All this kind of measures, which tend to implement all those territorial and relational variables that make the criminal behaviour less attractive and difficult to carry out, seem to be the only response to safety problems that local authorities are able to find.

It is true, one can argue, that the analysis is only partial as it does not regard all the projects presented by the smaller local authorities. However, the general lines imposed by the region seem to leave few space to implement different forms of prevention. It is important, at this point, to mark the position adopted in a public debate by the regional executive director of the Unit Project for Urban Safety. This functionary stated that almost all the projects presented by local authorities regarded the installation of video-surveillance. This circumstance makes the discussion on the interpretation of the only sphere that could leave space to social sustain policies superfluous. The functionary could defend the law maintaining that a wide series of interventions is offered by the law itself blaming local authorities for a choice mainly directed to organizational adaptation of police and installation of technological instruments of surveillance.

Actually, if it is true that the Region has waited for local authorities to put forward their proposals in safety terms without claiming that such proposals had aimed at specific forms of prevention, it is also true that it has implicitly conditioned their trend. On defining as necessary elements to local authorities their access to paid out funds, low costs and the possibility to demonstrate the efficacy in a limited period (18 months), the Region has induced the Provinces to propose projects limited to an environmental prevention that is certainly less expensive and easier to be evaluated on the short period than investments of social kind. No social and environmental evaluation has accompanied the evaluation of the projects by the Region. Obtaining funds from the Region, investing the less amount of money and alleviating anxieties of citizens towards street crimes appeared to be crucial to local authorities. What all the projects share is that they are thought to search for a solution of immediate problems. It is a typical characteristic of technocratic policies on safety. According to Patrick Hebberect the specific direction of the single safety policies depends on the combination of three elements: the one just described, which is peculiar of neo-liberal directions, a more structural priority in social prevention projects, and a symbolic one linked to a moral appeal typical of populist directions (Hebberect, 2002). One can hardly find a social element in the documents examined so far, and it seems that the moralizing and the techno-managerial element are much more influencing the direction of Venetian safety policies. In this sense, the techno-managerial element, the search for a chip solution of a problem limited to its urgent aspect, with modalities that do not affect the causes of the problematic situations, clearly appears as characterizing all the projects. The prevention and control exercised by electronic means, video-surveillance and data processing systems represent, as Pavarini says, an illusory tool, as one can hardly transform a modern city in a fortified area for a long time, and naïve, as it would imply a shift from one area to a less protected one (Pavarini 2001). Yet, other authors suggest that such tools end up with generating more dangerous social and political consequences. David Lyon maintains that the increasing concern for the risk determines a rise of the categories and modalities of classification aimed at making surveillance a powerful tool of social regulation. Even if we feel safer for the presence of a video-camera, for example in a underway, or enjoy the advantages offered by more and more sophisticated data processing, we need also to evaluate the social consequences that a warped use of such tools is bound to produce. Lyon continues that in this sense it is not only the problem of visibility of the subject or object, but above all the invisible character of the processes of systematic categorization, classification and social selection which can be technologically effected through such tools (Lyon, 2001).

The idea that more sophisticated and organized surveillance devices could prevent crime actions and guarantee the defence of victims and consequently obtain substantial amounts of objective safety, is still to be proved. The same function of prevention of video-surveillance is being questioned by some authors. The presence of video-camera does not automatically implies an immediate intervention of who is observing back the camera, unless the camera is directly connected with police headquarters. Even in this case the police intervention would take a few time and it does not mean that it will succeed in preventing the realization of the offence. Thus, the installation of video-cameras is mainly designed to solve a crime and not to prevent it, for the tape can be used to catch the offenders after that the offence has been carried out (Koskela, 2000, Peissl, 2003). Said that, the only contribution that a video-surveillance seems to furnish to security is deterrence.


This research is still going on. The first interviews to the representatives of the regional government, that constituted the basis of the first part of this work, collect the opinions of all the political parties represented in the majority, but further interviews made to the remaining members of Venetian council could still reveal themselves as capable to better delineate the conception of safety adopted by the Region. The same can be said for the Province projects presented within the regional law which has permitted financings for the development of safety in the Region. The second part of this work clearly shows the criteria that have been adopted at a regional level in order to evaluate those projects, and gives their first analysis, in the attempt to define whether the Venetian model gets closer to the social inclusion or exclusion one according to the characteristics recognized to these opposed models. Here, too, a more complete and detailed analysis could admit that the temporary conclusions of this research are right. On the basis on the interviews we made and the projects for safety we analyzed, to a progressive overcoming of the social state (trends at a national level: welfare services versus solving problems services), which in Veneto goes with a particularly positive political view of decentralization (local peculiarities), corresponds a policy for a safety that is strongly focused on the technocratic control of criminality which seems to pass through the control of the territory and the government of migratory flows. At the moment, there seem not to be the premises for an extension in any direction of the concept itself of safety as social safety: a confirmation of this is the adoption of techniques of situational prevention at more levels and the lack of perspectives left open for a greater active involvement of the population in the drawing up of possible alternatives. Yet, with respect to this last point, faced during the interviews with questions on the possible forms of relation between local governors and citizens, only a specification of the research at the level of local and communal agencies, where the everyday contact between the representatives and the represented people can be more practiced, will give us the possibility to consider these first conclusions as right.


Approvazione progetto di adeguamento tecnologico ed organizzativo del Servizio di Polizia Provinciale, Delibera n. 182 (27 settembre 2002), Provincia di Rovigo
Approvazione progetto da presentare sull’art. 3 della L. R. 9 del 7/05/2002’, Delibera n. 177/1262 (26 settembre 2002), Provincia di Belluno
‘Installazione sistemi di videosorveglianza negli Istituti scolastici “I. Nievo” di Padova ed “E. Fermi” di Este’, (26 settembre 2002), Provincia di Padova
‘Atti progetto sicurezza’, Provincia di Vicenza
Progetto di legge relativo a “Interventi regionali per la promozione della legalità e della sicurezza” (Progetti di legge nn. 42 e 112) prot. n. 3952, 65° seduta pubblica del Consiglio regionale del Veneto, 23 Aprile 2002


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