SECURITY IN THE EYE OF THE CITIZEN An interview with Dr. Francesco Tagliente, prefect, in leading positions of the police institutions and territorial control bodies

  • Italiano

At times when urban security has become a primary asset, which is at risk due to the resurgence of terrorist attacks and fatigued by the arrival of hundreds of thousands of refugees, many people are looking for solutions that might rebalance Italy’s regional arrangement. Besides the actual danger that looms over the citizens’ lives, public opinion changes also under the influence of the perception of risk, which exacerbates our minds and acts as a catalyst for extremism.

In Italy, a solution that has been already tested in some cities and proved to be highly effective concerns culture, not intelligence services. It was designed by Francesco Tagliente, an almost 67-year-old man, retired since 2014. From 1986 to 1995, he worked as Chief of the Operations Room of the police headquarters in Rome; from 1995 to 2000, he served as Chief of Staff for four different directors in San Vitale Street. One of his numerous tasks was working in the frontline during the organization of the Jubilee. From 2000 to 2006, he directed the Office of the Public Order at Ministry of Interior. From 2006 to 2010, he was superintendent of the province of Florence. Then he moved back to the capital, having obtained the highest degree. In 2012, he became Prefect of Pisa. The project is a Columbus’ egg: better connect regions and institutions, and the latter among themselves. It has a name: Counsel for Urban Safety, that is to say, s security partnership.

Dr. Tagliente, would you make it clearer to us?

“The project was born to respond effectively to the need for public safety. New synergies are necessary. We have to intervene to increase safety standards and guarantee the right to feel and be safe in an ever-changing urban and social context such as the capital to all citizens, as well as to the economic and tourist operators.

The growing demand for security recorded in the last ten years, proportionally to social welfare, has led the community to pay more attention to its quality of life. From this point of view, the activities of the project aim at a gradual increase of real security, in relation to actual crime rates, and intended as protection of the personal safety of citizens against the risk of becoming the victim of a crime. At the same time, the project also means to increment the perceived safety of the citizens.”

How do you define the concept of security?

“As everyone knows, the feeling of security is determined by many variables, including urban and environmental degradation in the area where one lives or works, behaviors that violate the rules of civil cohabitation, and the consequences of the current social, cultural, relational, and general crisis of values. This perception of security can also be affected by confidence in the institutions, the visible presence of the Forces and Police Corps on the territory, and the news provided in the mass media.

Nevertheless, the concept of proximity to the citizens is not a novelty. Just think of the district police officer…

“This project is configured as an evolution of the previous security policy based on “proximity to the citizens”. It aims at interventions that “involve the citizens” for greater participation of the population in the safety mechanism.

The citizen, in the dual role of recipient and protagonist of security, becomes an active “partner” in the defense of this important individual and collective right.

So, what does this “partnership” offer?

“Its core elements are ‘participation strategies’, the needs of the citizens and those of the territory where they live. It uses the collaboration and the positive synergies between police, local authorities, associations, and the citizens themselves. It allows a synergistic action able to optimize resources, experience, tools, and skills while pursuing common goals”.

A kind of constantly updated database, right?

“To guide the action of the Police towards the specific needs of the territory, we must strengthen the internal information channels, making use of the gain experience, emergency services, Internet, reports and of the citizens’ requests. The, these data interface with external sources, useful to quantify the impact of unreported crimes: surveys, statistics, surveys of observers, associations, institutions, etc.”

You will have to deal with the chronic shortage of funds…

“At times when shortage of resources is becoming a trend, it is necessary and proper to optimize the limited resources in our possess, carefully planning and finalizing their use for specific goals and forecasting their timing and feasibility, as well as any occasion to obtain more resources.”

To get closer to people’s needs, you need less bureaucracy, open offices, and effective connections, do you not?

“To enhance the effects of the planned actions that are aimed at increasing both actual and perceived safety, the project will also guide and encourage trust between the users and the Police.

We pursue this goal fostering a better understanding of the institutions and facilitating access to offices and public services. The project has made it easier to get access to services and guarantees continuity in the functioning of the offices open to the public, for a more timely response to the needs of the users.”

Long story short, it is fine to mind your own business – as everyone does -, but also looking beyond the doors of our home might be a good way to protect ourselves. Citizens wearing uniforms, to use a slogan. That is, citizens who both control and work ‘together’ with the agents.

Protecting the entire community, while always leaving the final duty to intervene to the police. A slap in the face of those who think they need replace the authorities responsible for our safety and take action themselves. This is an extremely dangerous approach. In fact, there are no sheriffs, only conscientious citizens and rapid and available law enforcement.

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