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Safety inMaastricht

Social quality

Social quality relates to the ‘resilience’ and ‘vitality’ of the neighbourhood, which are largely determined by ‘interhuman relationships’. Examples of these relationships include the involvement of residents, the quality of social networks, and informal social control.

Police figures
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019 2020 1st half year
Disturbance of the peace (relation problems) 285 307 352 426 446 362 242
Nuisance caused by persons with mental health problems or distressed persons 381 416 536 625 732 759 459
Homeless-related nuisance 157 146 127 158 216 206 162
Drug and alcohol-related nuisance 1821 1237 1006 985 1064 995 504
Safety monitor
2014 2015 2016 2017 2019
Social cohesion - scale score [score] 5.6 5.7 6 5.7 5.8
% Nuisance from local residents: great nuisance [%] 8.8 8.3 7.1 8.2 6.8
% Drug use and Drug trafficking: great nuisance [%] 17.1 15 10.2 11 8.6
% Public drunkenness: great nuisance [%] 6 5.4 5.3 5.6 4.4
% Persons harassed on the streets: great nuisance [%] 3.2 2.6 1.8 2.2 2.1
Social nuisance [%] 28 25 20.2 20.5 17.5

The quantitative and qualitative depictions reveal that Maastricht’s social quality is under pressure. The nuisance recorded under this theme has a great influence on the safety of Maastricht’s residents and their perception of security. Pressure can be imposed on social quality by domestic nuisance, disturbance of the peace, nuisance caused by persons with mental health problems and nuisance caused by multi-problem families/households, nuisance caused by unauthorized occupancy, intimidation by local residents (untouchables) and drug and alcohol related nuisance.

The individualization of society has resulted in the fragmentation of social cohesion. A society in which personal interest is increasingly assigned priority over communal interest and in which members of the public feel less and less responsible for overarching social problems can be confronted with weakening moral standards. Members of public with declining trust in the authorities and their enforcers who are apprehensive of offenders or groups of offenders are more inclined to seek the boundaries of the acceptable and less inclined to call each other to account for deviant behaviour.

Socially vulnerable neighbourhoods experience the greatest pressure on quality of life. Certain neighbourhoods have an inadequate or declining social resilience. A lack of mutual contacts and unfamiliarity with the neighbourhood and its residents result in uncertainty about the acceptable standards and values in the neighbourhood. The residents then become less inclined to take action to curb a disturbance of public order in the neighbourhood or the threat of a disturbance, which ultimately results in the disappearance of social control. and creates the conditions in which nuisance and frequently occurring crime can flourish.

Studies have revealed that social networks and contacts — social cohesion — discourage crime. Social cohesion develops in neighbourhoods with collective resilience. This collective resilience develops in the presence of strong local social ties and shared standards and values, which creates a climate of trust and fuels the willingness to make a contribution to the community, such as keeping an eye out for potential problem situations. Various studies have revealed that neighbourhoods with little collective resilience can suffer from high concentrations of nuisance and crime. The residents of these neighbourhoods run a greater risk of becoming a victim of a crime and a greater risk of fear of crime (Hardyns, 2010a; Wikstöm & Dolmén, 2001).

A criminological study of collective resilience, social capital, and fear of crime concluded that neighbourhood nuisance and crime have a great impact on the local residents’ perceptions of security. Policy initiatives focused on the reinforcement of social cohesion and social trust in the neighbourhood counter the detrimental impact of economic deprivation and also create a buffer against neighbourhood nuisance and crime. It is expected that these policy efforts will only bear fruit once the nuisance problems in the neighbourhood are firmly tackled and followed-up on. This approach results in visible improvements with respect to fear of crime, avoidance behaviour and estimations of the risk of becoming a victim.

Scientific literature3 reveals that certain neighbourhoods remain vulnerable to high crime figures irrespective of the persons who choose to live in the neighbourhood. The theoretical explanation for this based on four characteristics of urban neighbourhoods:

  1. poverty;
  2. resident mobility (many residents who move to and from the neighbourhood);
  3. decay (poor condition of the buildings);
  4. population density (many residents in a small area).

These four neighbourhood characteristics, in particular the first three, increase the moral cynicism of the local residents and offer more opportunities to commit crimes: there is less informal control, which is essential if crime is to be curbed. The result is moral decay, more opportunities for crime, less social control, and a stronger inclination to commit crimes. Anonymity in the neighbourhood is enhanced, which makes it more appealing to criminals. The aforementioned conditions in a neighbourhood result in a downwards spiral in which criminals dominate and other residents leave. This results in nuisance, decay and feelings of insecurity.

The Scientific Council for Government Policy4, finally, has concluded that there is an inverse correlation between diversity in origin and the aforementioned indicators of social cohesion. These conclusions are, in summary:

  • residents in neighbourhoods with a greater diversity in origin assess the neighbourhood relationships as less cohesive, feel less at home, and feel more insecure. The researchers, in contrast to earlier Dutch studies, found a stronger correlation between these indicators of social cohesion and diversity in the neighbourhood as compared to individual characteristics of the residents in the neighbourhood, such as income or level of education;
  • residents of municipalities with a greater diversity in origin are more likely to have a criminal record than those of municipalities with a smaller diversity in origin. However, there is a ceiling for this effect, as the likelihood does not increase further above a given degree of diversity;
  • the aforementioned correlations are strongest amongst the groups of residents with an average income, who are more inclined to give neighbourhood relationships a lower score as diversity increases. The study does not give a definitive answer for this difference. However, it is possible that persons with a lower income have more experience with greater diversity in their neighbourhood and that persons with a higher income who experience greater diversity as a problem have more opportunities to move out of the neighbourhood, whilst persons with an average income feel more threatened as they have more to lose.

Lam, J., Wal, R. van der, & Kop, N. (2018), sluipend gif, een onderzoek naar ondermijnende criminaliteit, Den Haag: Boom criminologie PDF

Hardyns, W. & Pauwels, L. (2012), Collective efficacy, sociaal kapitaal en ‘fear if crime’, Tijdschrift voor Criminologie, 54 (4), 304-319 Weblink

Bernard, T.J., Snipes, J.B., Vold, G.B. & Gerould, A.L. (2009). Vold’s Theoretical criminology (6th edition). Chapter VII: Neighborhoods and crime. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Find in a library

Jennissen, R., Engbersen, G., Bokhorst, M. & Bovens, M. (2018), De nieuwe verscheidenheid, Den Haag: Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid Weblink