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:
- resident mobility (many residents who move to and from the neighbourhood);
- decay (poor condition of the buildings);
- 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
Hardyns, W. & Pauwels, L. (2012), Collective efficacy, sociaal kapitaal en ‘fear
if crime’, Tijdschrift voor
Criminologie, 54 (4), 304-319
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
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Jennissen, R., Engbersen, G., Bokhorst, M. & Bovens, M. (2018), De nieuwe verscheidenheid,
Den Haag: Wetenschappelijke Raad voor het Regeringsbeleid