Why do people seek security

"Feelings often do not match the statistics"

Bmbf.de: Ms. Haverkamp, ​​why are you researching security in train station districts in the “SiBa” project - isn't a look at the police crime statistics enough?

Rita Haverkamp: The statistics only ever show a section of reality - the so-called bright field. So all crimes that are reported to the police. Criminal offenses that were not noticed by the victims or that were not reported out of shame, for example, remain in the dark field. It is therefore not enough to establish security based on the number of cases. We are interested in people's complex sense of security.

... that's very subjective: How can you measure that?

In what is known as victimization or dark field research, we ask victims about their experiences. This is how their feelings can be compared. In which situations do you feel uncomfortable? In which places? When does the malaise turn into fear? Of course, you shouldn't forget that your personal circumstances are also reflected in your feelings.

For example…?

People who cannot see well in the dark tend to be reluctant to go out alone in the evening. That doesn't mean they are scared of crime. But it shows that security is a broad, complex field - and a great many points have to be taken into account here.

In 2018 there was a significant increase in thefts and physical injuries at train stations. The police union spoke of "fear rooms": Do train stations attract criminals?

Train stations attract a large number of people: residents, tourists, commuters and tradespeople - and of course also criminals. Due to these crowds, which are often only briefly there, there is a high level of anonymity. And also less so-called informal social control. Many people rush through the train station without paying attention to their fellow human beings - and what might happen to them.

So the statistics underpin the feeling of discomfort ...

... and yet feelings often do not match the statistics - everyone feels differently. There is usually a strong police presence at train stations: while some feel safer, the alarm bells ring for others. They conclude that they must be at a crime hotspot.

Have social media like Facebook and Twitter changed the perception of security?

In some cases it is certainly the case that certain scandals are picked up on social media and then washed up. However, I do not find that social media primarily have a harmful function. I think you have to look at this topic in a very differentiated way, because on the other hand social media also ensure that certain things are made transparent. However, social media also harbor the risk of retreating into your own “echo chambers”, in which you only perceive what you yourself consider relevant.

How do you bring people's complex emotional world together - what is your research goal?

We want to incorporate all the different perspectives into a prevention concept so that municipalities and cities can make their stations safer.

Ms. Haverkamp, ​​thank you for talking to us.

The “Security in the Bahnhofsviertel (SiBa)” project has been funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research from August 2017 to July 2020 in the “Research for Civil Security” program with around 930,000 euros. In addition to partners from science, the cities of Leipzig, Düsseldorf and Munich are participating. The aim is to develop new concepts and approaches for urban development and crime prevention in order to make train stations and their surroundings safer. More information here.