Leiden University: Urban criminologist to research how safe the people of Leiden feel

Since the beginning of September, urban criminologist Marianne Franken has been the linchpin of a special partnership between Leiden University, the municipality of Leiden and the police. As a PhD candidate she will spend four years conducting research into how safe the people of Leiden feel.

Franken’s research won’t just provide insight into how safe the people of Leiden feel in their city: if necessary, the municipality and police will take steps to help people feel safer. ‘You might feel unsafe if you are scared of being mugged,’ says Franken. ‘That could be if the visibility is poor in a street or a dark alley. The municipality can make sure there is better street lighting.’

Safety monitor and questionnaires
Franken wants to gain a good idea of which circumstances make the city’s residents feel unsafe or conversely, safe. That makes it important for the people of Leiden to take part in the research. ‘There’s plenty of data available, among others from the Leiden Safety Monitor, which collects annual data about break-ins or violent crime, for instance. I want to combine that data with the results of short questionnaires that the people of Leiden will soon be able to fill in.’

In the research I also want to look at which circumstances make people feel safe – Marianne Franken

The existing Safety Monitor shows that Leiden already has a fairly good score for safety. Can that be improved? ‘There’s always room for improvement,’ says Franken. ‘But in the research I also want to look at which circumstances make people feel safe. Is that if you’re somewhere where you know people, for instance? Or is it related to a certain location or time of the day? This information can also help.’

The university, municipality and police are ideal partners for the research, says Franken. ‘As a social geographer I know a lot about spatial planning, and the municipality and police know the city really well. The collaboration means the research can have an impact on society. The people of Leiden will really benefit.’ And that is important to Franken because she will only be satisfied if the people of the city feel involved in the research.

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