Nightwatchers, a new contribution to the regulation of public space ?

by Jacques DE MAILLARD and Patricia BÉNEC’H-LE ROUX – september 2012

 

The present edition of Penal Issues draws on a survey conducted by Jacques DE MAILLARD and Patricia BÉNEC’H-LE ROUX for the city of Paris on the Paris nightwatcher scheme (Research report, « Évaluation de l’activité des correspondants de nuit de la Ville de Paris » (« Evaluation of the Activity of Nightwatchers Employed by the City of Paris »), Guyancourt, CESDIP, « Études et Données Pénales » Series, 2011, 111). It analyses the modes of regulation of public space implemented by this type of activity.

 

Following an experimental phase during the 1990s, the French social mediation professions expanded considerably with the youth-employment (emplois-jeunes) scheme [1] introduced in 1997, which recruited local social mediation agents. The extension of these new occupations was sometimes viewed as a way of renewing the regulation of public space by putting someone in charge of looking after communal spaces, thus contributing to some sort of public order without resorting exclusively to the law [2].

Similarly, but with less focus on the issue of surveillance of public space, other scholars have pointed out that they represent a new figure among the of social work professionals, introducing work based on fluidity, mobility and support, and thus instating a new type of relationship with the population [3]. Another observation, not necessarily contradictory, is that these new activities are contingent, and suffer from a lack of recognition as a profession. Symptomatically, Philippe Robert calls them « the neo-proletariat of security workers » [4]. It is a fact that these activities suffer from a lack of recognition by the established professions, and workers find it difficult to make their skills visible [5].

 

Notes
[1] Created under Prime Minister Jospin in 1997, the « emplois-jeunes » scheme offered government subsidies to employers from the public and voluntary/cooperative sectors hiring youths under age 26 with difficulties in finding employment (translator’s note).
[2] ROCHÉ S., 2002, Tolérance zéro ? Incivilités et insécurité, Paris, Odile Jacob.
[3] ASTIER I., 2007, Les nouvelles règles du social, Paris, Presses Universitaires de France.
[4] ROBERT Ph., 2002, L’insécurité en France, Paris, La Découverte.
[5] DE MAILLARD J., FAGET J., 2002, Les agents locaux de médiation sociale : un dispositif en quête de légitimité, Les Cahiers de la Sécurité Intérieure, 48, 127-147.

 

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