Does surveillance have a political color? Circles of vigilance, social capital, and municipal competition in peri-urban areas

Participations in law and order
By Matthijs Gardenier

Since 2011 and the Guéant circular on “citizen participation,” we are witnessing in France the development of “Voisins Vigilants,” modeled on the American and British neighborhood watches. The concept is simple : organizing a network of neighbors who warn the police when criminal acts are committed in their vicinity. Located mainly in suburban areas, these groups intend to target burglaries, in neighborhoods where there are few people during the day. The Voisins Vigilants would not be used to intervene against crimes, but to set up surveillance, as emblematized by the movement’s logo, a wide-open eye on a yellow background. During a field survey in seven different communities, we see that these networks share the perspective of creating a social space perceived by the participants as safe, which can become a tool for affirming social segregation. This shared vision will also be an opportunity for some stakeholders to accumulate social capital allowing them to make inroads into the electoral arena in the places where these surveillance networks are located.

  • neighborhood watches
  • vigilantism
  • watchful citizens
  • social link
  • social capital
  • France
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