Remaking Place and Securitising Space: Urban Regeneration and the Strategies, Tactics and Practices of Policing in the UK

Mike Raco

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Raco, M. (1). Remaking Place and Securitising Space: Urban Regeneration and the Strategies, Tactics and Practices of Policing in the UK. Urban Studies, 40(9), 1869–1887.

Urban regeneration programmes in the UK over the past 20 years have increasingly focused on attracting investors, middle-class shoppers and visitors by transforming places and creating new consumption spaces. Ensuring that places are safe and are seen to be safe has taken on greater salience as these flows of income are easily disrupted by changing perceptions of fear and the threat of crime. At the same time, new technologies and policing strategies and tactics have been adopted in a number of regeneration areas which seek to establish control over these new urban spaces. Policing space is increasingly about controlling human actions through design, surveillance technologies and codes of conduct and enforcement. Regeneration agencies and the police now work in partnerships to develop their strategies. At its most extreme, this can lead to the creation of zero-tolerance, or what Smith terms ‘revanchist’, measures aimed at particular social groups in an effort to sanitise space in the interests of capital accumulation. This paper, drawing on an examination of regeneration practices and processes in one of the UK’s fastest growing urban areas, Reading in Berkshire, assesses policing strategies and tactics in the wake of a major regeneration programme. It documents and discusses the discourses of regeneration that have developed in the town and the ways in which new urban spaces have been secured. It argues that, whilst security concerns have become embedded in institutional discourses and practices, the implementation of security measures has been mediated, in part, by the local socio-political relations in and through which they have been developed.

Main finding
The author argues that broader trends in securitization and policing strategies, at sites of consumption, must account for local socio-political contexts; therefore, geographical analysis is critical in understanding how these strategies are governed, exercised, and modified. For example, strong local economic growth was a local factor shaping policing such that public planning agencies and the borough council were able to wield more influence over how the development took shape and advocate for the community’s benefit. This influence was partly expressed through the council’s insistence on both security and high degrees of access to the public space; the latter of which developers, business owners, and the police opposed because it relinquished too much control over public space and permitted ‘undesirables’ to enter. Despite this, the limitation of community involvement in the planning process and security tactics, like CCTV and defensive architecture, have left many feeling excluded as spaces becomes increasingly profit-oriented.

Description of method used in the article
Data is this paper are based on a research project previously conducted by the author from October 2000 to May 2001. A total of 27 interviews were conducted with policy-makers, developers, local community group members, police officers, and other actors involved in the regeneration projects. Additionally, policy documents, architectural records, council minutes, and correspondence were analyzed to develop a sense of the current regeneration discourse and practices taking place.

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