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Criminal Policy and Social Control 101: Conclusions on the Differences and Similarities in Europe


Foreword



As a Criminology course, this series aims at how policies affect criminal behaviour, emphasising the importance of its prevention and how control can be achieved in a community in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere and civic conduct in society. Antisocial behaviour as a crime is usually taken by the literature to explain youth crime and how it can be treated, focusing on its risk factors, explanatory theories, or its treatment from jurisprudence. However, this course will explore its criminal components typified in the penal code and not from the behavioural sciences as the nature of this conduct, giving a different criminological perspective to the topic. Therefore, it will commence with a literature review of the concept of antisocial behaviour, accompanied by a theoretical and practical examination of the security measures that different EU countries have implemented and designed to prevent antisocial behaviour crimes. Bearing this goal in mind, it will also examine the antisocial behaviour in some EU countries such as Spain, Finland, Germany and Hungary, aiming to cover all geographical and cultural areas of Europe to compare the measures taken to prevent it.



This 101 series is divided into the following six chapters of content:


  1. Antisocial Behaviour as a Form of Criminality

  2. Incivilities from a Sociocultural Perspective

  3. Incivilities from a Gender and Urbanisation Point of View

  4. Migration and Politics about Antisocial Behaviour

  5. Hate Crimes and Antisocial Behaviour

  6. Conclusions on the Differences and Similarities in Europe


Criminal Policy and Social Control 101: Conclusions on the Differences and Similarities in Europe



In this final article, a series of conclusions will be presented, taking into account both the analysis collected around the concept of antisocial behaviour and its particularisation in each of the case studies. Likewise, the similarities and differences regarding the antisocial behaviour of each country will be defined, taking into account both their legislative and sociopolitical perspective. A comparison will also be established on the measures that each country implements for the prevention of antisocial behaviour. Finally, some conclusions will be delivered about how antisocial behaviour is treated in the European Union and an example referring to the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City as a possible model to follow to reinforce the prevention of antisocial behaviour in the European public space.


It has been seen that, in general, the four countries analysed belonging to a different cultural corner in the European Union have similarities in terms of the concept of antisocial behaviour, but also notorious differences. One of these main similarities is that the crime of antisocial behaviour typifies any behaviour that alters the normal development of coexistence or order in a public space. Another similarity that encompasses these four countries —Spain, Finland, Germany and Hungary— is that antisocial behaviour can involve both physical and psychological aggression. However, this alteration of the normal development of coexistence is different depending on the cultural context that is being analysed. If this antisocial behaviour is analysed beyond the legislative framework and the sociocultural aspect is taken into account, it is observed that this behaviour differs in each country. In order to visualise this comparison in a schematic and general way, a table is presented below explaining the definition of antisocial behaviour, together with its criminal consequences and its prevention for each country mentioned:

ANTISOCIAL BEHAVIOUR

Definition

Penal Consequences

Prevention Measures

Spain

Behaviour against: Rights

Dignity

Freedom

Serious: 750 to 1,500 euros fine

Very serious: 1,500 to 3,000 euros fine

Pedagogical


Situational Crime Prevention

Finland

Public order and security

Economic fine (non specify)

Police forces


Perception of insecurity

Germany

Breach of peace

Extreme right

Serious: up to 3 years in prison

Very serious: up to 10 years in prison

Media


Pedagogical

Hungary

Public order

Hate crime

Serious: up to 2 years in prison

Very serious: up to 3 years in prison

External agents


Accurate crime statistics

Figure 1: Comparison table of antisocial behaviour in the four countries. López (2023)


Antisocial Behaviour Definition


In the case of Spain, the typification of antisocial behaviour mainly mentions violating the dignity, rights and freedom of other people (Barcelona City Council, 2005). In the case of Finland, the crime of antisocial behaviour refers to a serious disturbance of public order and security (Ministry of Interior, 2010). The penal codes of these two countries elaborate a breakdown of actions encompassed in this antisocial behaviour according to the sociocultural framework in which they operate. One of these behaviours that they have in common refers, for example, to gambling, noise pollution, offering sexual services or urinating on public roads, or the visual degradation of public space. However, other types of behaviour are more attached to the sociocultural or thermal context, such as in the case of Spain nudism is prohibited or in the case of Finland, the cleaning of ice or snow from private property is regulated to prevent damage to public roads. Regarding the victimological point of view, in the particular cases of Finland and Germany (Ministry of Interior, 2010; German Criminal Code, 2021) no mention is made in the definition of antisocial behaviour of aggression against any type of minority group. In the case of Spain, children, the disabled and the elderly are especially mentioned. In the case of Hungary, it focuses on discrimination based on nationality, ethnicity, race, religion, social factors, disability, gender identity and sexual orientation (Criminal Code, 2012). If the cases of Germany and Hungary are analysed, it can be seen that jurisprudence does not specify a certain behaviour or establish a breakdown of the main conducts classified as antisocial behaviour, but in practice, it has a clear allusion objective to define particular perpetrators or victims in their penal codes. Antisocial behaviour in Germany focuses above all on crimes committed by the extreme right against ethnic minorities (Rieker, 2006; Hörnle, 2002) —Muslims and/or of Turkish origin—. The case of Hungary focuses on hate crimes, especially against Jews, Roma people, the LGTBI community, refugees and Muslims (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, 2023). Finally, all the countries analysed include attacks on property in their definition of antisocial behaviour, except Hungary, which only includes attacks on people (Criminal Code, 2012).


Penal Consequences


Regarding the criminal consequences for the commission of a crime for antisocial behaviour, the case of Finland is the only one that does not develop them, establishing only that it will correspond to an economic fine, although the amount is not detailed (Ministry of Interior, 2010). For its part, the Spanish legislative framework stipulates a financial fine of between 750 and 1,500 euros if a serious crime is committed for antisocial behaviour, and between 1,500 and 3,000 euros if it is committed against minors, the disabled or the elderly (Barcelona City Council, 2005). The German and Hungarian cases go further and establish custodial sentences for those who commit a crime for antisocial behaviour. In addition, these two cases further aggravate the penalty if it is committed in a group or when carrying some type of weapon. In the example of Germany, it is established that the penalty will be up to 3 years in prison, and in the case of carrying some type of weapon or that this behaviour endangers the lives of people, seriously aggravates health, or poses serious damage to property, the penalty will be between six months to ten years in prison (German Criminal Code, 2021). In the Hungarian jurisprudence, the prison sentence is set up to no more than 2 years, and 3 years if committed in a gang, showing or carrying a deadly weapon —although the sentence set up to 5 and 8 years imprisonment respectively in cases of crimes of hate— (Criminal Code, 2012).


Figure 2: In some countries, antisocial behaviour can be sentenced to prison. European Parlament (2017)


Prevention Measures


As far as prevention measures are concerned, these are generally not included in the jurisprudence of each country, therefore the literature was taken into account in each case. In the examples of Spain and Germany, a bibliography referring to the use of pedagogy as a preventive measure of antisocial behaviour was found. Since in the case of Germany, the young population was considered the main perpetrator, mention was also made of the importance of influencing the media with the aim of not encouraging hate speech (Medina et al., 2019). In the cases of Spain and Finland, the technique of situational crime prevention was implemented (Jasso, 2015). The case of Finland represents the only country that mainly focuses its prevention measures on the potential victim rather than the potential perpetrator. This may be because Finland represents the safest country of those analysed in this series of articles. Although there are no alarming figures regarding crime in Finland (Boda and Medve-Balint, 2014; Statista, 2022), its prevention measures are aimed above all at reinforcing the population's sense of security, focusing its efforts on generating a vision of trust and effectiveness in the police force (Salmi and Grönroos, 2004). Finally, Hungary represents the most different case with respect to the others in terms of prevention measures for antisocial behaviour. In this country, the urgency to prevent hate crimes is considered such that different agents outside the state have had to intervene in this regard (European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, 2023).


Suggestions for Preventing Antisocial Behaviour in the European Context


Within the framework of the European Union, it is possible to establish certain general prevention measures for antisocial behaviour in public spaces, as explored in the first article of this series. An example of this is represented by the European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City, drawn up in Barcelona in 1998 and approved in Saint-Denis two years later (United Cities and Local Governments, 2021). Hundreds of mayors and political representatives from different European cities participated in this meeting —Venice, Nuremberg, Lyon and Geneva among the most prominent—, who joined their voices to demand greater political recognition as key actors in the safeguarding of human rights in an increasingly urbanised world. This charter establishes a framework for understanding and promoting human rights at the local level and in global cooperation. The main human rights are compiled, as well as political mechanisms to advance in their application from the perspective of the local government. Over the last decades, it has been signed by more than 360 local authorities from all over Europe, gathering to date —the last follow-up was carried out in 2018— new adhesions. Among its most relevant articles, a model city is defined for example as a collective space, belonging to all who live in it. These have the right to enjoy their own political, social and ecological development. The municipal authorities encourage respect for the dignity and quality of life for all. This suggests that this city model is a shared public space where everyone has the same opportunities and rights to enjoy it. The rights contained in this Charter apply to all persons who inhabit the signatory cities, irrespective of their nationality, henceforth known as "citizens". These rights are guaranteed by the municipal authorities, without any discrimination with regard to colour, age, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion, political opinion, ethnicity, national or social origin, or level of income. These groups represent the same groups that the Hungarian penal code protects under its regulatory framework. The signatory cities adopt active policies in support of the most vulnerable of the population, guaranteeing each one the right to participate in civic life. The cities adopt all the measures necessary to assist the social integration of all citizens, regardless of the reason for their vulnerability, thereby preventing discrimination against them. Furthermore, not only do these minorities enjoy the same rights as society in general, but they are granted special protection as they belong to certain vulnerable groups. These programmes contribute to social integration in a multi-cultural context by making available to everyone without distinction public spaces, as well as spaces in further education establishments, schools and cultural centres. These cities evolve under respect for diversity and respect for difference, their public policies are aimed at covering this multicultural reality. The municipal authorities, in cooperation with cultural associations and the private sector, promote the development of urban cultural life with respect for diversity. Suitable public spaces are at the disposal of citizens to use for cultural and social activities and with equal conditions applying to all. Therefore, through this Charter example, it is shown that it is possible to develop cities at a European level that respect human rights. Likewise, this development also involves the prevention of antisocial behaviour in the public space, by promoting a peaceful coexistence based on respect, solidarity and non-discrimination. However, cultural relativity must be a priority when looking at this crime in every specific country, in order to tackle the issue as efficiently as possible.


Figure 3: 2018 European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City Congress. The European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City (2021)


Conclusions


In this series of articles, it has been seen that antisocial behaviour refers to any conduct that alters the normal development of coexistence or order in a public space. The main differences between the countries analysed lie in whether or not specific sectors of the population are specified. While Spain and Finland focus their definitions of antisocial behaviour on the population in general, Germany and Hungary focus this behaviour on particular sectors of the population. Beyond the legislative framework, it is necessary to emphasise that the definition of behaviour —whether social or antisocial— in a given country is linked to its sociocultural and political context. This series of articles ends by stressing the importance of the institutional cooperation of global and local organisations in putting their efforts into the support, design and evaluation of joint plans for the prevention of antisocial behaviour in the European public space. In this sense, Finland is the only country of those analysed in which there is complete collaboration between authorities and organisations that work together to design antisocial behaviour prevention plans, if only to reinforce the feeling of security among its citizens. Spain should also be taken as an example for the design of pedagogical plans for the prevention of antisocial behaviour in the long term, so that citizens understand and commit to the seriousness of the crime and its prevention. For its part, Germany has made great efforts to target the prevention of antisocial behaviour towards the main perpetrator of this crime, the extreme right. Lastly, Hungary has been concerned with protecting the most vulnerable group of its population —at least in legislative terms— so each country of the European Union should follow these particular guidelines for these four countries specifically for the prevention of antisocial behaviour. In this sense, it is not only necessary to work on main topics such as economy, labour, international relations or tourism. If we do not work in parallel on the improvement of public space through which we transit and enjoy every day, we will not be able to fully enjoy the benefits to which we aspire at a higher level. For this reason, it is extremely important to direct more efforts towards the implementation of antisocial behaviour prevention plans. Thanks to this prevention we will be able to enjoy more solidarity and peaceful and respectful European cities in accordance with the democratic values that govern the essence of the European Union.


Bibliographical References

Barcelona City Council (2005) Ordenanza de medidas para fomentar y garantizar la convivencia ciudadana en el espacio público de Barcelona. https://ajuntament.barcelona.cat/dretsidiversitat/sites/default/files/convivencia.830.pdf

Boda, Z., and Medve-Balint, G. (2014) Does Institutional Trust in East-Central Europe differ from Western Europe? European Quarterly of Political Attitudes and Mentalities, 3 (2), 1–17.

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (2023) ECRI Report on Hungary. Council of Europe: https://www.coe.int/en/web/portal/-/hungary-police-hate-crime-investigations-are-enhanced-but-growing-lgbti-stigmatisation-and-xenophobic-political-discourse-raise-concern


German Criminal Code (2021) in the version published on 13 November 1998 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 3322), as last amended by Article 2 of the Act of 22 November 2021 (Federal Law Gazette I, p. 4906). Federal Ministry of Justice.


Hörnle, T. (2002) Offensive Behavior and German Penal Law. Buffalo criminal law review, (5) 255-278.


Jasso, L. (2015) El desorden y la incivilidad en el espacio público. Aproximaciones de política pública para su planteamiento. Revista Alter, Enfoques Críticos, 6 (12) 51-67.


Medina, S., Shahrezaye, M., Papakyriakopoulos, O. and Hegelich, S. (2019) The Rise of Germany’s AfD: A Social Media Analysis. In Proceedings of International Conference on Social Media and Society (214-223) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1145/3328529.3328562


Ministry of Interior (2010) Public Order Act 612/2003. Finland: Ministry of Interior


Rieker, P. (2006) Juvenile Right-Wing-Extremism and Xenophobia in Germany: Research and Prevention (67-78). In: Prevention of Right-Wing Extremism, Xenophobia and Racism in European Perspective. Rieker, P., Glaser, M. and Schuster, S. (eds.). Halle: Deutsches Jugendinstitut.


Salmi and Grönroos, (2004) The role of police visibility in fear of crime in Finland. Policing An International Journal of Police Strategies and Management 27(4) 573-591. DOI:10.1108/13639510410566280


Statista (2022) Number of criminal offenses per 1,000 population in Finland from 2012 to 2022. From: https://www.statista.com/statistics/1239562/crime-rate-in-finland/#:~:text=In%202022%2C%20there%20were%2085.54,of%2098.2%20per%201%2C000%20population.


United Cities and Local Governments (2021) The European Charter for the Safeguarding of Human Rights in the City. From: https://uclg-cisdp.org/en/news/european-charter-safeguarding-human-rights-city

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Lucas López Sosa

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