ABSTRACT

Social incivilities, understood as lower-level breaches of community standards, have received ample scholarly attention over the years, although mostly in the Anglo-American context, because they appear to signal crime and trouble (Hunter 1978, LaGrange, Ferraro and Supancic 1992), just like broken windows or other physical cues do. Activities such as loitering, hanging around and displaying improper behaviour have increasingly become the target of policies aimed at reducing fear of crime and insecurities (Garland 2001). This also holds for the Netherlands, where the government does not provide an explicit definition but describes social incivilities as ‘behaviour systematically severely impacting on the wellbeing, and which is specifically targeted at specific persons’.1 A more useful definition might be that of the European Commission (2000: 4), which defined anti-social conduct as ‘conduct that without being a criminal offence can by its cumulative effect generate a climate of tension and insecurity’. Preventing and punishing these categories of behaviour have become crucial in times in which the police and other law enforcement agencies are under pressure to prevent crime from happening.