In keeping with the shift toward consumption as the economic basis of cities, nightlife entertainment districts have come to play an increasingly important role in the fortunes of urban economies across Europe. For the most part these districts are located in city centres where bars, restaurants, discos, cinemas and clubs are spatially clustered. They often attract large numbers of nighttime visitors looking for fun, adventure and enjoyment. The urban night, however, is a distinctive space-time. Compared to daytime, it offers more intense emotional experiences and provides more opportunities for transgressive and anti-social behaviour, including public drunkenness and alcohol-related violence. One consequence of the increased importance of the nighttime economy and the pervasive culture of fear surrounding nightlife districts has been the intensification of surveillance: police agents, private security firms and technologically advanced CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) systems aim to reduce crime and make visitors’ experience of the nightlife area as pleasant as possible. The rationale underpinning this approach is that new visitors may be attracted to nightlife areas if they are safer and more secure. However, the implementation of enhanced security measures for the benefit of some visitors may entail the exclusion of other groups, who may be singled out by surveillance agents as constituting a potential risk on the basis of their race/ethnicity, dress, comportment, etc. These issues raise questions about the effects of surveillance practices on the public character of public spaces. In this article we discuss a research project on Surveillance in Urban Nightlife Districts in the Dutch city centres of Utrecht, Rotterdam and Groningen that examines the complex relations between surveillance, security and the publics of nightlife districts. (...)
Irina van Aalst & Ilse van Liempt work at the Department of Human Geography and Planning at Utrecht University.Jelle Brands
Jelle Brands works in the Department of Human Geography at the University of Utrecht, NL.Tim Schwanen
Tjerk Timan works as a lecturer, researcher and designer in the field of information and communications technology.