Researchers from Erasmus School of Law Receive Horizon European Consortium Grant for Community Policing Research

Schuilenburg (links) en Wessels (rechts)

The European Commission has awarded the Department of Law, Society & Crime at Erasmus School of Law a Horizon European Research and Innovation Actions (RIA) consortium grant under the Fighting Crime and Terrorism program. The KOBAN project involves several police organisations, including those from the Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Poland, Spain, Portugal, Finland, and Belgium, alongside ministries and technology developers. Marc Schuilenburg, Professor of Digital Surveillance, and Martijn Wessels, PhD candidate in AI accountability, are involved in this project on behalf of Erasmus School of Law. 

KOBAN Project 

In September 2024, a three-year European study on the digitalisation of community policing will commence. The project will conduct multiple pilots where various AI tools will be developed and tested in practice. This initiative is based on the philosophy of KOBAN, a Japanese form of community policing that emphasises a decentralised, problem-oriented, and local approach by the police. 

New Challenges for the Police 

As society digitalises and AI plays an increasingly significant role, physical and digital worlds are becoming more intertwined. Citizens engage in various social groups both online and offline, with dynamics no longer tied to geographic locations. This shift challenges the traditional concept of community, which used to be confined to places where people live, work, and socialise. Consequently, new challenges arise for the police. Previously, the police could focus on physical forms of community policing to identify potential issues in neighbourhoods early. With digitalisation, the police must now also focus on online communities and the blending of physical and digital worlds. 

New Strategies and Digital Tools 

The police are undergoing a digital transformation, increasingly relying on AI applications and algorithms to automate, improve, and accelerate processes. They use algorithms for predictive policing, real-time support (e.g., ANPR cameras, facial recognition), and retrospective analysis (e.g., ENCROCHAT message analysis). Initially, such AI applications were heavily focused on repressive actions. A key question in the KOBAN project is how AI and algorithms can also be used proactively and strengthen local communities. The police need new strategies and digital tools for this purpose. 

Responsible Digitalization of Community Policing 

Erasmus School of Law plays a central role in this consortium by developing a framework for the responsible use of digital tools for community policing. This must be done responsibly to avoid negative societal impacts, unfair treatment, or stigmatisation of groups. Wessels explains: “The digitalisation of police operations requires a thorough and transparent assessment of opportunities and risks. Responsible use of digital tools by the police must consider the entire lifecycle: from design to deployment.” Questions addressed include: What is the added value of AI for specific security issues? What requirements should technological applications for community policing meet? How can such applications be deployed while respecting public values and fundamental rights? According to Schuilenburg, this project will develop a framework to be used throughout the European Union to strengthen community policing and evaluate the various pilots. Schuilenburg states: “Responsible digitalisation is crucial for maintaining a democratic and open society, and this project aims to contribute to that.” 

For inquiries, please contact Marc Schuilenburg ( and Martijn Wessels ( 

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