Securing the city, making the city:

Property guardianship and dispersed policing in urban space

Elara Shurety

Published in Issue 3.2 // The Long Read

Keywords: property guardianship, security, anti-social behaviour, policing, subjectivity


This article addresses the phenomenon of contemporary property guardianship, a type of building security by live-in occupants, who pay below-market rents, as a growing method of dispersed policing. While the centrality of property security is often foregrounded, both in existing literature on the topic and by property guardian operators, this research charts the increasing use of property guardians as operationalised agents in the surveillance and regulation of urban space. Within this, it looks at property security through an understanding of the building as a spillover site, the security for which has ramifications for wider urban space. Through analysis of how property guardians provide security within a wider remit than typically understood, it underscores guardianships relationship to broader security regimes. In light of its findings, it readdresses the role guardianship plays within the context of urban regeneration and gentrification. Through focusing on guardianship in London, with reference to other U.K. cities, it examines closely at borough-level local authorities use of guardians to further understand the position of guardianship-as-policing within regeneration. As such, it engages with the ways that property guardianship, as with other modes of policing, is concomitant with efforts to reorganise and remake cities. This research builds on previous scholarship within the topic of guardianship, while drawing on work from fields such as urban studies, policing studies and abolitionist thought, as well as reportage, promotional material, and both local and national policy. Through use of interviews and questionnaires, this article centres the experiences of guardians, and their relationship to their duties. It attempts to understand the subjectivities produced and actively sought by such dispersed methods of policing activity, which are undoubtedly reliant partly on the precarity of those enacting them.

Elara Shurety is a Masters student at the Centre for Research Architecture, Goldsmiths College, currently working on housing, policing, and regeneration, and is a member of the Carceral Time Working Group. She has been part of the struggle against the redevelopment of the Seven Sisters Indoor Market, North London, popularly known as the Latin Village, and is now working toward the delivery of the Community Plan and common ownership of the site. 

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