Certain trends underway in our cities today are particularly evident in areas near railway stations, including: an increasing social complexity, and ethnic and cultural diversity; social fragmentation; growing social exclusion; and the construction of material and symbolic boundaries between different social groups. The present article analyses these aspects by comparing the neighbourhoods around the railway stations of two cities in north-eastern Italy (Padua and Mestre – the latter is part of the municipality of Venice). The study investigates the problems experienced by the various urban populations in these areas, the reasons for the conflicts between them, and the actions taken by various public and private bodies mobilised to improve the quality of life in these districts. Adopting a critical criminological approach, the article deconstructs the dominant narratives describing petty crime as the biggest problem of this type of neighbourhoods, and delves into the actual consequences of ‘zero tolerance’ local policies and those which, on the contrary, seek to move in an inclusive direction.
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