Crime in the streets



Publication Details

Ross, S. & Hanley, N. (2017). Crime in the streets. In D. Palmer, W. de Lint & D. Dalton (Eds.), Crime and Justice: A Guide to Criminology (pp. 129-150). Pyrmont, Australia: Thomson Reuters.


The way people think about crime, and in particular the things that people fear about crime, are powerfully influenced by the experiences, imagery and meanings associated with crime on the streets. Crime takes place in every conceivable location, but it is street crime that seems to resonate most directly with our concerns about when and how we may become victims of crime. Street crime is no more serious than crime in other places, but it is commonplace and visible. Street crime is the public face of crime. It provides a window onto the way our society functions, generates images of deviance that help us define ourselves, and serves as a receptacle for many of our fears about modern life. By examining street crime we can better understand how we think about crime, and how social and institutional responses to crime are shaped by those constructions and concerns. In this chapter, we examine the extent and nature of street crime as well as how people feel about street crime. We consider how the concept of street crime goes beyond the literal description of crime that occurs in public places and becomes a metaphor for crime as the consequence of social disorder. We examine the competing interests that come into play in the regulation and policing of public space, and the challenges for public safety and the management of public behaviour that arise. A key point is that peoples' perceptions and beliefs about street crime differ great1y from what is known from police statistics and victim survey data on the characteristics and patterns of street crime. We suggest that in order to be effective, policing and other regulatory activities directed at street crime need to give greater attention to the range of people who see the streets as more than just utilitarian spaces but engage with the stree tin diverse ways as social, recreational and commercial spaces.

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