Category Archives: Controlling Crime

I want a HERTI for my birthday

For those of you that don’t know – a HERTI is a drone – a  ‘High Endurance Rapid Technology Insertion’ drone – Or a five-metre long, unmanned, remote controlled aircraft produced by BAE systems – the kind that the Ministry of Defence tested out inAfghanistan between 2007 and 2009.

BAE drones are programmed to take off and land on their own, stay airborne for up to 15 hours and reach heights of 20,000ft, making them invisible from the ground. Surveillance data is fed back to control rooms via monitoring equipment such as high-definition cameras, radar devices and infrared sensors.

I want one for my birthday (July – don’t forget the ‘buy me a gift link’ to the left!) so I can keep pace with Kent Police and other forces – who are developing a national drone plan with BAE – Drones will potentially be part of the massive surveillance and security operation surrounding the 2012 olympics – (to complement the 42000 security staff, warship in the Thames and surface to air missiles on standby – this is another blog post in itself)

Getting back to Drones – While they aren’t yet licensced to fly in British airspace, they are already in use in the states for combatting crime – only last week local police in North Dakota used a Predator B drone — the most common unmanned aircraft employed by the U.S. military to attack and kill “insurgents” in the Muslim world — to apprehend three men.

So should we be worried about the coming deployment of drones? – Given that they’ve been extensively tried and tested – mainly over Afghanistan and Pakistan – The U.S. currently flys over 7000 drones in such regions -surely it’s just a matter of time before our anti-civil-liberties government authorises their use by UK agents of social control?

Personally, I think we should be very concerned – while there are legitimate, crime-fighting uses – possible uses proposed by the police include detecting theft from cash machines, preventing theft of tractors, road and railway monitoring, search and rescue, event security and covert urban surveillance as well as fly-posting, fly-tipping, abandoned vehicles, abnormal loads, waste management – these drones can easily be put to anti-libertarian uses too.

It’s likely they will be used to increasing the extent of surveillance of protestors at places such as occupy – and there is also the potential to be use them to subvert flash mobbing during future protests. Even more worrying is that the larger drones can be retro-fitted with military hardwear – think tear gas grenades – or harder materials if deamed necessary –

So once in full deployment – these drones effectively give the state easy control over large numbers of ‘unruly citizens’ – which isn’t necessarily bad in itself – except when increasing numbers of citizens have got legitimate grievances against the millionnaire Toryboys and their billionnaire banker friends whose interests they look after!

This video provides an excellent overview of what Herti drone looks like… It could be teargassing you within 5 years!  


The Message – RIP freedom of speach in the UK

This blog post reports how, on 3rd July 2011, twenty-six year old Manchester rapper Yosh was just starting his set at a community event in Rochdale’s Broadfield Park. He asked the crowd “who wants to hear how the police statistically stop more ethnic minorities than white people?”, and launched into The Message, at which point the event organisers cut off his backing track. Yosh tried to continue, but then five police tackled him, grabbed the mic off him, before finally escorting him off the premises.

If you want to download, legally, the entire EP for free – click here

If you just want to listen to the song that got the police were so keen for Yosh not to sing – here’s the link – 03. MESSAGE (OBAMA INTRO)– and you can follow along with the lyrics below (handily transcribed by the blogger mentioned above)

I come to topple the tyrants
Bin Laden isn’t dead
Was never really alive
It’s just another lie
To keep the wool on your eyes
Nick Clegg and Cameron insiders
Fabricating characters to give society a fucking enemy
So they can go about tryna take over steadily
Revolution is the only way
A wake up is needed
I can see the way they deceiving
Coming through the TV it’s trauma-based mind control
So you can live, act and think like a mindless drone
Her Royal Highness who’s sat behind the throne
All-seeing eyes popping up to idolise the glow
Speech patterns – I can hear the lies unfold
And shoot holes in 99% of lies we’re told
Fuck the government
Treat us like we’re nine years old
They’re coming for us
That’s the reason why it’s knives we hold

“Yesterday I saw the popo pulling over three men
For nothing but their skin colour
When will they stop?
Turned a head to see a poster saying ‘vote’
I nearly choked
I know it’s just a sick joke devilish plot
Too many tensions from government intentions
Pensions turning into spends for inventions of warfare
Tell me that I’m wrong to be militant
It’s on cos we’re cashing in promises they’ve given us
To believe that these devils will deliver us
Taxpayers footing the bill for politicians living frivolous
Everybody’s fucked in the budget
Cuts everywhere like we don’t know what the result is
More debt to keep us all enslaved
And more threats to keep the fear engraved
I ain’t hearing the brainwash
I don’t give a fuck how much your chain cost
You’re just another part of the oppressor like J was”

Finally – this blog looks like an interesting source for underground music

Where have all the Criminologists gone?

A whole host of pundits, journalists and bloggers have chipped in with their views on the causes of the UK Riots, while The Guardian is doing an excellent job of tracking the state’s response, but where is the commentary from professional sociologists and criminologists? There seems to be a lack of empirically and theoretically informed analysis coming from the professionals in these fields.

I find this annoying – because there are a lot of criminological and sociological researchers out there who have a lot of empirical knowledge they could bring to the debate, but on the whole I haven’t heard that much commentary on the riots from the professionals who are still, as it stands, primarily publicly funded.

In fairness, some sociological commentators have chipped in – Zygmunt Bauman has offered us his critical account of the underlying causes – unsurprisingly telling us it’s all abut the fact that post-modern Capitalism calls on us to limit our reflexive-projects of identity construction to the sphere of consumption rather than politics and production, and David Harvey, although more of a Marxist Geographer, has also penned an account of the relationship between the crisis in late capitalism and the riots.

But where are  the actual criminologists – where are their contributions?

Well probably the best specific online criminology blog is the Bent Society Blog – (the link is to their category –  riots), and I suspect that most of these posts are written by Mike Sutton –  This post makes some sensible observations about the actual role of new media in reducing street- crime overall but leading to increasing spikes of copy cat incidences. Richard Wilkinson, co- author of the spirit level has also ‘come out’ and highlighted the link between high levels of inequality and increasing violence

But what about other Criminologists and Sociologists -such as the serious ‘theory generators’ such as  Jock Young, one of the leading Criminologists in the country and author of the ‘Vertigo of Late Modernity’ – nothing? Stephen Lyng – who developed the theory of Edge Work?

And what about the other professional criminologists working on the ground – there are hundreds of them in the country – where are you in this debate and why aren’t you contributing, surely those criminologists working in the field of youth criminality, surely they could  spare an hour to help fill the knowledge-gap that exists over this issue with some informed, evidenced based insight and perspective.

I mean I am not expecting full blown ‘I have all the answers’ contributions, but at least critical responses to  ideological accounts of the causes of the riots being given by the Tories that provide us with links to evidence that warn us off such simplistic analysis – along the lines of what this post from the JRF does…. I know the research is out there – so why aren’t people that know the same as I do, but know it better, and get paid more than me, and are better practised at articulating themselves, why don’t they contribute to this important debate?

It may be that Professional Criminologists are just too busy, but a few comments shouldn’t take that long; it may be that the issues are too complex, but then they can always be broken down (communicating as well as generating knowledge is in the job description, right?)

It may be that the media just isn’t asking – and I can believe this of the BBC – but not of the Guardian, and then there’s always social- media – professionals don’t have to wait to get their research to a wider audience these days.

Or could it be that criminology is just part of the system and that critical criminology is just dead in the water? Could it be that Universities put pressure on their staff to not to contribute to current debates for fear of  political reprisals and it’s only the really big names who are retired or in a position to be able to retire who can was political?

Or maybe it’s just pure old self-interest – it’s their knowledge and their damn well only giving it to those precious few people who can afford to pay for it?

As a final note I can’t accept that Universities don’t allow this knowledge to be disseminated in watered down form via the media – if this were the case we wouldn’t have programmes such as the excellent thinking allowed by Radio Four.

So can someone please tell me, in the case of the debate over the UK riots, where have all the Criminologists gone?

P.S. I fully accept I may have missed something – this is a genuine call for info. – If anyone knows of links to material that is not journalistic, please let me have them!

Cyber-Utopianism and its critics

The perfect video for teaching an aspect of the the cultural optimism vs cultural pessimism within the globalisation debate – summarised below

Ygveny Morozov criticises the widespread assumption that the spread of the internet will  automatically lead to more democracy and fewer human rights abuses – the basic optimist assumption is that the spread of the internet and mobile technologies allows for such rapid spread of information and such a platform for informed dissent that things such as the Rwandan Genocide can no longer happen. This view does appear to be widespread, with numerous voices celebrating the role of new media in recent elections and people’s uprisings, such as those in the North of Africa and The Middle East. If we go with this assumption, then all we need to do to spread democracy is give more ipods to people in China and western values will automatically spread….

Of course this view is deterministic – we may get the impression that dictators are terrified of the internet, but this isn’t true – for dictators social networking sites, blogs and the like are useful tools to gather information – and for just straight forward social control.

For example in Thailand a site called ‘protect the King’ encourages people to report sites and blogs that they think will offend the king – which has lead to over 3000 sites being blocked; while in Saudi Arabia people are encouraged to surf the internet for sites that may offend ‘Saudi sensibilities’ and complain about them – if youtube gets a certain amount of criticisms then it will remove a video. (This later reminds me of a relatively recent Monbiot article in which he talks about organised campaigns, run by such groups as the tea party, to negatively evaluate left wing books on Amazon, giving them a poor rating). Morozov also points out that if you do get involved with a protest movement on twitter or FB then you are very traceable, more traceable than in the past…

Finally Morozov criticises the idea that young people online are all potential revolutionaries – we here a lot about cyber activism, but just remember that most of the internet is about entertainment and porn – it could be the case that young people are ‘digital captives’ rather than ‘digital renegades’.

Global Development – Globalisation – Optimism vs Pessimism

Examine sociological perspectives on Prison as a form of Punishment in society (21)

I’ve moved this essay plan to my new site – – It you’re here for A level resources, you’ll probably find that whole site more relevant, this one’s more eclectic.


1. Functionalists would point to the positive functions prison might perform in society –Prison could act as a deterrent – thus reinforcing social regulation; and it should also work to maintain equilibrium and balance in our society – making up for the failings of other institutions such as the family and the education system – restoring order through incapacitating those who break the law.

Ultimately however, one might criticize the effectiveness of prison – given that there is a 60% reoffending rate it isn’t really effective in restoring equilibrium in the first place – what prison does most of the time is resocialise people into criminal norms, in the extreme people become institutionalized and unable to reintegrate into society once released.

2. Marxists argue that by relying on prison, we ignore the failings of the system that lead to the conditions of inequality and poverty which lead to crime. Furthermore, the imprisonment of selected members of the lower classes neutralises opposition to the system; the imprisonment of many members of the underclass also sweeps out of sight the ‘worst jetsam of Capitalist society’ such that we cannot see it; and we may also add a fourth benefit, that all of the police, court and media focus on working class street crime means that our attention is diverted away from the immorality and greed of the elite classes.

Supporting evidence for the Marxist view comes from the fact that there are higher rates of imprisonment in more unequal countries.

Left realists criticise Marxists for absolving criminals from blame – people in jail mostly deserve to be there and their victims are most likely to be working class themselves.
3. Michel Foucault sees the growth of prison as a means of punishment as reflecting the move from sovereign power to disciplinary power – in traditional societies power was exercised on people’s physical bodies – punishment was harsh – it was a spectacle – today power is exercised through surveillance – the state no longer beats criminals – it just subjects them to increased surveillance – the theory is that people change their behavior because they know they are being monitored constantly. Prison seams more humane than physical punishment but in reality it is much more invasive as a means of social control.
One criticism of Foucault is that he fails to recognize that many prisoners do not change their behavior even though they are being watched!

4. Since the 1980s there has been a significant increase in the use of imprisonment in the United Kingdom – numbers have roughly doubled since 1990 with the total prison population now standing at about 84000 and we have one of the highest rates of imprisonment in the western world.

This increase has gone hand in hand with the implementation of Right Realist policies that emphasize rational choice theory as the cause of crime and zero tolerance as the solution to crime. The state claims that tougher penalties are one of the major causes of declining crime rates.

5. However David Garland points out that the crime rate has fallen in many countries over the last two decades, even in those that do not imprison as many people as the UK.

David Garland’s view the increasing use of imprisonment in the United States is that we now live in a era of mass incarceration – the United States locks up a massive proportion of the unemployed (Garland estimates as many as one third of all unemployed people are actually in jail in the USA) – and many of these become locked in a cycle of ‘transcarceration’ – where they shift between different agencies of state control and never fully reintegrate into society once having been in jail.

Garland actually argues that the reason the US and the UK lock up so many people is because of neo-liberalism – neo-liberal policies have made these societies more unequal and more individualistic – life has become harsher – and thus it is easier for the state to justify harsher penalties.

6. Critics of the ‘overuse of prison’ argue that we should employ alternatives – by using curfews, community service and treatment orders – because these have a lower reoffending rate – mainly because they do not remove an offender from society.

It is also worth noting that the characteristics of the prison population are very different to the characteristics of the population as a whole. People who are over-represented include ethnic minority groups, men, the underclass and the young. It is also worth noting that many female prisoners are likely to have suffered physical and emotional abuse and many claim they are in jail because of pressure to do criminal acts coming from their male partners.

7. To conclude, given the massive reoffending rate – and thus failure of prison to rehabilitate offenders – critical perspectives such as Garland’s remind us not to fall into the simplistic analysis of Functionalism and Right Realism who see prison as an effective means of social control.

The critical approaches of Marxism, Foucault and Garland are probably the most useful here as these remind us that it is the rise of neo-liberal hegemony since the 1970s and right realism since the 1990s that have lead to an increasing crime rate, and then to the increases in prison populations experienced in neo-liberal countries such as the UK and the USA.

Related Posts

The Spirit Level – how inequality effects the crime rate

Sociology on TV – Coppers – aired November 2010

Danny Mack - a walking warning about the consequences of long term heroine use

The first episode of this series provides a very informative insight into the lives of custody officers- in Medway, with the star criminal character, ‘Danny Mack’, coming from my home town of Strood!

The episode demonstrates how half a dozen individuals locked up for mainly drug and public order offences have been in and out of police custody since they were ten – you get to see the photographic records of some of them over the last decade. Many of the offenders actually have a good relationshp with the police officers – and being in and out of custody seams to be part and parcel of their yearly routine. It would appear that for these repeat offenders being in police custody is just all too easy – they appear pretty well looked after and engage in lively, tit-for tat banter with their guardians while in temporary captivity. 

At the end of the day the video demonstrates how the criminal justice system is extremely ineffective in deterring people from crime – as one of the inmates says at one point when asked whether he might ever turn away from crime ‘ What’s to stop me, ‘I mean, it’s hardly scary in there is it!’

The zenith moment – Danny Mack’s poem about prison officers – Some may see this work as providing an empassioned, empathetic account of the lived-experience of being subjected to the whims of petit- bureacratic personalities while incarcerated. However, an alternative reading may be that it’s just shit.

‘Everytime I see you cunts I get the fuckin’ pox,
I bet you send your kids to school, the fuckin’ sweat box.’

Anyway, listen and enjoy…and empathise with me… this is one of the reasons why I am so glad I moved away from Medway….

Thanks to bessoyo30, whoever that is, from youtube, I bet the original version won’t be up there for much longer (C4 will probably remove it due to copy).

How dressing as a giant banana may reduce littering

Lord knows its hard to find interesting articles on Social Policy – but this fits the bill –  part of the article talks about how the London Borough of Southwark (from 2004) adopted the policy of ‘stalking litter’ – hiring people to dress as giant bananas and other ‘commonly found items of litter’ to create scenes around town such as applauding people who put their rubbish in the bin – the theory being that we are more likely to change our actions (in this case stopping littering) if we are subjected to frivolous and unusual stimulae.

You might like to think about how effective this is as a means of reducing minor crimes and how generaliseable it is to more serious crimes.. You might also like to use the freedom of information act to find out how much money they actually spent on their banana actors….