Tag Archives: Crime and Deviance

Politicised youth…?

A good speech from one of the students who was kettled a couple of weeks ago….’We are no longer the X-factor generation….school children learnt a lot from how the media and the police responded to their protests… school children who used to think tube strikes were annoying are now standing in solidarity with striking tube workers’ great stuff…..  


Although the accent doesn’t exactly suggest working class comprehensive school! I also wonder how many school kids were there to protest about the issue and how many were there just for a day off, how many for the ruck? These are the kind of things that you can never be certain of – very difficult to research with any level of validity.

Gangs and territoriality

Gangs aren’t as territorial as you may think according to the latest research on gangs in one anonymous towns in the United Kingdom by Judith Aldridge et al of the University of Manchester (yes – I reckon this was the towns too!). The research took place over two years using a range of methods such as observations, interviews and focus groups.

The research argues that the idea of the ‘territorial postcode gang’ is a myth – Aldrige says there were many ways that this stereotype was contradicted – for example, there was no consensus amongst gang members about where their ‘territory’ ended and the neighbouring gangs ‘territory’ began – which suggests that territory is not that important to them.

So where does this stereotype come from? – Aldrige argues that orginally in the 1980s and 1990s territory was important to local gangs – there was considerable ‘hanging around on streets’ to sell drugs in particular localities.

Now we have mobile phones, drug dealing gangs do not have to ‘hanging about outside’ to sell drugs – the sellers disappear, they are not on the streets and not getting caught. However, the  problem is that the popular public and police conception is that any group of youths hanging about on the streets is likely to be in a gang – and so we end up with a situation where ordinary kids get policed as if they are gang members while the actual gang members are left alone to deal their drugs from home.

Peter Squires (some interesting links to papers on this site) adds to the idea that the ‘myth of the territorial gang’ partly stems from the police – pointing out that police forces tend to operate in specific localities and like to pin groups down and identify them – in some cases, it was the police who even gave gangs in certain areas names – and this is the kind of easy to understand image that the media was happy to go along with.

At one point Squires cites an infamous case  of the Boston Operation Ceasefire’ (the link is praising the operation!) – when America police intervention in gang violence may have helped to ‘expand the gang’ The police essentially tried to tackle intergang violence by clearly demarcating what they saw as rival gang areas and preventing gangs from entering the territories of rival gangs. The problem was that anyone who was now in one or the other areas came under suspiscion of being a gang member, which may have exacerbated the gang problem in this city.

So this measured piece of research isn’t suggesting that the police and the media label and create gangs but it is saying that the police and the media have the power to create the myth that gangs are more territorial than they actually are and that in certain cases they can actually generate territorial conflicts with their interventions.

Binge drinking – it’s the new norm!

Excessive drinking is now a normal part of forging and maintaining friendships – according to this latest piece research with 80 young people aged 18-25.

Apparently, many young people cannot imagine alternative ways of getting people together other than through drinking; and most don’t consider the health risks, which is probably linked to the fact that most exessive drinkers expect to severly cut down drinking when they are older.

For A level students this is an extremely good illustration of the ‘context dependency of deviance’ – binge drinking is simply not seen as deviant for young people – but in the context of adults and wider society – it is!

Having considered the meaning of binge drinking for young people (nice bit of intereactionist, empathetic research there), the author goes on to hypothesise about why young people drink to excess. Some of the reasons include –

  1. (as the author of the report says.)… ‘with the increasing consumption of alcohol in the UK in recent decades, getting drunk together has become an established part of the experience of young adulthood – in other words, people do it because it is normal.’ When something becomes normal, it becomes less shameful to do it.
  2. It is something to do with the ‘special status’ of youth – as an in-between phase – so when you’re young you can justify drinking excessively as something you do in your ‘liminal phase’ of life – it’s OK because you won’t be doing it when you’re in your 30s and have kids – unless you’rE like me and ‘ave it large every Friday of course (Joke!) 
  3. There are a lack of credible opportunities for young people to get together and socialise – most obviously in terms of ‘sober’ physical spaces (link to Left Realism here!)
  4. The drinks/ night club industries have managed to colonise youth-space – marketing cheap drinks to young people, especially at weekends, and thus helping to create a binge drinking culture
  5. Finally, it is because drinks are so cheap –  young people don’t measure their maximum potential consumption in terms of units – but in terms of cost!

So binge drinking is normal – how would you interpret it? –

a. Go down the interpretivist/ post-modern route – and see binge drinking as something young people just do because it’s fun, giving them something to talk about next week, as something that’s an expression of freedom, as a a life enhancer? Moreover, if it’s just a life phase, who really cares?

B. Or The consensus route – do you take the increase in binge drinking as a sign of social decline – as an indicator of youth being disempowered, drinking because their lives are too controlled; and indicator of their lack of opportunity to do anything meaningful and  creative?

C. Or the more Marxist route  – do you see it as a reflection of the evil drinks corporations manipulating youth – invading youth culture and normalising binge drinking in a quest for profits?

D. Probably most importantly – do you remain scepitcal and question the validity of the research – how do they define ‘excessive’… how representative a sample is 80? etc…

If nothing else – this research illustrates how you can interpret something in numerous ways…

Somali Pirates and £7 billion banker bonuses

Breaking news – that retired middle class couple who were stupid enough to go sailing in pirate territory last year have been released – not exactly sure how much was paid to release them – something in the region of half a million dollars I think – sounds about right for a stupid tax.

Small change compared to the 7 billion in bonuses the UK’s banks are set to announce later today, some of which would have been bailed out by the British tax payer last year.

So, in the grand scheme of things, who is more immoral – somali pirates jacking the ships of the rich or UK bankers siphoning off the wealth of the general public?

What they both have in common is that both the Pirates or Bankers use their positions of power to extort what they can from their victims. Personally I think the banking class are worse – at least with the pirates, they are honest, they kind of let you know that they don’t really care about your well being – and that they’re just lining their own pockets – while that’s also the bottom line of the banks – they lie to us by pretending that they’re working with us and for us; I even think that some junior bankers might actually believe that bullshit themselves.

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).

The International State Crime Initiative

This is a good wb site for A2 students studying state crime as part of the A2 crime and deviance course

The International State Crime Initiative is an excellent resource for basic information about state crime – As well as providing a definition of ‘state crime’, the web site explains what some of the different types of state crime are – such as genocide and corruption and outlines some case studies of state crimes – including the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, Toxic waste dumping in the Ivory Coast and Civil War in Sierra Leonne – all are very clear and accessible.

Thinking Allowed – Supermax

Supermax prisons are on the increase the United States – these are prisons where prisoners are kept in extreme solitary confinement – sometimes for years at a time. In this podcast Criminologist Sharon Shalev provides some details some of the findings from her latest book – which draws on her access to two supermax prisons and is based on in-depth interviews with prison officials, prisoners and others.

Shalev notes that there are about 30 000 prisoners in solitary confinement in the US and 44 states have supermax prisons.

The increase in supermax is indicative of the ‘popular punitiveness’ identifitied by Criminologists such as Robert Reiner and David Garland – Shalev acknowledges that the increase was correlated with the rise of conservative (neo-liberal) power in the US in 1990s. See also my previous blog entry that summarises Richard Wilkinson’s work on how more unequal countries (like America) get more punitive.

According to Shalev, what is also interesting is how we increasingly don’t care about the negative long term effects on the mental health of these prisoners. Supermax signifies that the idea of prison is moving towards pure retribution rather than punishment. Could this also be a consequence of 30 years of neo-liberalism? – That there has been a cultural shift to a harsher ‘I don’t care’ attitude towards other people? Sociologists such as Reiner would agree with this – which is an extension of  Marxist (David Gordon) ‘dog eat dog’ theory.

I quite fancy reading her books btw – if someone buys it me for Christmas it’d be much appreciated, ta.

Sociology on TV – Fashion’s dirty secrets

dispatchesThe latest episode of dispatches demonstrates how garments destined for New Look and Peacocks are being made in sweat shop conditions in Leceister.

The company making these garments (Sammi Leisure Wear) pays workers less than the minmimum wage – £2.50 to £3.00 and hour and the workers work in aweful conditions – no windows, very cramped, blocked fire exits, and no safety guards on sewing/ cutting machines. 

Profiting from sweatshop labour in the UK

The aweful pay and conditins means that the production of theses garments is in breach of New Look’s ethical code of practise. Of course New Look can claim they do not know about the conditions in the factory – and they probably don’t – (they are now investigating conditions themselves) – New Look places an order with a subcontractor for a certain price and the subcontractor delivers – without informing New Look about the immoral and illeagal practises that go on in the factory. To be fair to New Look – Sammi Leisure Wear was actually sewing fake labels into the garments saying they had come from abroad.

It is also interesting to note how subcontracting is used by a company to deny responsibility for the sweatshop – the subcontracting allows them to claim that they do not know it was going on – my arguement is that they must – all they have to do is basic maths to work out that someone, somewhere is getting exploited in order for them to make such profit margins.

Also think about how the law is applied differently here –buying and selling stolen goods is an offence – but as far as I know buying something that was produced by a company that exploits it workforce by making them work in sweatshop conditions and breaches health and safety law isn’t illegal. Perhaps New Look should spend more money in investigating working conditions in its factories and less money promoting its fake ethical image.

The web site of the programe is worth a look – it ends on the following note –

So where does the buck for this level of exploitation stop? Campaigning groups say the retailers need to take responsibility and place the factories under closer scrutiny. Others say the government needs to step in and regulate the fashion industry. But what about our responsibilities as consumers? Instead of buying blindly perhaps we should stop to ask more questions about where and how these clothes are made. After all, they’re not being stitched thousands of miles away, but right here on our doorstep by people who are being exploited because of our insatiable appetite for dirt cheap fashion.

High crime areas by GPS


A technological innovation from the Americans –

“For just $19.95 our easy to install GPS software addon will enable your GPS to alert you of approaching “high crime areas” as you travel throughout the U.S.  You will instantly hear and see alerts on your GPS unit, providing you with the knowledge to travel unfamiliar areas safely.

Zygmunt Bauman would have a field day analysing this! – Mobile inverted situational crime prevention – instead of preventing criminals coming to you, you prevent yourself from inadvertantly stumbling across the criminals. Obvious how its just an extension of the fortress city mentality too – increasing segretation between rich ands poor while reinforcing negative images of high crime areas – you know – the ones full of poor ethnic minorities.

From the web site - note the ethnicity of the 'jackers'

I had the following thoughts

1. It must go mental in Washington – unless of course it’s just measuring street crime.

2. I wonder if it correlates the crime rates with indicies of social deprivation

3. I wonder if you get to programme in your own personal details – age/ gender/ ethnicity/ gang affiliation – so it can calculate the actual risk of your being a victim more effectively.

4. I wonder if it tells you what percentage of black and latino men are in jail from the local area –

5. As with any technology – it can be subverted – perhaps in future releases they could have a ‘corporate crime’ info bar – everytime your iphone or whatever comes accross a branch of a ‘dirty company’ like Mcdonalds or Nike you get some ‘dirt facts’ on the company.

Neo Liberalism and rising crime



In this book (published 2008)Robert Reiner analyses trends in crime since the 1950s and argues that neoliberal economic policies are associated both with higher levels of serious crime than social democracies and with more punitive and inhumane crime control.

Reiner argues that there are three main historical trends in crime post World War Two:

  • 1950s – 1980s – rapid recorded crime rise
  • 1980s – 1992 – crime explosion
  • 1992 onwards – Ambiguously falling crime.

In this post I will outline Reiner’s analysis of why crime trends have varied over the last six decades, focussing especially on how neo-liberalism lead to rapidly increasing crime rates during the 1980s and 1990s.


1950s – 1980s – rapid recorded crime rise

Reiner argues that a variety of factors lead to increasing crime during this period. Among them are –

  1. The 1950s was the decade when we entered the age of mass consumerism – it was the first decade where it was regard as normal and desirable to have a high level of consumption of material goods.
  2.  Reiner explicitly notes the role of television in ushering in a consumer culture and the norm of ‘immediate gratification’ – ‘ It is perhaps no coincidence that the rise in crime began in the same year (1955) that ITV, the first commercial channel, began to broadcast’,
  3. Reiner argues that a combination of advertising and game show culture (stressing the idea that you can get rich quick for doing nothing) undermined the previously widespread norm of deferred gratification pointing out that criminals tend to be impulsive, insensitive, risk taking and short sighted – which in his eyes also describes the perfect consumer in a capitalist society.
  4. Reiner also reminds us that the mid 1950s saw a weakening of informal and formal controls. The 50s saw the emergence of independent youth cultures and declining deference to authority.


1980s – 1992 – crime explosion

Maggie Thatcher - She pimped our nation to neo-liberalism, created the underclass and spawned a high crime society
Maggie Thatcher - She pimped our nation to neo-liberalism, created the underclass and spawned a high crime society

Reiner argues that the neoliberal economic policies of Margaret Thatcher’s government was the key accelerant behind this ‘crime explosion’ From this section we can identify several factors that explain an increase in the crime rate –

  1. Increasing levels of long term unemployment
  2. An increase in insecure, low paid, casual jobs (McJobs)
  3. Declining wages for unskilled workers
  4. Increasing levels of inequality
  5. A culture of egoism – the ‘me’ society
  6. The withdrawal of public services and supports, especially for women and children,
  7. The erosion of informal and communal networks of mutual support, supervision and care;
  8. The spread of a materialistic, neglectful and ‘hard’ culture;
  9. The unregulated marketing of the technology of violence
  10. The weakening of social and political alternatives to neo-liberal political economy
  11. The spread of consumerist culture
  12. Increasing social inequality and exclusion, involved a heightening of Mertion ‘anomie’.
  13. The erosion of conceptions of ethical means of success being preferable, or of concern for others limiting ruthlessness.


 Reiner’s take on Neo-Liberalism and how it relates to crime…

Reiner says of Neo-Liberalism – It is the economic theory and practise that has swept the world since the late 1970s. As an economic doctrine it postulates that free markets maximise efficiency and prosperity by signalling consumer wants to producers, optimising the allocation of resources and providing incentives for entrepreneurs and workers. Beyond economics, however, neo-liberalism has become the hegemonic discourse of our culture’

Neoliberalism as culture and ethic

To neoliberals free markets are associated with democracy, liberty and ethics. Welfare states they claim have many moral hazards: they undermine personal responsibility, and meet the sectional interests of public sector workers but not the public. Neoliberals advocate market discipline, wand Public- private partnerships to counteract this.

Neolieralism has spread from the economic sphere to the social and cultural. The roots of contemporary consumer culture predate neoliberal dominance, but it has now become hegemonic. Aspirations and conceptions of the good life have become thoroughly permeated by materialist and acquisitive values. Business solutions, business news and business models permeate all fields of life from sport and entertainment to charities and even crime control.

Neoliberalisation has meant the financialisation of everything, penetrating everywhere from the stuff of dreams to the minutiae of everyday life. Money has become the measure of men and women with the ‘Rich List’ and its many variations ousting all other rankings of status.

 1992 onwards – Ambiguously falling crime


Reiner says of crime in this period  –

  1. No grand narrative can help explain wy crime is falling.
  2. He dismisses the view that zero tolerance policing and mass incarceration have reduced the crime rate – because there is considerable evidence that crime rates have fallen in countries that haven’t employed these policies. It is very important to note that the ‘tough on crime’ approach is much more likely to be found in neoliberal countries such as Britain and is part of the ideology of neoliberalism. The New Right claim it is necessary to reduce crime – but this is a false claim because crime has been decreasing elsewhere!
  3. There has been a fall in long term unemployment that partially explains the fall in crime
  4. There has been a halt in the acceleration of inequality – which at least helps to explain why crime is not growing!

Reiner finishes off by noting that today there is a paradox of security – although crime has been going down since the mid 1990s, public fears of crime have not declined at anywhere near the same rate – there is thus a ‘reassurance gap’ – one of the reasons Reiner cites for this is that when we see increased measures of control – we think they must be there for a reason – so we assume the crime rate must be high. The paraphernalia of crime control reminds us that the risk of being a victim of crime is significant.

Look out for my next blog when I’ll be summarising Reiner’s views on the relationship between neo-liberalism and tougher measures of crime control