From June 6th to June 10th I was fortunate to be able to attend the 3rd international conference on Governance, Crime and Justice Statistics magnificently organised by the Center for Excellence in Statistical Information on Government, Crime, Victimization and Justice with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime and the Mexican Institute of Statistics and Geography. The programme brought together researchers and experts from universities and government agencies to discuss current progress in collecting data on crime and justice, continued challenges and novel solutions (see http://www.gsj.inegi.org.mx/programme.html). During four days of wide ranging conversations, the topics ranged from the difficulties of collecting standardised data on murder across different countries, through new procedures for sifting electronically among the exploding number of media outlets for reported cases of terrorism or arrest-related deaths, to the challenges of measuring corruption. Cumulatively, the sessions allowed an assessment of the state-of the art and discussion about ways forward.
What also struck me about the meetings were two things which were NOT discussed. First, speaker after speaker bemoaned the patchy availability of data: governments and other organisations cannot be compelled to collect, organise or publish data. And a related problem was the lack of comparability between data sets: for example, one country includes traffic deaths in murder statistics while another does not. From the perspective of research, quantitative approaches demand standardised data for all cases, but the production of statistical information on crime and justice does not comply with that methodological diktat. So in a way, the topic left silent was not about statistics on governance but about the governance of statistics. Adherence to the standards of methodology might require an authoritarian (or at least centralised) model of data collection; yet currently, the production of statistical data seems to be a model of anarchy – with varying degrees of organisation. Which might be the best model for statistical data production: organised anarchy; a federal arrangement; or a highly centralised bureaucracy?
Second, many papers presented the findings from research projects using different kinds of quantitative data, and most concluded with a call for further research. If murder rates had been compared with state-level social indicators; now it would be important to compare them with municipal-level indicators. If fear of crime was asked in relation the neighbourhood, now it needed to be asked in relation to the city centre. Calls such as these reflect, among other things, the inherent possibilities offered by quantitative research to develop multiple permutations of the measurement strategy by making just one change in any of the variables in the study. But how often does this call for additional research actually lead to new studies, particularly in light of the finite resources available for research (a common gripe); and would it be better to see this type of call as the ‘performance’ of a research project, which concludes by saying that the project really has not concluded (even though it effectively has)?
Of course, these two matters are linked. The multiple permutations available for data collection exercises exist alongside the social organisation of the data collection itself. Would a different model of organisation lead to a different style of research project ‘performance’?
The 2016 European football championships currently being held in France kicked off last Friday evening. But so far events on the pitch have been largely overshadowed by violent clashes off it between rival fans. At the centre of the disorder has been one of the usual suspects, England supporters. These latest events seem to have resurrected somewhat the haunting spectre of English hooliganism which, on the back of declining recorded rates of football-related disorder, some have claimed is slowly being consigned to the dustbin of history (Ingle, 2013). While many have been asking the usual rhetorical – clichéd – questions such as, ‘why do they do it?’ and ‘what’s the point of fighting at football matches?’, some sections of the mainstream media have predictably vilified English supporters at the Euros, wheeling out the well-established and rather simplistic metaphor of ‘disease’ and its associated motifs of drink-fuelled ‘over the top’ patriotism and general ‘yobbish’ behaviour.
While there clearly are some England fans at the Euros engaging in ‘anti-social’ behaviour and a minority of committed English hooligans intent on engaging in violence, the evidence emerging out of France paints a rather more complex picture in terms of motivations behind the disorder and its broader context. In particular, the presence of what are being described as ‘organised’ groups of Russian fans reported to be indiscriminately targeting English supporters. This generates a number of important questions about the possible reasons behind football-related violence on an international stage.
In response to some of the clichéd questions mentioned above, men that actively involve themselves in football violence and disorder invariably identify the ‘buzz’ and the ‘thrill’ they get out of doing it. Men involved in football violence that I have interviewed and spent time with during my research (Ellis, 2016) value the reputation and status that displaying ‘bottle’ or courage in the face of threatening circumstances provides them. Football violence is bound up with notions of individual and collective reputations, status, as well as shame. It is a game of one-upmanship, in which both victory in a fight as well as stoicism in adversity, grants respect and potential bragging rights. Inevitably, on an international stage, nationalism and patriotism will become bound up with these complex cultural mores and this is evident in the clashes between English and Russian fans. England is a former colonial power, and, as part of the UK, it now has a significant influence in the global political economy. The violence committed by some English supporters historically during international fixtures, as well as the recent history of regular ‘organised’ fan disorder at domestic matches, and the highly stylised and exaggerated English hooligan film industry, have collectively established a specific reputation for English fans as a whole that is largely synonymous with dominance and the willingness to use violence. As a consequence of this socio-historical context, England is undoubtedly perceived as a significant scalp for some rival fans perhaps keen to bolster their own reputations. After emerging from the wreckage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia, particularly under the presidency of Vladimir Putin, has at times sought to re-assert itself as a global power; occasionally through displays of force. And the occasional aggressive actions of the Russian state has arguably not been lost on some of its citizens; particularly those involved in street-based violence (see Shashkin, 2008).
So, a critical appreciation of both the immediate and broader contexts in which football violence, and violence more generally, is enacted can aid our understanding of these incidents beyond some of the rather simplistic narratives currently been espoused that identify drink, ‘thugs’ and ‘disease’ as the causes of the disorder.
Anthony Ellis, Lecturer in Criminology and Sociology
Ellis, A (2016) Men, masculinities and violence: an ethnographic study. London: Routledge
Ingle, S (2013) Football hooliganism, once the English disease, is more like a cold sore now. The Guardian http://www.theguardian.com/football/blog/2013/nov/03/english-football-hooliganism Accessed 14th June 2016
Shashkin, A (2008) Origins and development of racist skinheads in Moscow. In Van Gemert, F Peterson, D and Lien IL (eds) Street Gangs, Migration and Ethnicity. Oxon: Willan p.97-114
With colleagues at MMU, I have been working on several inter-related projects that look at cultural representations of law and order. We have written about the works of David Peace, the novels and journalism of Gordon Burn as well TV cop drama. Our research uses bricolage as an approach as this allows researchers to cover a whole range of materials – newspaper articles, films, TV series, novels and music to examine the way that versions of events are produced. We argue that crime has become a form of entertainment. One result of this process is that the brutality of high profile crimes such as sexual violence and homicide is diluted or repackaged as drama. Recently marked the fiftieth anniversary of the sentencing of Brady and Hindley to life imprisonment. We wrote an article https://theconversation.com/the-moors-murders-50-years-on-how-brady-and-hindley-became-an-awful-celebrity-template-58665 about the ways, in which, the reporting of their crimes and the subsequent media obsession with the case have become almost a template for the symbiotic relationship between the media and serial killing. I was then interviewed on local radio and TV about the article and proposed book that we are writing exploring these issues. Throughout our work, we argue that the mediatisation of crime has the indirectly results in the marginalisation of the pain and suffering of the victims and their families – the academy plays a part in this with the obsession with motivations of perpetrators and developing typologies of killers. . The article was published on 6th May – the media loves anniversaries, both interviews asked me questions about Brady and the death penalty. I recognise that there is something of a post-modern dilemma here using the media to argue that the focus should shift. These areas are explored in more depth here http://www.internetjournalofcriminology.com/Cummins_Foley_King_The_Strange_Case_of_Ian_Stuart_Brady_and_the_Mental_Health_Review_Tribunal_IJC_Jan_2016.pdf
The other papers I discuss are available here http://usir.salford.ac.uk/view/authors/11079.html
Ian Cummins, Senior Lecturer in Social Work
School of Nursing Midwifery, Social Work & Social Sciences
What can criminologists do when they work in countries with very high crime rates? What proposals can they make for bringing crime rates down? This was the topic I addressed when invited to talk (via Skype) to Criminology graduates in Mérida, Venezuela, in March of this year. Venezuela saw its crime rates increase dramatically from the mid-1990s onwards and now has some of the highest crime rates in the world. In 2013, the murder rate was estimated at 79 per 100,000 habitants (which compares with a murder rate of 1 per 100,000 for the UK). Such is the sense of urgency and crisis that the usual crime prevention measures, which often require long-term development, don’t seem to be appropriate.
However, one answer to the problem might be found in policies that have been adopted, with apparent success, in some other parts of Latin America. For example, the city of Medellín, Colombia, with a murder rate above 350 per 100,000 in the early 1990s saw a substantial decline to about 25 per 100,000 by 2005. How did they do it? By developing urban infrastructure to improve and integrate low income neighbourhoods, improving urban management, increasing citizen participation and, importantly, negotiating with violent actors. In other words, they established or increased the presence of the state in order to pacify the urban
environment. Many of these solutions look interesting, feasible and defensible. The worry relates to the negotiation: is it designed to dismantle violence as a form of control, or only to regulate it? That is a dilemma for criminologists as well: how do they engage with, confront and defuse systems of violence?
Chris Birkbeck, Professor of Criminology