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Posts tagged: Crime

European Society of Criminology Conference

29 September 2016

Tina PatelFrom 21st to 24th September this year, I was lucky enough to spend several days hearing about the work of fellow criminologists (and sociologists of deviance!), at the European Society of Criminology’s Annual Conference, held in Münster, Germany (http://www.eurocrim2016.com/). All matter of criminological subjects were covered … crime prevention, criminal justice processes and systems, victim support, offender motivation, criminal behaviour, to name a few. Typical of the ESC, there were lots of paper presentations – and inevitably this meant I was only able to attend a tiny percent of presentations. Those that I attended covered research work on extremism and terrorism, cybercrime, immigration, honour crimes and sexual violence. I was inspired by the several thought-provoking plenaries, and especially hopeful for the future of critical criminological work when I met a number of postgraduate and early-career researchers.

I was also honoured to have been able to present my own paper. Based on arguments contained in my upcoming book ‘Race and Society’ (to be released in November 2016, by Sage publications), my conference paper was titled ‘Cultural repertoires in the media’s coverage of child sexual exploitation’. In it, I discussed the media’s coverage of two child sexual exploitation (CSE) cases in Rochdale (Greater Manchester) and Rotherham (South Yorkshire), UK. These cases gained prominent media attention in the period between 2010 and 2015. The CSE involved young white female victims and male abusers of black and minority ethnic (BME) background, in particular of Pakistani heritage and of Muslim faith. The paper argued that these cases were narrated in the media entirely through a cultural repertoire, and drew on older racialised panics about the black (or in particular, brown) menace and white victims. This further presented racialized profiling methods as necessary. Apart from the obvious concern around racial profiling, I argue that there is also the problem that the crime of CSE becomes racialised – presented as a form of culturally-specific deviance, rather than one about gender and power. I concluded by emphasising how the media’s racialised (re)presentation of these CSE cases takes into account their relative power in modern society, as well as their status, along with other elites, as joint-producers of information about race and racism.

Thank you to the ESC organisers and delegates for enabling a thoroughly enjoyable, thought-provoking and inspiring conference. And, thank you to the people of Münster for your warm welcome, wonderful weather and delicious food!

Dr Tina G. Patel is a senior lecturer in Criminology. To hear more about Tina’s work, you can follow her on Twitter: @DrTinaPatel.

Anarchy in numbers?

22 June 2016

chris3From 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’?

Chris Birkbeck

Crime has become a form of entertainment?

19 May 2016

IanWith 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

Successful Cities

19 May 2016

chris3What 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.chris1

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. chris2In 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