Martin Innes and
Nigel Fielding (2002) 'From Community To
Communicative Policing: 'Signal Crimes' And The Problem Of
Public Reassurance '
Sociological Research Online, vol. 7, no. 2, <http://www.socresonline.org.uk/7/2/innes.html>
To cite articles published in Sociological Research Online, please reference the above information and include paragraph numbers if necessary
Received: 26/6/2002 Accepted: 19/8/2002 Published: 31/8/2002
...that the reality of the dangers is not at issue...This argument is not about the reality of the dangers, but about how they are politicised. (Douglas, 1990: 8)Risks are thus to be conceived of as embedded within and an enactment of a surrounding belief system.
An accident that takes many lives may produce relatively little social disturbance (beyond that caused the victims' families and friends) if it occurs as part of a familiar and well understood system (e.g., a train wreck). However, a small accident in an unfamiliar system (or one perceived as poorly understood), such as a nuclear reactor or a recombinant DNA laboratory, may have immense social consequences if it is perceived as a harbinger of further (and possibly catastrophic) mishaps. (Slovic 1992: 124-5)
Figure 1 below provides an illustrative description of the pathways of influence that are present.
|Figure 1 Pathways of Influence in Constructing Risks|
2The current paper sets out a theoretical framework for ongoing data collection designed to empirically test signal crimes theory, which will be reported in subsequent publications. Data is being collected via a small number of in-depth qualitative interviews with members of the public, incorporating a number of mnemonic techniques associated with cognitive interview instruments (see Geiselman et al., 1986). The incorporation of the latter dimension to the interviews is important in terms of addressing the known problems associated with encouraging respondents to articulate often complex emotional and psychological constructs (see for example Farrall and Ditton, 1999).
3See the collection of essays in Cerulo (2002).
4A further analysis of the problems with the concept can be found in the Police Foundation's recent submission to the Parliamentary Select Committee on Home affairs which can be viewed online at <http://www.parliament.the-stationery- office.co.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselcet/cmhaff/612/612ap15>
5The term 'social matrix' is taken from Ian Hacking's (2000) discussion of social constructionism.
6Indeed, data from the 2000 British Crime Survey suggests that between 1992 and 2000 there was a marked increase in the percentage of the population who saw various types of disorder as a problem (Budd and Sims, 2001).
7It should be noted that Harcourt (2001), in discussing his attempts to replicate Skogan's analysis, identifies a number of significant flaws in the latter's research design. Nevertheless, there is a strong empirical tradition underpinning this sort of argument stretching back to some of the keynote Chicago School studies.
8For an overview of the concept of social capital and some suggestions as to its potential application in relation to crime and disorder see The Performance and Innovation Unit's 2002 paper.
9This assertion is supported by elements of Jefferson and Hollway's (2000) analysis.
10Such an assertion is broadly supported by the BCS data presented previously.
11In using this term we deliberately echo Sykes and Matza's (1957) famous phrase.
12Ditton and Duffy (1993) express concern that the techniques and technologies of reporting associated with crime stories can induce in susceptible members of the audience, a distorted perception of crime risks.
13This deliberately echoes a Symbolic Interactionist epistemology and in particular W.I. Thomas's famous dictum that things that are defined as real are real in their consequences.
14Importantly from the point of view of the argument developed in this paper, the survey data shows a marked decline in public confidence in the police, and rising levels of concern about disorderly teenagers, litter, graffiti and drug dealing.
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