Monday, 01 September 2008

More on informal social control Where anti-social behaviour occurs in British neighbourhoods, the balance between individual responsibility for action, collective resident responses, and recourse to law and justice seems to be out of kilter. According to the beeb, the think tank Reform claims that British people are the least likely in Europe to intervene if they witness a crime. There may be some detailed research behind this claim but there's nothing about it on the Reform site at the moment.* Reform is claiming that people have become 'passive bystanders,' are uninformed about the criminal justice system, and abdicate responsibility to politicians, police and the courts. The BBC piece says that when people were asked if they would personally intervene and challenge a group of teenage vandals: Six out of 10 people in Britain said they would be unlikely to step in, whereas in Germany six out of 10 people would intervene. Putting aside for a moment the notorious unreliability of responses to hypothetical questions like this, none of this is particularly new, but it's important to have these broadcast reminders and to keep the significance of the theme in the headlines. Having said that, it would be refreshing to have a bit of analysis which took account of all the work that's been done in this area since the anti-social behaviour white paper five years ago. (The above stat might just be a chinese-whispered revision of the ADT figure I mentioned a couple of years ago; the original source was available for a time but seems to have been removed). In particular, Reform are doing no-one any favours if they just reinforce the trend of problematising anti-social behaviour purely in terms of crime and not in terms of local social relations. To take just one example: the FANS study a few years ago showed that a key predictor of informal social control of children by neighbours is more non-family local social networks (see chapter 2 here). So we're all waiting to hear what policy is doing to promote non-family local social networks. I look forward to reading Reform's proposals. * Now published, The lawful society.

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