From fear to understanding

‘Making’ and managing public reactions to crime, disorder and policing

Authored by: Martin Innes

Handbook of Crime Prevention and Community Safety

Print publication date:  July  2017
Online publication date:  March  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138851054
eBook ISBN: 9781315724393
Adobe ISBN:


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The study of how people individually and collectively react to crime has come to be dominated by two ‘big’ ideas. Both are amongst a select group of concepts emanating from the discipline of Criminology that have gained sufficient traction that they have ‘travelled’ beyond the confines of the academy. Indeed, they have become integral to public ‘crime talk’ and the ways in which issues of crime, disorder and security are framed and understood on a day-to-day basis. The first of these ideas, and the focus of this chapter, is the concept of ‘fear of crime’. The second is that of ‘moral panic’. In formulating the phases of the process of moral panic, which he derived, in part, from Leslie Wilkins’ (1964) notion of a ‘deviance amplification spiral’, Stan Cohen (1966/2002) sought to elucidate how the capacity of some crimes to elicit worry and concern was, from time to time, translated into wider and deeper socio-political-cultural forms that re-orient the focus and trajectory of social control. In so doing, Cohen demonstrated how some crimes can trigger fear that alters our orders of reality, but also how such changes can be actively steered and guided. The point being that any student of society seeking to understand crime related fear needs to attend to both its causes and consequences, if they are to fully comprehend its role and function in society.

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