Informal Crime Management in a Northern British City: Crime Fear and Locality
In the second term of the current Labour government in Britain it is clear that the problem of crime and its management continues to feature as a key policy issue. In 1997 the Labour government made a clear commitment that crime prevention would become a statutory duty of local government. In the implementation of that duty local authority personnel were charged with conducting local crime audits, writing corporate community safety strategies, and setting local crime reduction targets. Indeed the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, the centrepiece of ‘New Labour’s’ stance on crime and social disorder, expressly put to the fore crime reduction as its main target. As an Act it addressed a wide range of issues. The purpose of this chapter is to address two of those issues: the requirement made of local partnerships to tackle crime reduction and how to deal with young offenders. These two themes also comprised two of the three ministerial priorities for the criminal justice system for 1999-2000 and therefore constitute a useful means through which to examine the legitimacy, or otherwise, of the underlying presumptions embedded in the 1998 legislation. Put simply, those presumptions reflected a belief that it is possible to put in place some universally applicable policy recommendations that will work in a diverse range of socio-economic situations. The implications of these presumptions are explored in this chapter, not just as a purely academic exercise, but in the context of understanding the lived experience of crime in two, predominantly white socioeconomically-similar high crime areas in northern Britain, a description of which follows below. In this sense this discussion, by implication, is concerned to consider this legislation from the perspective of the ‘socially excluded’. These communities also comprise in some respects the socially and politically unacceptable face of contemporary British society. As a consequence, then, this chapter is also concerned to explore some of the policy problems associated with the concept of ‘Bringing Britain Together’ as highlighted in the government report of the same name also published in 1998 (Social Exclusion Unit, 1998).