Fear of crime before ‘fear of crime?’

Authored by: Barry Godfrey

The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138120334
eBook ISBN: 9781315651781
Adobe ISBN:


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During the Victorian period, there were sporadic well-known ‘moral panics’ about violent crime, such as the outbreak of garrotting in the 1850s and 1860s. By the mid-nineteenth century the growth of the popular press ensured that concern and anxiety about crime and victimisation was a regular public debate, witness the Jack the Ripper scare in 1888 for example. This chapter explores how these episodic panics fit into the modern defined paradigm around ‘the fear of crime’. It applies modern theory to assess its usefulness in understanding historical fears about crime and criminals, and uses historical evidence such as oral history transcripts to reposition modern criminological debates within a wider temporal frame. In particular, this chapter assesses how concepts of background and foregrounded fears are useful in identifying the period of panic within ‘moral panics’, and the level of fear in the ‘fear of crime’.

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