The ebbs and flows of anxiety

How emotional responses to crime and disorder influenced social policy in the U.K. into the twenty-first century

Authored by: Emily Gray

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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The U.K. and other liberal western democracies tackled high levels of crime under a distinctly emotive spotlight until the early part of the twenty-first century. Loader (2008: 399) explained this as the ‘rise of crime as a central organizing principle of political authority and social relations’. This period was marked by increasing public anxieties about crime; a greater prominence was given to the victim in criminal justice policy; public opinion informed the policy-making process more explicitly; punitive political rhetoric became common and private security developed into a commercial industry. Even after crime began to fall in the mid-1990s, the New Labour government who came into power in 1997 highlighted ‘anti-social behaviour’ as a major policy concern (Burney 2005) taking inspiration from Clinton’s ‘tough’ ‘third-way’ approach (Beckett and Western 2000). A raft of new interventions was heavily promoted, such as the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO); dispersal powers and parenting orders (Crawford 2003). However, crime and disorder and later, public fear of those social ills continued to fall in the U.K. (and other western countries). Notably by 2015 crime did not play prominent role in the U.K. general election campaign of any leading political party, giving way to other populist concerns about immigration and European politics. Crime and fear of crime seemed to shift from centre stage. However, we must note how ‘new crimes’ such as fraud and violence conducted in electronic spaces currently remains obscured from national statistics and public attention.

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