Crime, community, context & fear : influences on informal social control in an affluent English suburb
Based on ethnographic research, involving observations, participant observation and in-depth interviews, this thesis explores the impact of crime and the influences on informal social control in an affluent, middle class suburb. The research focused on the interaction between estate design, the environment, social and community life, and fear of crime, and their effects on residents in the neighbourhood. Despite low recorded crime rates, crime was perceived to be a problem. This situation arose from a paradox of community dynamics which, on the one hand, increased fear of crime, but on the other, contained crime. Apart from small-scale and extremely localised solidarities, a socially fragmented community existed in which limited and loose-knit local social networks, strong desires for privacy, and atomisation prevailed. These factors, coupled with busy lifestyles and features of the suburban environment, resulted in isolation and enhanced fear of crime. However, fear arose more from concerns about crime in wider society together with general anxieties rooted in change in late-modernity, than actual risk of victimisation. Crime control was rarely based on conm-iunity action, instead being individualistic and reliant on sophisticated target hardening. Low crime, therefore, was less attributable to the pursuits of 'active citizens' envisaged by community crime prevention policies and more to structural processes of affluence, status and property ownership which created an exclusive and exclusionary community of vested interest, common identity and shared values. As a study of affluent suburban life, the research contributes to the community studies tradition. However, the main importance of the research is its implications for community crime prevention. By highlighting the complex and contextual nature of informal social control and the influences which impact on it, the necessity to tailor crime prevention more to local needs is emphasised.