Crime Prevention and Community Safety

John Topping, MATT BOWDEN

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


    It may be argued that any discussion on crime prevention and community safety necessarily involves engagement with wider criminological, and indeed, social and political debates about the nature of the state, the relationship between the state and civil society and the manner through which security as a ‘public good’ is produced and distributed. At least within the criminological field, crime prevention and community safety have emerged as part of what may be imagined as the ‘preventative turn’ (Hughes, 1998; 2007) – as a means of capturing the governmental tendency towards the decentralisation of crime control from central institutions and towards the outer edges of the criminal justice system. Critics of such localising agendas argue that it is not only an extension of governing rationalities - ‘government at a distance’ (Garland, 2000) - but also a part of broader neo-liberal agendas to dismantle welfare apparatuses in favour of ‘governing through crime’ (Simon, 2007). In this regard, the re-socialisation of the subject as ‘self-governing’ is, in effect, a path towards creating the conditions for private security proliferation (Rose, 1999). Furthermore, critical realist authors on community safety have argued that this neo-liberal model of crime control is subject to regional and national variations, shaped by professional habitus as a function of practice cultures and local political traditions (Edwards and Hughes, 2005; Hughes 2007). Hence social research in this field needs to identify the ‘deep grammar’ of ‘practice-in-context’ in order to capture the nuanced and eclectic nature of crime prevention and community safety in different settings (Stenson, 2008).Bearing in mind these wider debates, the present chapter attempts to discuss the history and development of crime prevention and community safety in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – as two distinct, yet closely related jurisdictions –aiming to identify convergences and divergences, continuities and discontinuities. In relation to Northern Ireland, where police reform has been a central component underlying the transition from conflict, the chapter identifies the recent history of crime prevention and community safety together with a critical appraisal of key developments. Critical here is the existence of an active, grass-roots civil society as a key factor underpinning community safety at the level of government policy. In the Republic where police reform has been a more muted affair, crime prevention and community safety is an emerging area of practice, related to funding, government and governance arrangements including drug prevention, youth justice and urban regeneration. While taking note of recent analyses of crime prevention and community safety in the UK and Ireland, the chapter plots the nature and scope of crime prevention and community safety through case studies of Ireland, North and South. These show that in practical terms, crime prevention and community safety are uniquely shaped by the circumstances in which they are conceived (Edwards et al., 2013; Hughes and Edwards, 2013; Gilling et al., 2013).A central contention of the chapter from the outset, underpinned by its layout, is the fact that the two jurisdictions have developed (in a community safety sense) in an entirely distinct fashion. It is therefore contended that a simple thematic or comparative approach defies the complex evolution of the preventative turn within the two jurisdictions. In this regard, the evidence presented highlights that community safety is in fact a function of governmental agendas and policy, rather than rational or criminological approaches to dealing with late modern society (Garland, 2001).
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Irish Criminology
    ISBN (Print)9781138019430
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 8 Dec 2015


    • community safety
    • Republic of Ireland
    • Northern Ireland
    • criminal justice
    • policy
    • policing


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