ISBN 1 872 870 79 1
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 was a flagship measure for the
government. It introduced a wide range of new orders from child
curfews to anti-social behaviour orders, and has been promoted with
evangelistic fervour by the home secretary.
Elizabeth Burney analyses the privatisation of crime control
through CCTV cameras, security guards, electronic locks and
concierge systems, and traces the increasing role of social
landlords in policing disorder.
The government's measures are designed to tackle precisely those
areas of high crime which have been the target of successive failed
regeneration initiatives. Looking at the process of exclusion,
Burney notes the shift of economic activity from inner city areas
to the suburbs, the withdrawal from community life, and the
residual population of elderly people, single jobless men, and
women and children households. The result is vulnerability to drug
dealing, high levels of noise nuisance, graffiti and vandalism.
Tenancy agreements have increasingly been used as instruments of
social control. First, specific prohibitions against racial
harassment and using property for drug dealing were inserted, and
subsequently these were extended to other areas of potential
Introductory tenancies, in effect putting new tenants on
probation, are another regulatory mechanism now used by nearly 50
per cent of local authorities. This progressive extension of
regulation has not really been subject to critical scrutiny
hitherto. Burney's thoughtful analysis raises difficult questions
for public policy.
Her critique suggests that these measures are reinforcing the
stigma and social exclusion of all council tenants, that the
infringement of individual and family rights in measures like the
anti-social behaviour order is likely to fall foul of the European
Convention on Human Rights, and that a new underclass is being
created of those outside the net of social housing.
The good intentions of the Social Exclusion Unit may be swamped
by the imperatives of the Crime and Disorder Act and the media hype
on nuisance neighbours.
This is a brave and thoughtful book challenging currently
fashionable nostrums. Burney argues instead for supportive and
reintegrative measures to reduce bad behaviour.
Terry Bamford retired recently as executive director (housing
and social services), Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea