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Calls to the police : communicating risks and needs

Australian Institute of Criminology, Susanne Karstedt
30 June 2004 -

Susanne Karstedt
Keele University, United Kingdom; and Visiting Fellow, Australian National University


Calls to the police have recently been used as indicators of the level of crime in neighbourhoods and communities. However, they hugely exceed the level of crime, and therefore it might be more appropriate to regard them as indicators of 'risk communication' (Ericson). 'Risk communication' is related to the need for help, the efficacy in a community to deal with such risks and nuisances, and finally the willingness of the population to invoke the authorities in dealing with risks and nuisances.

The empirical study conducted by Tim Hope, Stephen Farrall and Susanne Karstedt at Keele University, UK, is based on aggregate data of calls to the police in 300 wards of a police district in the Midlands in the North of England. It starts from three theoretical models that relate the need for help, calls to the police, the 'real' amount of troubling incidents and finally the crime rate for violent conflicts and violence. The amount of 'overcalling' the police, i.e. the rate of excess calls in relation to the final crime rate was analyzed. Findings indicate that in particular the 'better-off' and middle classes tend to have higher rates of excess calls for violent conflicts, nuisances and crimes, whilst in neighbourhoods with high levels of social needs the population tends to call considerably less. These results raise a number of questions: Are people in disorganized neighbourhoods more tolerant? Do people in well-to-do neighbourhoods wish to turn incidents into crime and therefore call the police? Do calls to the police express a wish to 'govern through crime' in particular from these groups?

Dr. Susanne Karstedt was trained as a sociologist and is Professor of Criminology at the Department of Criminology, Keele University in the UK. She is presently a Visiting Fellow at RegNet, ANU. Previous positions include: Director of a Research Programme on 'Social Capital in the Welfare State' (University of Bielefeld), lecturer for criminology at the University of Hamburg and lecturer for sociology of deviance, University of Bielefeld. Research interests and projects include: cross-national research on violence and corruption; democracy and crime; emotion, crime and justice; everyday crime and the moral economy of modern societies (with Stephen Farrall).

No paper available.