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Series Editors: Reece Walters and Deborah H. Drake
Stephen Farrall
Critical Criminological Perspectives
Series Editors
Reece Walters
Faculty of Law
Queensland University of Technology
QLD, Australia
Deborah H. Drake
Social Policy & Criminology Department
The Open University
Milton Keynes, UK
The Palgrave Critical Criminological Perspectives book series aims to
showcase the importance of critical criminological thinking when examining problems of crime, social harm and criminal and social justice.
Critical perspectives have been instrumental in creating new research
agendas and areas of criminological interest. By challenging state defined
concepts of crime and rejecting positive analyses of criminality, critical
criminological approaches continually push the boundaries and scope
of criminology, creating new areas of focus and developing new ways
of thinking about, and responding to, issues of social concern at local,
national and global levels. Recent years have witnessed a flourishing of
critical criminological narratives and this series seeks to capture the original and innovative ways that these discourses are engaging with contemporary issues of crime and justice.
More information about this series at
Stephen Farrall
The Crime Drop
Stephen Farrall
University of Sheffield
Sheffield, UK
Critical Criminological Perspectives
ISBN 978-3-319-67653-1 ISBN 978-3-319-67654-8 (eBook)
DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8
Library of Congress Control Number: 2017952831
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My aim with this short book is to provoke debate about the ways we
have tried to explain the recent crime trends in various countries and to
invite colleagues to reflect upon the critique which I outline below. My
central argument is that the approach to the crime drop has become too
law-like in its thinking, ignoring contextual factors, the role of political ideas, policy changes and the part played by public opinion. It has
been too keen to accept ‘security’ as the explanation of the crime drop
without adequately reflecting on why security was chosen ahead of
(or rather, instead of) a reinvestment in penal welfarism. As such, the
work I critique presents us with an impoverished theory of both policy adaption and the drivers and consequences of it. My aim therefore
is to tell—in a narrative style—a rather more complex story than simply
‘securitisation’ by thinking about what might be termed the contextualised causes of causes. The substantive argument which I am going to
put forward, which can be read as a variant on the securitization thesis,
is that changes in the political goals (unrelated to crime) which elected
governments in many Westernised nations pursued in the 1970s–1990s
resulted in changes in the social and economic processes associated
with crime (especially property crime). As these social, cultural and
economic changes took root, they drove up property crime. As a consequence of rising crime rates, notions of ‘law and order’ became politicised (that is became an object of political discourse), popularised (that
is became a topic of public discourse and concern) and policy entrepreneurs started to use crime to make political capital. As crime continued
vi Preface
to rise, governments were forced into action, and did so in such a way
as to bring about not just a stabilisation of crime rates, but to throw
the increases into reverse. My thinking on these matters owes much to
Mertonian strain theory and insights derived from political scientists and
social policy analysts. Crime, in this analysis, can therefore be used as a
barometer of the state of the social health of a nation or society. Rapidly
increasing levels of crime suggest, in the main, that all is not well within
that society as a result (following Merton and Durkhiem) of rapid social
and economic change. Reductions in crime are a result of (a) reductions
in such change (or acclimatisation to it), (b) the response of governments and other bodies to reduce crime and (c) creation of a new equilibrium around crime, its causes and the best ways of tackling it. Future
studies in this field ought to attend more thoroughly to wider historical
processes and develop complimentary qualitative insights in order to help
establish causality.
I have benefitted enormously from conversations with numerous colleagues during the period whilst these ideas gestated. The following
have all been kind enough to devote time to reading and commenting
upon drafts of what follows: David Brown, Felipe Estrada, Tim Hope,
Pat O’Malley, Andromachi Tseloni, Sylvia Walby and Sandra Walklate
(who suggested a book, rather than a journal-length piece). I would like
to thank them all for their time and insights. All errors and omissions
remain my fault alone, of course.
Sheffield, UK
Stephen Farrall
1 Outlining the Crime Drop1
2 Critiquing the Crime Drop9
3 Explaining the Crime Drop I: Developing a Case Study
of Political Change in England and Wales27
4 Explaining the Crime Drop II: Responding
to Crime in England and Wales51
5 Congruence Testing81
List of Figures
Fig. 3.1Property crime rates England and Wales
(Home Office, recorded statistics) 38
Fig. 3.2National unemployment rate (per cent), 1970–2006 39
Fig. 3.3Income inequality (Gini coefficient,
after housing costs), 1970–2006 40
Fig. 3.4Public fear of crime (British crime survey)42
Fig. 3.5Most important problem/issue—law and order
vs. economy 43
Fig. 3.6Proportion of attention to law and crime
in the speech from the Throne 44
Fig. 4.1Charting changes in state-backed punitiveness
Fig. 4.2Feedback between initial changes and subsequent
policy options 74
Fig. 5.1Domestic burglary rates Australia (Table 1, Walker 1994) 85
Fig. 5.2Property crime rates US (FBI, Uniform Crime Reports
as prepared by the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data) 87
Fig. 5.3Crime rates New Zealand (All offences recorded
by NZ Police, Mayhew 2012: 90) 91
Fig. 5.4Property crime rates Sweden (Swedish National Council
for Crime Prevention, with manipulation by author) 93
Fig. 5.5Political, policy and social influences on crime rates 95
List of Tables
Table 3.1
Table 3.2
Table 3.3
Error-correction model of the crime rate in Britain
(Prais-Winsten regression)
Time series regression models of change
in the property crime rate
Error-correction model of the public opinion,
crime rates and the policy agenda (Prais-Winsten regression)
Outlining the Crime Drop
Twenty-five years ago, had anyone the audacity to suggest that crime would soon
embark on a steep and prolonged decline in most advanced countries, he or she would
have been laughed out of the room. It was unthinkable!
(Farrell et al. 2014: 421)
Abstract  This chapter introduces readers to the crime drop and to
the key theories advanced to explain it, and how these are evaluated.
However, the main aim of this book is to raise doubts about the epistemological position adopted by many people studying why crime rates
have declined since the early to mid-1990s. I therefore critique the tests
used to evaluate theories of the crime drop, drawing upon ideas developed by political scientists.
Keywords  Crime drop
· Epistemology · Crime trends
Introducing the Crime Drop
The crime drop is one of the most important puzzles of contemporary
criminology. Since the early 1990s, and seemingly beginning in the
USA (Aebi and Linde 2012: 37), many (but not all) countries appear
to exhibit pronounced declines in their crime rates. Accordingly, since
© The Author(s) 2017
S. Farrall, Re-Examining The Crime Drop, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8_1
2 S. Farrall
the late 1990s, there has been a sustained attempt by criminologists to
explain this decline in crime rates.1 This body of work has relied on a
number of data sets (often officially recorded data or self-report victimisation data from crime surveys) and has developed a number of theories, to varying degrees of empirical support. The theories which have
been posited represent an almost bewildering array. For example, in
their essay on the topic, some of the leading lights of the body of work
(Farrell et al. 2014) review no less than seventeen theories of the crime
drop, ranging from economic changes and changes in consumer confidence and inflation rates, changes in the criminal justice system (such
as tougher gun control, the death penalty, increased rates of imprisonment and improvements in policing tactics), the legalisation of abortion,
changes in immigration, the decline in some drug markets (although this
is perhaps tautological), reductions in lead pollution, changes at the societal level (demographics, attitudes towards violence and the use of the
Internet) and improvements to security. Put simply, the crime drop has
become a small sub-discipline of criminology and one which has immediate policy relevance as well as holding some key lessons for our understanding of the causes and correlates of crime at a theoretical level too. It
is a tremendously exciting body of work of which no one seriously interested in crime trends ought to remain ignorant.
However, no body of work, well-developed methodologically or theoretically, is beyond improvement. My aim in this short book is to push
forward our understanding of trends in crime and responses to them
by raising some doubts about the epistemological positions adopted by
the authors most centrally identified with this body of work. My aim is
not to attempt in any way whatsoever to supplant their work or to suggest some radically different alternative paradigm, but rather to encourage a ‘deepening’ in the nature of the sorts of studies which have been
undertaken so far. I do this by relying on a set of insights derived from
comparative historical analyses (Mahoney and Rueschemeyer 2003) and
historical institutionalism (Pierson 2004). This literature raises questions
about both the explanations which have been posited and the epistemological basis by which these have been reached. I hope that by sharing
1 Curiously, much of this focus has been on violent crime, see Blumstein and Wallman
(2006) and Tonry (2014). My focus here in is on property crime. We must remain open, of
course, to the possibility that at least some crimes rates may have been affected by the rise
of the Internet.
these observations I can encourage others to take them forward in order
to supplement the existing literature.
An Outline of the Remainder of This Book
This book starts by very briefly reviewing the crime drop literature.
I try to remain as succinct as one can on these matters and inevitably
skip some details. I then move on to review the main theories as to why
we have seen crime rates fall across many industrialised nations, I then
(in Chap. 2) offer some thoughts on the methodological and epistemological positions developed by crime drop researchers. A key basis of my
critique is that the epistemological position adopted by analysts in this
field has predisposed them towards a particular set of methodologies and
(in so doing) overlooked other methodological approaches and styles of
explanation. It is assumed that the experiences of the countries which
have been studied are more or less the same and that the explanatory
variables which account for the observed declines operate consistently
across most of the countries studied. Following this, I introduce and
outline the key aspects of historical institutionalism and comparative historical analyses and explain why these concepts and style of thinking may
offer crime drop analysts an additional way for approaching the topic.
Following this (Chap. 3), I then explore the experience of England and
Wales in terms of crime trends since the 1970s. I then offer an alternative
explanation to that already offered by crime drop researchers, based on
key social and political processes and developments. Chapter 4 explores
what happened when crime rose dramatically and how the UK government responded to crime in the 1980s and 1990s. Chapter 5 undertakes
congruence testing with four other countries which followed a similar
trajectory to the one followed by the UK. I then bring matters to a close
with a concluding discussion (Chap. 6).
Which Tests Ought a Theory of the Crime
Drop to Explain?
Farrell et al. (2014: 439–442) propose that a theory of the crime drop
needs to pass all of the four different tests. The first of these (the crossnational test) is that theories of the crime ought to be able to be supported in all countries. Farrell et al. write that
4 S. Farrall
the key point is that the evidence suggests that a hypothesis should be
applicable in different countries to warrant serious consideration, and any
that does not, without appropriate justification, should be considered suspect (p. 440).
In other words, if a theory is to be accepted as valid, they argue, it must
explain the decline in crime in all countries in more or less the same way.
So, if increased uses of imprisonment work in England and Wales, they
must also work in France, Canada and New Zealand (for example); if
the theory fails in one country (without justification), it fails completely.
However, I shall challenge this assumption, arguing that it is not the case
that causal variables need to be approached in this manner.
The second test is referred to as the prior crime increase test (p. 440)
which assesses the extent to which the proposed explanation is consistent
with the fact that crime was rising for several decades prior to the crime
drop. Recorded crime was rising in many countries from the 1960s. By
this measure, any theory would have to be able to account for increases
going back to the 1960s (or earlier), or at least not be direct contradiction with it. The third test (p. 441) is the e-crimes and phone theft test.
This relates to the fact that some crime types have been increasing whilst
others have fallen; some obvious examples being the theft of mobile
phones and the use of the Internet to commit crimes. Again, for a theory
to be taken as credible, it must be able to explain why such crimes have
increased even though in general there has been a crime drop. Finally,
Farrell et al. suggest that any theory of the crime drop must be consistent with the observation that countries have seen varying trajectories in
declines in crime. Some start earlier than others and some saw declines
in one broad crime type decades before declines started in other types of
crime (p. 442).
There are, however, some problems with these tests, and especially
the first two. First of all, the first test (that the theory must apply crossnationally) assumes that the same variable(s) operate(s) in the same way
across all countries. So imprisonment, for example, in England is the
same as imprisonment in the USA. Similarly, it assumes that non-custodial sentences operate consistently across countries and over time. Again,
this assumes that probation supervision (say) in the 1980s is the same as
probation supervision in the 2000s. Both of these assumptions may be
questioned, of course. Secondly, it assumes that what causes an increase
must also be the cause of the decline (what may be termed ‘symmetrical
causation’). But this too may be questioned. For example, if a rapid
increase in economic inequality is associated with an increase in property crime, which then prompts an increase in punitiveness (say longer
prison sentences) which reduces crime, levels of economic inequality may
have stayed the same or got worse. It assumes that dependent variables
respond ‘thermostatically’; an increase in a domestic thermostat increases
the temperature of the household radiators which can be adjusted to get
cooler by turning the dial the other way. This is fine in theory, but it only
works if you’ve not left every window in the house open (in which case
no amount of heating will help), or if the boiler is in good working order
(if it isn’t, no amount of dial-twiddling will help either). This, indeed,
is a much-simplified version of the argument I will set out in Chaps. 3
and 4 below. Before I turn to my critique in full (Chap. 3), let us explore
which theories have been accepted as being valid on the basis of the four
tests outlined above.
Explaining Why Crime Rates Fell
The most recent, and probably most exhaustive, review of the theories
which have been put forward to explain the crime drop is that by Farrell
et al. (2014). Some of these theories relate directly to the activities of
the criminal justice system, whilst others do not. Let us start with those
which do not relate to the work of the criminal justice system. This is
something of a ragbag of explanations. For example, some have suggested that an improving economy in the 1990s caused the decline in
the crime rate since an improving economy ought (in theory) to reduce
economic need and hence reduce criminality. However, this explanation
was rejected by Levitt (2004). Some have posited that other economic
variables might account for the decline in crime. Studies have explored
the role of consumer confidence and price inflation. However, neither
of these theories is supported by the empirical evidence (pp. 448–450)
since consumer confidence has declined since 2008 (whilst crime has
also continued its downward trajectory) and inflation fell in the USA
well before crime did. Another hypothesis which has been rejected is
that the downward trend in the use of heroin (which rose during the
1980s) can account for the decline in crime. This is rejected by Farrell
et al. because declines in security (discussed below) and increases in
e-crime and phone theft increased during the period when heroin use
was declining (during the 1990s, 2014: 450). Donohue and Levitt
6 S. Farrall
(2001) proposed that changes in the abortion laws in 1973 could have
been a cause of the crime drop in the USA. However, this candidate
explanation was found not to be supported by studies in many other
countries, where data on abortion levels suggested no increased decline
in line with crime (Farrell et al. 2014: 446). Others suggested that levels
of immigration were the causal factor (increased immigration being associated with the crime drop). However, this explanation is rejected on the
grounds that the nature of immigration experienced by countries is the
same (which it isn’t) and also that it cannot explain why some crimes
have risen whilst others haven’t (the e-crimes test). Another interesting
theory was that changes in the amount of lead which was permitted in
petrol may have had a lagged effect on violent crime. The thinking was
that lead poisoning (especially of children) led them to commit violent
crimes as teenagers. If the amounts of lead permitted in petrol was dramatically cut (as it was in the USA and Europe), then 15–20 years later
one ought to expect a decline in violent crime—which is indeed what
happened. The problem is that it wasn’t only the young who appear to
have refrained from violent crime; older people did too. Furthermore,
the use of lead rose in the USA from the 1920s until 1970, but the
US murder rate fell during the 1930s through to the 1950s (when it
ought to have been rising, if the theory was correct). On the basis of
this, the lead poisoning theory is rejected. Another theory which was
also rejected was that the population experienced changing demographics, such that there were fewer young people (younger people typically
commit more crime then older ones). However, this too is rejected since
actually in the USA (and many other countries) the proportion of young
people was increasing, not decreasing. A further theory is associated
with the work of Elias (1939), who argued that over time societies tend
to become more civilised. This is a process he charted as taking place in
feudal and medieval eras. Some have applied his thinking to the crime
drop of the 1990s, but there are three problems. Firstly, the mechanism
through which this works is very vague; secondly, there isn’t any real evidence presented to confirm it and finally, crime rose in the 1960s-1990s
when (in theory) it ought to have been declining. Finally, in terms of the
non-criminal justice system-related theories, some have argued that the
Internet has changed lifestyles in such a way as to occupy young people
who might otherwise become involved in crime. There are some problems with this, however. The crime drop started before the use of the
Internet and also would have been used more in affluent suburbs rather
than poorer ones, so neither the timing nor the demographic ‘reach’
works (so again the theory is rejected).
It is reasonable to assume that increases in rates of imprisonment, the
increased use of capital punishment or laws relating to concealed weapons, gun ownership, mobile phone ownership (which makes reporting
crime easier), increases in police numbers, changes in policing strategies or levels of security might all have some impact upon crime. The
mechanisms by which these could have produced declines in crime are
fairly straightforward; increasing the incarceration rate (or sending people to prison for longer) means that people who could have committed
crime are more likely to be in prison or to be deterred by the prospect of
going to prison. Similarly, allowing people to carry concealed weapons
might deter some from committing crimes in which the victim was present (since they might be carrying a weapon). Alternatively, it has been
argued that restricting gun ownership would reduce the murder rate
or rates of non-lethal violence since fewer people would have access to
guns. The use of the death penalty might also reduce crime as it might
act as a deterrent; but again none of these were supported (see Farrell
et al. 2014: 442–457). Changes in policing strategies or increasing the
resources available for the police could take offenders off the street (even
if temporarily). However, there is no evidence that policing strategies or
increased police resources were to account for the crime drop (which
is not to say that they have no effect, but just that it wasn’t enough to
account for a decline of that size). This leaves only one theory which
passed all four of the tests which Farrell et al. (2014) establish.
Which Theory Is Currently Preferred?
The only hypothesis which passes the four tests which Farrell et al.
(2014) suggest are needed is the security hypothesis. This suggests that
improvements in the quantity and quality of security measures were to
account for the decline in crime. The evidence comes from a range of
countries, and indeed the investment in security devices started before
the decline in crime and such devices appear to have proliferated as the
decline emerged. Because the opportunities for ‘physical’ crimes (that is,
burglary, robbery and shoplifting) were curtailed, so offenders switched
to new opportunities such as those offered by the Internet. Security
devices have been applied to numerous things which may be stolen (cars,
mobile phones and computers) and to places which can be broken into
8 S. Farrall
(homes, businesses and shops) and to objects which could be vandalised
(buses, buildings and trains). Each device will operate differently, and
each will either increase the actual or perceive the risk of detection or
This chapter has reviewed some of the theories which have been
put forward to explain the crime drop and the ways which we have
approached the assessment of these theories. In the next chapter, I present a critique of this body of work, drawing on ideas from political
Aebi, M., & Linde, A. (2012). Crime trends in Western Europe according to
official statistics from 1990 to 2007. In J. van Dijk, A. Tseloni, & G. Farrell
(Eds.), The international crime drop (pp. 37–75). Basingstoke: Palgrave
Blumstein, A., & Wallman, J. (2006). The crime drop in America. New York:
Cambridge University Press (R/e).
Elias, N. (1939). The civilising process. New York: Urizen.
Farrell, G., Tilley, N., & Tseloni, A. (2014). Why the crime drop? In M. Tonry
(Ed.), Why crime rates fall and why they don’t (pp. 421–490). Chicago:
University of Chicago Press.
Levitt, S. D. (2001). Alternative strategies for identifying the link between
unemployment and crime. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 17, 377–390.
Levitt, S. (2004). Understanding why crime fell in the 1990s: Four factors that
explain the decline and six that do not. Journal of Economic Perspectives,
18(1), 163–190.
Mahoney, J., & Rueschemeyer, D. (2003). Comparative historical analysis: Achievements and agendas. In J. Mahoney & D. Rueschemeyer (Eds.),
Comparative historical analysis in the social sciences (pp. 3–38). Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Pierson, P. (2004). Politics in time. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Tonry, M. (2014). Why crime rates are falling throughout the Western World. In
M. Tonry (Ed.), Crime and justice (Vol. 43, pp. 1–63). Chicago: University
of Chicago Press.
Critiquing the Crime Drop
Abstract  This chapter introduces readers to a body of work developed
by political scientists and known as ‘historical institutionalism’. The ideas
developed by historical institutionalists, along with those developed by
‘constructivist institutionalists’ and comparative political historians, are
used to critique some of the core assumptions made by those who have
studied the crime drop thus far. I propose a new way of explaining the
crime drop which draws on an understanding of political processes.
Keywords  Historical institutionalism
Crime drop
· Constructivist institutionalism
The crime drop literature, I would contend, is a paradigm within
criminology. That is to say that it exhibits a set of largely agreed upon
epistemological, conceptual and methodological commitments, which
include an agreed set of objectives and modus operandi. The agreed
objective is to explain the decline in crime identified in many westernised countries since the early 1990s. Whilst there is divergence over the
understanding of the exact causal processes which led to the crime drop,
nevertheless, a set of methodological positions have been developed
in order to assess these theories. These methodological positions rely
mainly on the ‘linear’ analysis of quantitative data overtime. My aim with
this book is to develop a critique of this body of work, not because I
think that the main finding (that levels of security are strongly associated
© The Author(s) 2017
S. Farrall, Re-Examining The Crime Drop, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8_2
10 S. Farrall
with crime is per se wrong), but rather because I think that the reasons
why security has been adopted as a response to rising crime are driven
rather less by sound empirical evidence, but by a rather more complex
set of factors involving political choices, public opinion and ideologies.
Because of my interest in charting ‘slow-moving’ political processes, I
start my critique of the crime drop paradigm with a review of the key
aspects of historical institutionalism and associated ideas, and insights
drawn from comparative historical analyses, since these provide the
bedrock of my own thinking.
Historical Institutionalism: An Introduction
Historical Institutionalism is concerned with illuminating how
institutions and institutional settings mediate the ways in which processes
unfold over time (Thelen and Steinmo 1992: 2). Peter Hall defines an
institution as: ‘… the formal rules, compliance procedures, and standard operating practices that structure the relationship between individuals in various units of the polity and economy’ (1986: 19). For others,
the focus of historical institutionalism is on the state, government institutions and social norms (Ikenberry 1988: 222–223). Sanders, in keeping with the above, asserts that ‘If [historical institutionalism] teaches us
anything, it is that the place to look for answers to big questions … is
in institutions, not personalities and over the longer landscapes of history, not the here and now’ (2006: 53). Historical institutionalism, then,
is an attempt to develop understanding of how political and policy processes and relationships play out over time coupled with an appreciation
that prior events, procedures and processes will have consequences for
subsequent events. Thelen (1999: 375) argues that historical institutionalists’ approach is premised on the idea that institutions do more than
just channel policy and structure political and policy conflict and formulation, rather they define the interests and create the objects of the policies themselves.1 As such, who articulates which interests, how and under
which circumstance(s) is a consequence not just of political desires and
imperatives, but is itself a consequence of the sorts of institutions which
1 As an example of this, as we shall see in Chap. 4, the Home Office encouraged car
manufacturers into fitting alarms to cars. This also promoted the concept of ‘security’ more
generally (King 1989).
are created and the contexts which they give rise to. As one of the leading proponents of historical institutionalism argues, ‘many of the implications of political decisions… only play out in the long term’ (Pierson
2004: 41). Yet politicians are often only interested in the short term,
creating the possibility of a series of unintended and unplanned consequences which unfold and are realised only with the passage of time. In
outlining historical institutionalism, I focus on four key aspects of this
body of work, namely path dependencies, positive feedback Loops, the
role of critical junctures and the concept of punctuated equilibrium.
Path Dependencies and Positive Feedback Loops
For Sewell (1996: 232–233), the concept of path dependency implies
that ‘what happened at an earlier point in time will affect the possible
outcomes of a sequence of events occurring at a later point in time’. Levi
provides a rather longer (and more thorough) definition which is worth
quoting at length:
Path dependence has to mean … that once a country has started down
a track, the costs, of reversal are very high. There will be other choice
points, but the entrenchments of certain institutional arrangements
obstruct an easy reversal of the initial choice, perhaps the better metaphor
is a tree, rather than a path. From the same trunk, there are many different branches and smaller branches. Although it is possible to turn around
or to clamber from one to the other – and essential if the chosen branch
dies – the branch on which a climber begins is the one she tends to follow
(1997: 28).
This is the definition used by Pierson (2004: 20), who adds that path
dependence refers to a dynamic process which involves positive feedbacks
which generate a series of further outcomes depending on the sequence
in which these events and processes occur. As such, once a path has
been selected and embarked upon, decisions, events and processes tend
to reinforce this path, making the change to an alternative path harder
with each step. Over time the paths not taken become harder and harder
to navigate back towards and the chosen path becomes more dominant.
This approach has tended to make historical institutionalism rather conservative, in that it focuses on how paths are maintained, rather than
12 S. Farrall
As Bulmer cautions us, the idea of path dependency does not mean
that all policy areas will be affected (or affected at the same time or in
the same ways, Bulmer 2009: 310). It is also true that policy areas may
be affected at different speeds to one another; pension reforms will take
years to affect widespread change, but schooling policies may operate
faster. Similarly, whilst a particular historical moment may create a critical juncture (see below) for one institution, it does not mean that all
institutions will be similarly effected (Capoccia and Kelemen 2007: 349).
Even though an entire political system may face periods of widespread
change, some institutions will remain unaffected. Similarly, an unrecognised problem with the approach adopted by historical institutionalism
is the consideration that a pathway may become cumulatively destabilising over time. That is to say that continuing along a path may initially
produce beneficial outcomes, but these may reach a critical threshold at
which the benefits start to become outweighed by the negatives or lead
to dramatic change (an analogy might be blowing air into a deflated balloon; this inflates the balloon, but continuing to inflate it will lead it to
burst at some point).
Summarising the work of Ikenberry (1994), Thelen (1999: 392–396)
points to two mechanisms by which feedback occurs. The first suggests
that once a set of institutions are in place, social actors and other institutions adapt their repertoire of activities in ways which reflect (and hence
reinforce) the logic of the system (even if such systems do not operate in terribly efficient or ‘logical’ ways). With regard to crime rates,
for example, as these rose and insurance claims increased in frequency,
so insurers started to ask for a crime number before claims were processed, reinforcing recorded increases in crime. The second mechanism
suggests that institutions are not ‘neutral’ coordinating bodies but are
designed or evolve to reflect and reproduce certain forms of power distribution in society. It is via this mechanism that some sections of society
find that power and influence accumulate to them, whilst others find that
their stocks of these resources are diminished over time. As one group
accumulates power and influence, so it is able to influence institutions in
such a way as to reproduce power inequalities and accumulate still more
power (Hope and Trickett 2004).
Critical Junctures and the Concept of Punctuated
Pierson describes ‘critical junctures’ as moments when institutional
arrangements are placed on particular pathways which are difficult to
subsequently alter or change. For Capoccia and Kelemen (2007: 341),
such moments are rare and represent ‘brief phases of institutional flux
… during which more dramatic change is possible’. They add that critical junctures are often the starting points for path dependent processes.
Such moments are considered to be relatively short periods of time
(2007: 348) during which there is an increased chance that agents will
be able to affect significant change. In this way, agents can more easily
initiate new policies or procedures during periods of change than during
periods of equilibrium. Sometimes critical junctures may emerge slowly,
being produced over time by the accumulation of related events which
reach a tipping point. Of course, if a number of outcomes are possible
from a critical juncture; it is possible that one of these may be the return
to an earlier ‘pre-critical’ arrangements (2007: 352). Wuthnow (1989)
shows how new schools of thought, once they reach a critical mass, are
able to extend their reach by the generation of institutions and organisations which reproduce their ideological position (Pierson 2004: 39).
Thelen, rather critically, notes that many authors do not articulate sufficiently how the outcomes of critical junctures become translated into
lasting legacies (1999: 390). Such theorising has obvious similarities with
the theory of punctuated equilibrium (Thelen and Steinmo 1992: 15).
Although not formally an element of the work on historical institutionalism, both Thelen and Steinmo (1992) and Zehavi (2012) argue
that work on punctuated equilibrium could, at least in theory, operate
alongside historical institutionalism (see also Bulmer 2009: 308). The
theory of punctuated equilibrium in public policy suggests that longrun stability in policy-making is subject to occasional seismic shifts when
existing institutions and issue definitions breakdown and pressure for
change accumulates to the point where it cannot be ignored (Krasner
1984; Jones and Baumgartner 2005). As Zehavi describes it, ‘at some
point the growing inadequacy of [a particular] policy [is] sufficient
enough to merit media and public attention, and policy-makers, due
14 S. Farrall
to public criticism, would react—perhaps even overreact—with a major
reform that would shift the policy point of equilibrium’ (2012: 736).
As such, the widespread recognition, over time, that some policy or
approach is ‘failing’ and that change is required brings about the end of
a period of equilibrium, and starts the processes by which a new equilibrium is reached. In Krasner’s model, the impetus for this change is external (Thelen and Steinmo 1992: 15). Hence punctuated equilibrium; a
moment or period during which the current equilibrium is ‘punctured’
and a new one is given the chance to emerge.
Constructivist Institutionalism: Recognising
that Ideas Shape Pathways
More recently another body of ‘institutionalist’ thinking has emerged
out of a dialogue with historical institutionalism. Going under the name
of ‘constructivist’ institutionalism, this argues that historical institutionalism overlooks the role which ideas play in shaping political outcomes
(Ross 2011; Hay 2011). Ideas, as Jacobs (2015: 41) notes, are difficult
to measure, but this does not make them any less important, since they
structure actors’ understanding of the world. The basic observations
of constructivist institutionalists are that historical institutionalism is
too ‘sticky’ (Bell 2011: 883) in that it cannot easily allow for individual agency. This form of institutionalism focuses on the ways in which
ideas can change or mould institutions and processes. In short, ideas
can influence many processes. Pierson’s observations that ‘institutional
arrangements in politics are typically hard to change’ (2000: 490) and
that ‘actors find the dead weight of previous institutional choices seriously limits their room to manoeuvre’ (2000: 493) are taken as suggesting that agency is seriously hampered. Indeed, and as Hay notes, within
the auspices of historical institutionalism, change is seen as the outcome
of path dependent processes or from shocks from outwith (Hay 2011:
66). This overlooks what Hay refers to as ‘path-shaping’ (as opposed to
path-dependent) possibilities (Hay 2011: 66). Hay’s critique of much
current historical institutionalism stresses that whilst it continues to
focus on path dependencies, it will remain unable to fully account for
radical change in institutional forms or processes (Hay 2011). By bringing a focus on ideas into play, constructivist institutionalism forces us
to grapple with the concept of ideational path-dependence (as well as
institutional path-dependence, Hay 2011: 68–69). As Blyth suggests,
‘institutional change only makes sense by reference to the ideas that
inform agents’ responses to moments of uncertainty and change’ (2002:
251). Through these lenses, ideas become codified and start to serve as
the cognitive filters through which actors are able to conceive of their
interests (Hay 2011: 69). Blyth (2002: 15) argues that ‘ideas give substance to interests and determine the form and content of new institutions’. Because ideas are part of what motivates the voting public, the
focus on ideas also motivates researchers to explore how the electorate response to political messages and how voters can shape political
Epistemological Critique
Epistemology refers to how we know how the world around us works.
I use the term to refer to both the assumptions which have been made
about the nature of the social world but moreover about how we ought
to best to explore it and the causal relationships within it. These sorts of
assumptions may be explicit in a theory but often are not. Either way, the
epistemology adopted is crucial to the methodology employed, since the
validity or otherwise of a set of methodologies rests on the assumptions
made about the social world being explored and the causal relationships
under investigation. Hence, in adopting one epistemological position
researchers are committing themselves to employing methodological
approaches consistent with that epistemology.
My critique of the epistemological basis of this field runs at two levels.
The background assumptions about crime and trends in crime held by
many criminologists and policy-makers are one level. The second level
relates more narrowly to the epistemological positions which stemmed
from this and which were adopted by those researching the crime drop
from around the mid- to late-1990s. With regard to the first of these,
one of the things which pretty much all criminologists started to believe
(quite reasonably) during the 1980s, and based on the recorded and
later self-reported data about crime, was that crime was going to rise
inexorably. Evidence of this can be found in publications authored not
just by criminologists, but by UK Home Secretaries.2 For example, in
2 For example, Farrington and Jolliffe wrote, even as late as 2004, that ‘…most crimes
tended to increase over time…’ (p. 25).
16 S. Farrall
an interview I conducted with Michael Howard (Home Secretary from
1993 to 1997) he recounted that
The first presentation that I was given by the officials of Home Office said
… they showed me a graph, and they said, “Home Secretary this is what’s
happening to crime over the last 50 years it’s going to go up at an average rate of about 5% a year. And the first thing you must realise is that it’s
going to carry on going up at an average 5% rate a year and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your job is to manage public expectations in the
face of this inevitable and continuing rise in crime”.
Given that most informed commentators simply assumed that crime
was going to rise, crime rises ceased to be something which in and of
itself surprised criminal justice system practitioners, policy-makers or
criminologists and ceased to attract much attention. However, when
crime started to decline (and of course, one needs several years of data to
be sure of a sustained decline) this became ‘news’, simply because it went
against the grain of what was expected. Accordingly, scholars started to
search for the causes of the decline. The observation that I would offer
on this epistemological position (that crime rises were inevitable) is that
it seduced us (as a community) into believing that increases in crime
were a stable condition, when in fact, an increase in anything is far from
representing ‘stability’.
I turn now to the epistemological position adopted in the light of
this by those researching the crime drop. A key basis of my critique is
the notion that the epistemological position adopted by crime drop
analysts has (a) predisposed them towards a particular set of methodologies within the social sciences and (b) in so doing overlooked other
(equally valid) methodological approaches. The experiences of the countries which have been studied, it is assumed, are more or less similar to
one another. It is further assumed that the explanatory variables which
account for the observed declines will operate consistently across most, if
not all of the countries studied.
The assessment of the seventeen theories which have been developed
(see Chap. 1) is based on the degree to which the theories pass the four
tests outlined above. The ways in which these theories are tested assumes
a general, linear reality (Hall 2003). This manner of explanation has a
number of characteristics. Most obviously, it is quantitative (rather than,
say, based on detailed cases studies of countries). It assumes relationships
which are (more or less) consistent over time. Ruled out, therefore,
are those processes in which one factor drives a process of change for a
period of time, only to be succeeded by a different process which drives
the same outcome. Because a key test of the theories to be examined is
based on cross-national equivalence, this approach assumes that countries
start at (more or less) the same state, proceed in (more or less) the same
manner and at (more or less) the same pace and react to processes and
events at the same speed and in the same manner. Political or ideological
influence (i.e. ideas) in the processes is not considered. The methodological approach which has been developed (based on the epistemological
position adopted) can be critiqued in a number of ways. Most obviously,
it is assumed that human societies, their institutions, organisations, cultural values and so on, are invariant in a number of ways (in the same
way that, say, the laws of physics operate). Whilst gravity may operate identically across countries, I am far from convinced that the same
can be said for political systems, cultural values or criminal justice systems. In this respect, the epistemology adopted is overly deterministic.
Another aspect of this approach is that it assumes that all of the units
of analysis (in this case countries) are (a) equally weighted (all are more
equally important) and (b) that they do not breach rules of independence of observation. That is to say that countries are independent of one
another (so what the USA does with regard to crime rates has no bearing
negatively or positively on what, for example, Canada or England and
Wales does).3 These assumptions, which work well when we are dealing with individual respondents in cross-sectional surveys who have
been randomly selected and who can be reasonably assumed to be independent of one another on the basis of stratified random sampling, are
more questionable when it comes to countries, and when the processes
we are interested in extend over time. Jones and Newburn (2006) for
example, have explored and charted the ways in which crime policies
travel between countries, suggesting that ideas are exchanged between
policy elites and that these are developed over time. This being the case,
3 Another assumption, which I do not develop herein, is that each country is co-terminus,
which is to say that no country deliberates interferes with the internal governance of another
country. This is empirically unsustainable in the light of US drug policy in many Southern
American countries such as Mexico or Columbia, for example. Similarly, there are supranational bodies (such as the EU) which have attempted to harmonise crime prevention policies
(see Crawford 2009).
18 S. Farrall
it is hard to assume that Ministers in the UK Home Office are more
likely to listen to ideas developed in (say) Paris than they are in those
developed in (say) Washington. Linguistics, cultural, political and ideological considerations mean that it is very much not the case that all
countries are equal (Newburn 2002). My argument is that crime drop
analysts have made a number of assumptions about both crime trends
over time and the countries which have experienced them which have
driven them towards one particular methodological approach.4
Comparative Historical Analyses
In a series of publications, a number of historically minded political scientists have developed a critique of previous efforts to account for (amongst
other things) state formation, political revolutions, adaptions in social
policy, monetary policies and labour politics. Comparative historical analysis has been defined as involving a focus on causal analysis, especially
those with an emphasis on processes which unfold over time, and the use
of systematic and contextualised comparisons of similar and contrasting
cases (Mahoney and Rueschemeyer 2003: 10–13). An in-depth engagement with cases provides analysts with opportunities to discover previously unrecognised causal mechanisms and processes (Jacobs 2015: 56).
Analysts in this tradition are interested in ‘first order questions’ which
draw people into studying the social sciences in the first place (Mahoney
2003: 131) and which offer substantive enlightenment about the social
structures which surround us and which shape much of our lives and
life-courses (Skocpol 2003: 407). The approach relies upon developing
highly contextualised accounts (Thelen and Maloney 2015: 8), which
avoids one of the pitfalls of large-N studies in which analysts are required
to code processes relatively crudely, missing key information and processes (Jacobs 2015: 69). Amenta (2003) argues that this body of work
attempts to understand key processes comparatively (that is, using two or
more cases, or relying on one case but relating it to the experiences of
other cases); remains historical in that it ‘situates the study within the relevant historical contexts, takes a sophisticated approach to historiography,
thinks seriously about issues of process, timing and historical trajectories,
4 Furthermore, it remains the case that not all crimes have declined. Walby et al. (2016)
make a compelling argument that violence has increased.
and gains a deep understanding of the cases’ (p. 94). Three key characteristics of comparative historical analysis have been identified by two of the
key proponents of this perspective (Mahoney and Rueschemeyer 2003:
1–14). They suggest that analysts working in this tradition are chiefly
interested with ‘the explanation and the identification of causal configurations that produce major outcomes of interest’ (2003: 11). That is to
say, those analyses are preoccupied with identifying the causal processes
associated with some key event or process to be explained. Secondly, they
argue, such researchers ‘explicitly analyse historical sequences and take
seriously the unfolding of processes over time’ (2003: 12), meaning that
there is an assumption that the event or process being explored has it’s
causal roots embedded in prior historical events and processes and which
may play out differently due to the sequencing of these events or their
duration. In order to fully explain the outcomes a comparative historical
analyst is interested in, the analyst will need to take account of not just
what happen, but the order in which events and processes unfolded and
the duration of key elements in the causal chain. Finally, Mahoney and
Rueschemeyer claim that comparative historical analysis is particularly
concerned with an engagement in systematic and contextualised comparisons of similar or contrasting cases, which, taken together enable the analyst to develop both a causal understanding of an event or process and to
develop insights as to why similar cases may produce dissimilar outcomes
and vice versa (2003: 13).
The insights developed as part of this approach provide the ideal
starting point not just for the critique of the crime drop literature outlined above, but also the inspiration for rethinking the epistemological,
conceptual and methodological approaches for exploring, theorising
and explaining some of the recent trends in crime experienced by some
nations. At this juncture, I want to outline some of the contributions
which could usefully extend our knowledge about such trends. One
of the key elements in the methodological toolbox associated with this
body of work is what is known as process tracing. Process tracing consists
of the analysis of a case (or cases) in a temporally ordered sequence of
events and processes such that the causal relationships between them are
illuminated. The analyst is interested in the goals and actions of individual actors, organisations and informal groups and communities of space
or identity. The analyst will not assume that all of these entities operate
rationally or are equally powerful or are able to achieve their goals in the
short term or ever. As Goldstone summaries it, ‘process tracing involves
20 S. Farrall
making deductions about how events are linked over time, drawing on
general principles of economics, sociology, psychology, and political science regarding human behaviour’ (2003: 48).
Another key aspect of comparative historical work is the attention to
what is termed congruence testing (Goldstone 2003). Having developed for each case included in the study the processes which link the
causal antecedents with the outcome, congruence testing seeks to ‘challenge and improve our understanding of how particular cases of interest are related or different [from one another]’ (2003: 50). Mahoney
(2003: 361) refers to a very similar process known as ‘pattern-­matching’.
Pattern-matching is a powerful tool in the falsification of additional
hypotheses derived during the developmental stage, since ideas developed from cross-national analyses are then tested within cases, providing
an assessment of whether or not these hypotheses are supported at the
individual case level. In short, using process tracing, the analyst seeks to
uncover and understand the causal sequences that produced the result
of interest, and then through comparison, using congruence testing,
they try to assess the number of cases which ‘fit’ a particular sequence or
causal patterning. The beauty of the approach, as Rueschemeyer points
out, (2003: 324) is that hypotheses can be tested at two levels; firstly in
terms of ‘within case’ analyses and secondly in comparative terms (with
the added advantage that additional hypotheses which emerge from
cross-case analyses can be tested within cases too). This allows the analyst to identity multiple pathways of causation, that is to say the ways in
which each case’s unique causal processes may produce outcomes which
are similar to other cases, even when the causal processes were different. This final point is key since the social science literature which has
adopted this approach has pointed to (see Hall 2003: 383):
i. Cases in which an increase in x leads to an increase in y, but additional cases in which an increase in y was caused by a different set
variable (known as equifinality, Bennett and Checkel 2015: 19).
ii. Cases in which x leads to y at time 1, but z leads to y at time 2.
iii. Cases in which an increase in x leads to an increase in y at time 1,
but not at time 2.
iv. Cases in which an increase in x leads to an increase in y for some
cases, but is modified by z for other cases.
v. Cases in which an increase in an outcome (y) depends on many
other variables, whose values may (or may not) be dependent upon
one another,
vi. Cases in which an increase in x leads to an increase in y, which, over
time, tends to increase x, and, finally,
vii. Cases in which both x and z simultaneously lead to changes in an
outcome (y).
viii. Cases in which x is an important variable in the onset of a process,
but in which other variables determine the progression of that
For example (as an example of iv), Jacobs and Kleban (2003) find that
rates of imprisonment can be reasonably well modelled using the murder
rate, the rate of births out of wedlock, the percentage of ethnic minorities in a society and the GDP. However, the same model performs far
better when political governance regimes (federalist or corporativist) are
included (suggesting that some relationships can be mediated by other
processes). Similarly, Sutton (2004) finds that the relationship between
business cycles and imprisonment rates was mediated by political regime.
Atkinson (2000: 364–365) notes that between the end of the Second
War World and the late 1970s economic inequality in the UK declined.
Between 1979 and 1985, it increased and was due to unemployment.
From 1985 to 1990, however, the inequalities were due largely to government policies (an example of ii). As an example of viii, see O’Rand
(2009: 125) who reports that education levels influence the onset
of some illnesses, but income and healthcare shape its progression.
Similarly, and as an example of iii, consider the relationship between age
and likelihood of marriage. Between 18 and 40, every year unmarried
increases the likelihood that an individual will marry the following year.
However, after 40, each additional year unmarried decreases the likelihood of marriage the following year (George 2009: 167). Key thinkers
in this tradition have started to refer to the idea of ‘causal packages’ of
processes which operate in tandem, even if not all may be present in all
cases (Thelen and Maloney 2015: 7). As such, this approach enables the
analyst to approach matters in a non-deterministic manner (since causal
mechanisms interact with the context in which they occur and operate,
the outcome cannot be determined a priori, Trampush and Palier 2016:
6; Pawson and Tilley 1994). This approach is at odds with much of
22 S. Farrall
the thinking which characterises the work of many crime drop analysts,
which assumes a generally linear reality.
In essence, the causal processes identified by such studies point to the
problems of identifying and teasing out the interactions between causes
and contexts. Ragin (1987) pointed to the possibility of multiple conjectural causation. This is the phenomenon whereby an outcome is caused
not just by the operation of one or two variables, but by a diverse combination of many factors some of which may be present in some cases
but not in others. In short, in country 1 cause A may result in outcome
C, whilst in country 2 cause B results in outcome C, depending on the
specific context in each country. Whilst structural equation modelling (in
which multiple causal processes can be modelled and in which structural
variance between countries can be tested formally) shares some properties with regression, it’s abilities to handle multiple and differentiated
causal processes significantly improves upon ‘basic’ regression modelling,
the routes of the causal theorising lie in systematic case studies.
Taken as a whole, this body of work suggests that methodologies
which assume (and seek to find) cross-national equivalence may contain
various weaknesses which, in turn, may mean that incorrect causal inferences are drawn. Law-like statements ought to be avoided, or treated
with scepticism (Pouliot 2015: 237). The possibility of using detailed
case studies offers criminologists ‘thicker’, more contextualised, and
arguably more rigorous assessments (Hall 2003: 399) of social science
phenomena. Such an approach could be used to (a) develop additional
theoretical insights to explain ‘deviant’ cases, and (b) make more rigorous assessments of the causal processes already developed.
What I Have Argued so Far
I contend that the crime drop literature has developed an epistemological
position which is heavily reliant upon one style of social science explanation and consequently becomes overly reliant on a limited set of methodologies from the social sciences. An assumption that a cause must work
in all cases (‘constant cause’ thinking, Levitsky and Way 2015: 97) has
been developed and has led, I fear, to the discounting of several otherwise plausible hypotheses as contextual effects have been ignored. The
result has been that we have been seduced into thinking that security
is the sole explanation of the crime drop and have lost sight of interaction effects, joint causation and variations in processes of implementation
(see also Rosenfeld and Weisburd 2016: 330). A key purpose of this
book is to propose an additional approach, based much more on a narrative style of criminology. The methodology I will propose (and illustrate by way of one example and a handful of supporting cases) is based
on small-N case studies which involve analyses of specific countries in
order to develop more thoroughly grounded explanations of the crime
drop. This approach, whilst complicating matters to some degree, may
also offer both additional hypotheses and explanations of recent trends in
crime rates.
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Explaining the Crime Drop I: Developing
a Case Study of Political Change
in England and Wales
The near-absence of a theoretical literature on crime trends is astonishing.
Tonry (2014: 50)
Abstract  The chapter applies the insights gained from Chap. 2 to start
to sketch a more in-depth account of the causes of both the increase in
crime rates and the crime drop as experienced in England and Wales in
the 1980s and 1990s. I explore four areas of policy change, namely the
economy, housing, social security and schooling policies, arguing that
each of these was associated with an increase in crime or an increase in
the popular awareness of crime as a social problem.
Keywords  Social and economic policies
Crime trends · Thatcherism
· Crime policies
This chapter concerns itself with the task of using the insights from
Chap. 2 to explore and explain the property crime drop using a different
methodology (the detailed case study) and a different theoretical model
(one which focuses on telling the story around political decision-making,
and the ways in which political actors responded to the rise in property
crime caused by dramatic social and economic change). I limit myself
© The Author(s) 2017
S. Farrall, Re-Examining The Crime Drop, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8_3
28 S. Farrall
to property crime since modelling all crimes masks differences in variations between property and violent crime, and since public tolerance of
violent crime has changed so dramatically. Violent crime is no far less tolerated than it was previously, due in part to policies aimed at encouraging victims to report their experiences of domestic violence, abuse, rape
and other hate crimes to the police. The case study I rely on is England
and Wales. I am especially interested in the role played in shaping crime
trends by the Conservative Party-led governments from 1979 to 1997
(initially led by Margaret Thatcher until 1990, and then by John Major),
and the Labour-led government from 1997 to 2010, led first by Tony
Blair and then Gordon Brown). Accordingly, this chapter will (as a form
of process tracing) outline the political, social and economic changes
which the UK went through during the period from the 1970s to the
turn of the century and explain how these impacted on property crime
rates using both quantitative data (principally analysed using time series
modelling), (auto)biographical accounts and interviews with members of
the UK’s political elite. What is interesting about the Thatcher period
is the length of time she was in office. As Thelen and Maloney observe,
when a given process endures over time, it is more likely to trigger other
tipping points or set in motion process of accumulation or diffusion, and
(in the case of political leadership) can lead to ratchet effects on welfare
policies, whereby once radical innovations become entrenched and ‘normalised’ (2015: 23), strengthening over time as reinforcing sequences
emerge (p. 98).
Margaret Thatcher’s Period in Office: A Brief Overview
Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister of the UK in May 1979,
following a winter which passed into folklore as the ‘Winter of Discontent’
(itself the misuse of a quote from Shakespeare). Her platform had been
one of controlling inflation, limiting the influence of trade unions, cutting income tax, ‘rolling back’ the state, upholding the rule of law, the
‘liberation’ of families from an ‘unhealthy’ dependence on the state
(notably with regard to buying their own homes) and strengthening
Britain’s defences (Conservative Party 1979). During the 11 years, she
was in office, her governments’ policy and legislative agendas developed
and expanded. Initially, there was a focus on the economy, housing and
industrial relations. In anticipation of the loss of the 1983 general election, the manifesto was ‘de-radicalised’ leaving some to refer to the second
administration as the ‘lost opportunity’ (Evans 1999: 74). There were,
however, some notable events during the second term of office, such as
the passing of the 1986 Social Security Act, the privatisation of several
key state-owned utilities and perhaps most famously of all, the year-long
miners’ strike (1984–1985). Following re-election in 1987, education
and health were focal points for activity along with further privatisation
of state-owned utilities. Thatcher resigned as Conservative Party leader
(and hence Prime Minister) in November 1990 after failing to win an outright endorsement as party leader from her Parliamentary colleagues. John
Major was elected as party leader and became Prime Minister, winning the
1992 General Election before losing to Tony Blair in 1997.
In what follows below, I provide an overview of the five main policy
areas I am interested in (namely the economy, housing, social security,
schooling and criminal justice). I focus on the first four of these as they
are commonly held causes of crime; I tackle them in this order as this
was the order in which the Thatcher governments tackled these issues.
My aim in undertaking such an account reflects my belief that in order
to understand recent rises and falls in crime in England and Wales one
needs to understand property crime as a by-product of other political
choices and changes in political settlements.
Economic Policy
The immediate context for the Thatcher’s election was the economic
crisis of the winter of 1978–1979 (Hay 1996). The perceived capacity of the Conservatives to offer a decisive alternative to the prevailing
economic orthodoxies of the time was crucial to their victory. However,
even after becoming party leader in 1975, as Thatcher herself noted
(1995: 297), the Tories had no agreed economic policies. This would
change from December 1976, when Denis Healey (Labour Chancellor)
called in the International Monetary Fund. In the light of this, Geoffrey
Howe and Nigel Lawson started to develop a new set of macroeconomic policies, drawing on the monetarist thinking of the Institute for
Economic Affairs and the Adam Smith Institute (Jackson 1992: 11). The
Right Approach to the Economy (1977) spelt this out, symbolically distancing the party from the prevailing Keynesian economic orthodoxy
and allowing it to present itself as custodian of the transition to a new
macroeconomic paradigm (monetarism). Yet, despite the conversion of
some sections of the Tory Party to monetarism, the broader ramifications of such a paradigm shift were still to be worked through in detail.
Thus, the 1979 Conservative Party General Election Manifesto, whilst
30 S. Farrall
proclaiming monetarism as the solution to stagflation and the current
crisis, hardly mentioned privatisation at all (Brittan 1989: 6).
When the Tories come to power, inflation was running at 10%
(Jackson 1992: 25). This rose sharply in 1980–1981 to peak at around
20% (Brittan 1989: 20), a product, arguably, of monetarist policy failing
to bite immediately and the consequences of abandoning Labour’s policies on wage restraint (Thompson 1996: 169). Initially (1979–1980),
economic policy was organised in strictly monetarist terms around control of the money supply (Thompson 1996: 167). But between 1979
and 1982 there were increases in government spending, much of it a
consequence of steeply rising unemployment (Dunn and Smith 1990:
30) itself the result of a recession. By the time of the 1981 Budget, economic inequality was also starting to rise (Walker 1990: 42).
Between early 1983 and the autumn of 1986, monetarism was
slowly abandoned (Jackson 1992: 17), a process accelerated after the
1983 General Election (Mullard 1992: 269). The previous policies
were replaced by a rather more amorphous combination of supply-side
economic theory and neo-monetarist ideas. Yet although Lawson, for
instance, no longer believed in monetarism (Dunn and Smith 1994: 80),
this did not prevent it from being used by government ministers as an
appropriate label for their commitment to the continued fight against
inflation (Mullard 1992: 268–269). From 1983, it was privatisation that
became the key focus of economic policy, with the government making
no effort to reverse the decline in the manufacturing sector (Thompson
1996: 171). Just as in 1980, the 1983 Budget produced major changes
in personal taxation (Mullard 1992: 262) which again favoured the better off (justified by reference to supply-side economic theory).
1985 saw the vast expansion of credit availability and a further deepening of the supply side refocusing of economic policy (Dunn and Smith
1990: 30–33). North Sea Oil and revenues from privatisations paid
for various tax cuts in 1986–1988 (Thompson 1996: 171). The 1988
Budget produced major changes in personal taxation (Mullard 1992:
262) again benefitting the better off. Towards the end of 1989, Lawson
resigned as Chancellor, with the economy in trouble following huge
increases in inflation (Jay 1994: 172). The government’s response was
to restore the value of sterling and to control inflation through monetary
policy (Mullard 1992: 271). After 1989, a further phase of privatisation
focused on public utilities generated significant receipts for the Treasury.
A recession started in late 1990, lasting into early 1991 (Jay 1994: 169),
after sterling was forced out of the European Exchange Rate Mechanism
in September 1992. The government was effectively left without a clear
macroeconomic policy and re-adopted more orthodox monetarist policies (Thompson 1996: 178). This meant that 1992–1993 saw a return
to policies of 1983–1985. Lamont was fired as Chancellor in May 1993
and replaced with Clarke (who tightened fiscal policy and reduced public
expenditure). As Thompson suggests, the Major government was ‘more
true to free market rhetoric than the Thatcher administration ever was’
(1996: 182). In sum, the Thatcher governments were immediately radical in economic policy; largely since they had come to power in the context of a crisis for which they claimed to offer a distinctive solution. But
the consequences of that radicalism were a profound increase in levels
of unemployment, economic inequality and social polarisation that were
reflected in, as we shall come to see, a steep increase in rates of property
crime. Unemployment simultaneously dramatically increased economic
need (which was increasingly left unmet following changes in the social
security system) and robbed some of a sense of hope in the future. These
feelings of anomie may have encouraged some towards using heroin, and
hence fuelled property crime in that way too.
Housing Policy
Major shifts in the UK’s housing market are by no means new
phenomena. In 1939, private rented accommodation accounted for half
of housing provision. By 1980–1981, however, this had been reduced
to around 12% (Atkinson and Durden 1994: 189), due to an increase in
the provision of local authority housing. The picture started to change
again, however, as, from the mid-1960s the main political parties agreed
on the superiority of owner-occupation over state provision (Atkinson
and Durden 1990: 117). However, council housing was still the main
form of accommodation for many in the UK, especially those on lower
The Housing Policy Review (1975–1977) asserted the importance of
home ownership (Williams 1992: 161). Indeed, public expenditure on
housing was already being trimmed back from 1976 as a direct result of
the intervention of the IMF (Murie 1989: 213). The first key legislative
change of this era related to the prior Labour administration: the 1977
Homeless Persons Act. This act was, in many respects, another key plank
in the welfare state. The Act was intended to extend housing provision
to those individuals and families unable to secure their own accommodation, and extended the definition of homelessness, thereby increasing
32 S. Farrall
the numbers of those deemed homeless. This created new responsibilities for local authorities to house those with greater social needs (Murie
1989: 213) creating a ‘radically new housing market’ (Bottoms et al.
1992: 140). The first two terms of office of the Thatcher administration focused on extending home ownership (Kemp 1992: 65) in a clear
attempt to extend the party’s electoral basis into the aspirant working
classes (Hay 1992). Owner occupiers rose from 55% in 1979 to 64% in
1987 (Monk and Kleinman 1989: 126–127). The 1980 Housing Act
(which introduced the right to buy for council tenants), was key in this
process, since it offered existing tenants the chance to buy their homes at
a discounted price. Housing sales were, however, geographically uneven
(Atkinson and Durden 1994: 185–186), being highly concentrated in
the south-east of England.
Following an initial burst, from 1982 sales of council houses began
to decline, leading to further discounts in 1984 and 1986. The 1986
Housing and Planning Act has been seen by some as a deliberate attempt
to push reluctant council tenants towards purchasing their houses rather
than being transferred to another landlord (Atkinson and Durden 1990:
122). The 1988 Housing Act was aimed at transferring council houses to
housing associations or allowing private landlords to bid to for the running of council properties (Kemp 1992: 68). At around this time, the
impacts of changes elsewhere to the running of the welfare state started
to impact on housing in the UK. The 1988 Social Security Act (see
below) increased homelessness amongst those aged 16–18 (Atkinson and
Durden 1994: 196), thereby increasing demand for affordable accommodation at a time when the housing system was ill-placed to cope with
extra demands. Following this, the 1989 Local Govt and Housing Act
stopped councils from using rates to subsidise council rents, producing large increases in such rents (Atkinson and Durden 1990: 123). By
1990, the discounts being offered to tenants in council housing had
reached 53%. This further increased the process of the residualisation
of council housing (Kemp 1992: 76; Monk and Kleinman 1989: 129;
Atkinson and Durden 1990: 118). Taken together, this created a situation in which better off families either bought houses in ‘good’ council estates and left after a short whilst to move ‘up’ the ladder or left
without buying, leaving the less well off living alongside those who the
councils had a statutory obligation to house and who often had considerable social and economic needs. Farrall et al. (2016) chart the consequences of this for the spatial distribution of domestic property crime.
Whilst such changes did not increase national property crime rates, they
did coral crime into specific communities, making it more visible and a
source of public and political discourse.
Social Security Policy
Initially, that is to say when the social security system was being
developed in the late 1940s, it was expected that few people would need
to claim benefits (Hill 1994: 242). However, by the 1970s, due to rising number of claimants, very real fears that the system was on the point
of collapse emerged (McGlone 1990: 160). When elected in 1979, the
Thatcher government lacked a clear sense of what to do about social
security, even if they were committed in the belief that benefits were too
generous (Pierson 1996: 215). In turn, reflecting this commitment to
reduce benefits, the Tories altered the ‘up-rating rule’ (the system for
ensuring that pensions and related benefits kept pace with the cost of living) so that it was only linked to rises in prices, not earnings (Walker
1990: 34). This had the effect of slowly impoverishing those receiving
such benefits (Howard 1997: 93). For some (McGlone 1990: 160),
1979–1987 represents the first stage of changes to the social security system, during which the Thatcher administration attempted to implement
a new ideology via the use of old policies.
In 1983, the Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS) produced new regulations which introduced three tiers of limits on payments
relating to board and lodging (McGlone 1990: 162). This, in effect,
resulted in a freeze on all board and lodgings payments, followed by a cut
and a restriction placed on the payment of benefits for unemployed people under 25 years, which resulted in them needing to move every two to
eight weeks to remain eligible for payments. The effect was to increase the
number of young homeless people (McGlone 1990: 162). Further developments saw Housing Benefit cut (Hill 1994: 247) and earnings related
short-term benefits abolished (Hill 1999: 166). The first of these was the
result of the Treasury placing pressure on the DHSS, whose response (cutting Housing Benefit by steepening the rate at which benefits were cut
off) greatly assisted the creation of the poverty trap (Hill 1994: 248). In
the April of 1984, Fowler announced a comprehensive review of social
security spending. The Fowler Review of Social Security was published in
1985 and argued that reform of the benefit system was needed, resulting
in the 1986 Social Security Act (which came into force in 1988).
34 S. Farrall
From around 1987, we see the start of the second stage of changes
(McGlone 1990: 160). Unlike the first, during which there was an
attempt to enforce a new philosophy via the old structures, this saw a
conscious effort to break with past policies (Pierson 1996: 203–206).
Others have highlighted the 1988–1990 period as representing the high
point of radical legislation, some claiming that it rivalled the legislation
of 1944–1948 in terms of its radical aims (Glennerster 1994: 322). In
1986, 16–17-year-old claimants lost the right to income support, whilst
payments for those aged 18–24 were reduced (Hill 1994: 248).1 The
1986 Social Security Act saw the ending of free school meals and cuts
in Housing Benefit, producing a 10% reduction in claimants between
February and May 1988 (McGlone 1990: 168). Changes to the rules
also meant that fewer people were eligible for unemployment benefit
(Howard 1997: 87). From 1987 (until 1991), Child Benefit was frozen. Unemployment Benefit was renamed Job Seeker’s Allowance in
1995, and those aged under 25 received a lower rate. The Job Seeker’s
Allowance was means tested after first the six months, with entitlement
reduced after that point.
Prior to the mid-1970s, there was little indication that education
would become heavily politicised. However, from the mid-1970s to
late 1970s this picture started to change. One of the most radical proposals regarding education in the 1979 Tory Party Election manifesto
involved increasing parental choice (McVicar 1990: 135), but in general, Thatcher was initially reluctant to address education (Scott 1994:
333). This was reflected in Thatcher’s choice of education minister;
Mark Carlisle (‘a wet’), suggesting a non-radical agenda was to be pursued (Scott 1994: 333). Unremarkably, then, the 1980 Education Act,
along with all other Education Acts until 1988, is seen as incrementalist (McVicar 1990: 133). Like the 1979 manifesto before it, the 1983
manifesto repeated the reference to increasing parental choice (McVicar
1990: 135). However, it was the 1988 Education Act which was to
1 Hope and Foster (1992) report that the influx of single young people into the PEP
estate between 1987 and 1990 was associated with increases in drug use (especially of heroin) leading to increases in property crime.
radically change education. This Act allowed schools to opt out of LEA
control; transferred the management of schools from LEAs to school
governors; gave parents and children a choice of school); introduced the
national curriculum; and introduced national testing at ages 7, 11, 14
and 16 (Dorey 1999: 146). Whilst previously education had been a low
priority for governments, the aim of the 1988 act was to make a radical break with the earlier philosophy (Tomlinson 1989: 185–186) and
key to this was allowing parents greater choice of where to send their
children. In order to do this, one needs a mechanism by which choices
can be made. Exam league tables were introduced to do this. However,
these had the side effect of encouraging head teachers to exclude unruly
pupils, who fuelled local crime rates (Berridge et al. 2001).
The Criminal Justice System
But what of the criminal justice system? During the period between the
late 1960s and late 1974, there was very little evidence of much sustained thinking on issues relating to crime policy amongst the radical
right. Prior to the 1970s, crime had generally received little attention as
a political issue, either from policy-makers or the wider public. The Tory
Party would occasionally make noises about ‘getting tough’ with ‘hooligans’, or give an increased prominence to crime, as in the 1970 manifestos (Downes and Morgan 1997: 89–97). The Home Office’s agenda
was to reduce the reliance on prison due to its cost and questions over
its effectiveness at rehabilitating offenders (Faulkner 2014). This consensus on criminal justice was broadly supported by all mainstream political parties (Downes and Morgan 1997). Similarly, between becoming
leader of the party and the early 1980s, Thatcher focussed on gaining
control of the party and so showed little concern with crime. However,
as penal pessimism gripped both the UK and the USA, the Tories started
to articulate and mobilise popular support for ‘law and order’ (Loader
2006: 574). In the autumn of 1977, Willie Whitelaw whilst in opposition called for review of police pay, which the Labour Home Secretary
(Merlyn Rees) subsequently set up and which suggested increasing police
pay, strengthening the Tories’ position. (Labour held off implementing
the pay increase in line with its wages policy).
Certainly, Thatcher talked tough on crime, implying that a more punitive approach would be taken. The 1979 election saw ‘law and order’
brought to the fore by the Tories (Downes and Morgan 1997: 93),
36 S. Farrall
partly as a result of recasting industrial dispute as a ‘law and order’ issue.
In her final broadcast during the 1979 election, she referred to citizens
needing to feel ‘safe in the streets’ (Riddell 1985: 193). Prior to that, she
had claimed that the country wanted ‘less tax and more law and order’
(Savage 1990: 89) and in March 1988 expressed the opinion that social
workers were to blame for the recent rises in crime as they ‘created a fog
of excuses in which the muggers and burglars operate’ (Riddell 1989:
171). She also stated that she would never ‘economise on law and order’
(Savage 1990: 91) and was in favour of capital punishment (Thatcher
1993: 307). Such sentiments can be interpreted as a wish to see obedience to and respect of the law, and the desire for a criminal justice system
which did not embrace penal welfarism, favoured crime control models
of policing and which tended towards harsher penalties. However, many
commentators have pointed to the fact that she rarely intervened in matters relating to criminal law or its administration (Faulkner 2014: 68;
Hurd 2003: 349–372). There was, despite the rhetoric, no legislation
on crime in the first two sessions of Parliament after 1979 (Windlesham
1993: 153). Instead, Thatcher used PMQs to speak out on individual
sentences (Loader 2006: 574). The prison rebuilding programme, however, was restarted in the early 1980s, and a focus on crime prevention
(discussed in more depth in Chap. 4) was developed during the 1980s.
However, there were changes (dating back to the mid-1970s) in the
ways in which key actors in the Home Office were starting to think
about how to tackle crime. Drawing upon rational choice theories, routine activities theories and in the light of the pessimistic assessment that
‘nothing worked’ (Martinson 1974), researchers at the Home Office
Research and Planning Unit started to develop their thinking about
crime and crime prevention. Against the backdrop of a wider antipathy
to state-led interventions, what was proposed was that civil society institutions and actors (rather than the state) take on more responsibility for
preventing crime (Garland 1996).
In sum, and largely in contrast to other policy areas during the 1980s,
one sees a continuation of ‘business as usual’ in criminal justice (a
topic I shall return to at length in Chap. 4). Most of Thatcher’s Home
Secretaries were not Thatcherites in any sense.2 With the arrival of Major
2 They were Willie Whitelaw (1979–1983), Leon Brittan (1983–1985), Douglas Hurd
(1985–1989) and David Waddington (1989–1990).
as PM, there were a number of important changes in key Ministers, with
Baker becoming Home Secretary. Like Hurd before him, Baker (a liberal on many matters) found himself sidetracked into dealing with noncrime-related matters. There was little sign of a hard-line ‘Thatcherite’
approach, at least until after 1992 (a topic I deal with in Chap. 4).
It was only from 1992 that crime became much more prominent on
the policy agenda. After expulsion from the ERM and the signing of
the Maastricht Treaty, Major was looking for an issue around which he
could unite the Tories, and crime was an obvious one (Faulkner 2001:
122). However, the focus on crime was not merely a diversionary tactic;
data from the British Crime Survey suggested that relatively few crimes
resulted in conviction. This was particularly troublesome for the Tories,
who, having increased expenditure on the Criminal Justice System for 14
consecutive years, had little to show for their efforts (Baker 1993: 450–
451; Thatcher 1993: 626).
Explaining Changes in the Property Crime
Rate Over Time
I wish now to summarise some of the findings which I and colleagues
produced, based on our research into the effects of Thatcherite social
and economic policies on property crime in England and Wales (Farrall
and Jennings 2012; Jennings et al. 2012, 2016; Farrall et al. 2016).
The modelling which we undertook—and which relied upon officially
recorded and self-reported data—focused on exploring how unemployment, income inequality, welfare spending and the incarceration rate (all
features (or side-effects) associated with neoliberal and neo-conservative
policies during the 1970s and 1980s) influenced property crime rates.
We argued that crime entered the policy agenda for a number of reasons. Long-term trends in social, economic and demographic variables
associated with criminal behaviour led to increased national crime rates
during the 1990s (Fig. 3.1). Indeed, the rate of increase in the crime rate
between 1979 and 1991 was higher than that for the period from 1949
to 1979 (Hogg and Brown 1998: 123). Furthermore, the economic and
social policies pursued during the 1980s accentuated those trajectories of
social and economic change (accelerating crime levels). Resulting from
this, competition between the political parties over this issue pushed
crime up the policy agenda and, combined with an increasing media
attention on crime, stoked public concern about crime.
38 S. Farrall
Property Crime Rate (Per 1,000 Capital)
1981 1986
Fig. 3.1 Property crime rates England and Wales (Home Office, recorded
As such, we argued, crime rates cannot be entirely disentangled from
political choices since social and economic policies directly influence levels
of inequality, deprivation, growth, unemployment and processes of social
unrest. They therefore indirectly shape long-term crime trends. governments, however, do not simply observe this; routine monitoring of crime
rates (coupled with shock events) attune policy-makers and politicians to
the problem of crime, which they then try to address. How they choose
to address crime is shaped by wider social and economic philosophies; during the heyday of penal welfarism the solution to crime was perceived to
revolve around employment, secure housing, support for those in times of
need and giving citizens a sense of hope for the future. More recently, and
during the period which I am chiefly concerned with, this approach was
abandoned in favour of a more directly punitive one which saw offenders
as rational choice actors and in which potential victims were encouraged to
adopt market-supplied crime prevention products (such as burglar alarms).
Of course, the relationship between economic variables and crime
rates is well researched (Field 1990; Greenberg 2001; Cantor and Land
2001; Levitt 2001; Rosenfeld and Messner 2009). This is especially
true with regard to the relationship between unemployment and crime
(Tarling 1982; Cantor and Land 1985, 1991; Hale and Sabbagh 1991).
It is widely thought that unemployment is strongly related to crime rates,
both at the individual (Farrington et al. 1986) and at the aggregate levels.
Drawing upon these studies, we used measures of social and economic
Unemployment Rate (%)
Fig. 3.2 National unemployment rate (per cent), 1970–2006
processes likely to be related to property crime, but which were also side
effects of neoliberal economic policies (Farrall and Jennings 2012). The
literature suggested that the unemployment rate (Cantor and Land 1985;
Hale and Sabbagh 1991) and income inequality (Freeman 1983; Chiricos
1987; Land et al. 1990) would contribute to increases in rates of property
crime (as these produced economic need, and hence criminal motivation).
Economic restructuring in the form of deindustrialisation (which
started in the 1960s) was associated with rising unemployment
(Fig. 3.2). The liberalisation of financial markets and changes to taxation policies since the 1980s have contributed to rising inequality (see
Fig. 3.3) as the Thatcher government abolished higher rates of taxation
and increased indirect taxation, which had a greater effect on the poor.
The trends observed in the post-war British economy correspond to patterns of change in the property crime rate (Fig. 3.1). The steepest rises
in the rate of property crime occurred during the 1980s and early 1990s,
and coincided with dramatic increases in unemployment and inequality.
We (Farrall and Jennings 2012) modelled the economy-crime link at the
macro-level by estimating a model of short- and long-run effects of economic variables on the national crime rate.3 Table 3.1 reports the direction
3 The model used was: ΔCRIME  = α  +  α CRIME
t−1  +  α2ΔUNEMjt  +  α3UNEMjt−1   + 
α4ΔGINIjt  + α5GINIjt−1  +  α6ΔGDPjt  +  α7GDPjt−1 +  εt.
40 S. Farrall
Gini Coefficient
Fig. 3.3 Income inequality (Gini coefficient, after housing costs), 1970–2006
Table 3.1 Error-correction model of the crime rate in Britain (Prais-Winsten
Long-run effects (ECM): CRIMEt−1
Short-run effects: ∆UNEMPLOYMENTt
Long-run effects: UNEMPLOYMENT RATEt-1
Short-run effects: ∆INEQUALITYt
Long-run effects: INEQUALITYt−1
Short-run effects: ∆GDP GROWTHt
Long-run effects: GDP GROWTHt−1
Adjusted R2
Durbin Watson d-statistic
* p ≤ 0.05, ** p ≤ 0.01, *** p ≤ 0.001, † p ≤ 0.10
−0.0312* (0.0141)
−0.2999** (0.1103)
0.0027** (0.0009)
0.0012* (0.0005)
0.0710 (0.0741)
0.1357* (0.0562)
0.0003† (0.0001)
0.0003 (0.0002)
Table 3.2 Time series regression models of change in the property crime rate
∆PRISONPOPt (per conviction)
Adjusted R2
Durbin Watson h-statistic
Breusch-Godfrey χ2 (1)
ARCH χ2 (1)
0.92 (1.88)
0.09 (0.06)
−2.95† (1.65)
0.23** (0.07)
0.42 (0.88)
−0.02 (0.05)
−0.28* (0.12)
−1.71* (0.76)
−0.15 (0.09)
† p ≤ 0.10, * p ≤ 0.05, ** p ≤ 0.01, *** p ≤ 0.001, N = 46, Start = 1961, End = 2006
and significance of economic conditions on the national rate of crime. For
the period between 1961 and 2006, a single-equation error-correction
model indicated both positive contemporaneous (0.0027**) and lagged
(0.0012*) effects of unemployment on the crime rate, in addition to the
positive lagged effect of inequality (0.1357*). Put simply, as unemployment rises it has both immediate and longer term effects on property crime
rates. When inequality is considered, it has only longer term effects.
In a further paper (Jennings et al. 2012), we explored how changes in
first social security spending and then rates of imprisonment also shaped
property crime rates in England and Wales between 1961 and 2006.
This paper again explored the roles of unemployment and inequality,
but added changes in welfare spending and the incarceration rate. The
resulting model is shown in Table 3.2,4 and suggests that in addition to
the findings as they related to unemployment and inequality as reported
above, spending an additional £10 in terms of welfare payments per capita is associated with a decrease of 0.28 in the number of property crimes
4 The model used was ΔPROPERTY CRIME  = α  + β PROPERTY CRIME  + β ∆U
NEFITSt + β7∆PRISONPOPt + β8TIMEt + εt.
42 S. Farrall
Fear of Crime (%)
Fig. 3.4 Public fear of crime (British crime survey)
per thousand people. Similarly, whilst a one-percentage point increase in
the number of people incarcerated per conviction was equal to a decrease
of 1.71 in the number of property crimes per thousand. Hence spending on welfare is also associated with changes in property crime, as is the
incarceration rate.
The rises in crime from the 1970s, the increases at the end of the
1980s and into the early 1990s did not go unnoticed by the public.
What this did was to increase worries about crime amongst the population, who, given the relatively recent introduction of the British Crime
Survey, were able to name and voice such concerns as ‘the fear of crime’
(see Farrall and Lee 2009: 3–6). Levels of the fear of crime are illustrated
in Fig. 3.4. This rose throughout the 1980s, peaking in 1994, before
declining thereafter.
These figures suggest that as property crime rose, the fear of crime
tended to track it (indeed between 1982 and 2005 the correlation coefficient was 0.693, p = < 0.000, Pearson’s r). The importance of the issue
of ‘law and order’ relative to the economy is illustrated in Fig. 3.5. This
plots the percentage of the British public naming crime or economic issues
as the ‘most important problem’ (‘MIP’, Gallup 1970–2001) or the ‘most
important issue’ (‘MII’, MORI, 1977–2008) facing the country. These
series tend to mirror one another over time (the correlation coefficient was
−0.359, p = < 0.05). This suggests that when economic issues are of high
importance there is limited space on the agenda for the issue of crime.
Law & Order (%)
The Economy (%)
MIP/MII - The Economy
MIP/MII - Law & Order
Fig. 3.5 Most important problem/issue—law and order vs. economy
How Crime Shapes the Political and Policy Agendas
Those interested in how agendas are formed focus on how (and why)
a particular topic becomes part of the political agenda (Jones and
Baumgartner 2005). Accounts typically emphasise a combination of
ideas, interests and institutions and timing. As such, changes in policy
agendas are the result of pressure for change, which builds up, overcoming any inertia which would maintain the status quo. Policy-makers
have limited time and cannot attend to all of the issues competing for
space on a political agenda. However, theories of selective emphasis and
issue ownership suggest that political parties have incentives to promote
issues that benefit them or on which they enjoy a reputation for commitment or competence, or which resonate with the electorate (Jones and
Baumgartner 2005).
Historically, how much attention has been devoted to the issue of
crime by the British government in the post-war era? The proportion of
the policy agenda presented at the start of each session of parliament in
the King’s or the Queen’s Speech referring to criminal justice is plotted
in Fig. 3.6 for the period between 1945 and 2009. There was little government preoccupation with criminal justice prior to 1960, after which
there was a period of minor fluctuation between 1961 and 1978 between
2 and 8% of the total content of the Queen’s Speech. After May 1979
(the first programme of the Thatcher Government), there is a short-lived
Proportion of attention to Law & Crime (%)
44 S. Farrall
Fig. 3.6 Proportion of attention to law and crime in the speech from the
upturn in the attention to crime. However, the real escalation in concern occurred in the Queen’s Speech of October 1996 in which there
was a jump to 15% of the speech. After a brief lull in attention during
the period between 1997 and 2000, the amount of policy content in the
speech dedicated to crime rose to almost a fifth.
In order to assess the degree to which the political agenda is shaped
by public opinion, we again used time series modelling (Farrall and
Jennings 2012).5 The results are presented in Table 3.3 and confirm that
the crime rate was associated with British government’s attention to the
issues of crime, law and order (3.0850*). Public concern about crime
had an effect on the policy agenda in both the short-run (0.01662*) and
the longer-term (0.0193***). From the mid-1990s, just as the fear of
crime had reached a peak, and as crime started to force it’s way on to the
policy agenda, the government became more concerned with attending
to it. Clearly, there are lagged effects at play; over time the population
responds to rising crime levels (heightened fear) which, in turn, drives
government attention on crime. In this case, the attention afforded to
crime was lagged so much that crime was actually on the decrease just
as the government ratcheted up its own legislative attention on crime.
5 The model used was: ΔPOLICY AGENDA  = α  +  α POLICY AGENDA
t-1   + 
α2ΔCRIMEjt  +  α3CRIMEjt-1  +  α4ΔMIPjt  + α5MIPjt-1  +  εt.
Table 3.3 Error-correction model of the public opinion, crime rates and the
policy agenda (Prais-Winsten regression)
Long-run effects (ECM): POLICY AGENDAt−1
Short-run effects: ∆CRIMEt
Long-run effects: CRIMEt−1
Short-run effects: ∆PUBLIC OPINIONt
Long-run effects: PUBLIC OPINIONt−1
Adjusted R2
Durbin Watson d-statistic
0.0277 (0.0238)
−1.3089*** (0.1361)
3.0850*** (1.2697)
−0.4897 (0.4547)
0.0166*** (0.0043)
0.0193*** (0.0050)
* p ≤ 0.05, ** p ≤ 0.01, *** p ≤ 0.001
Jennings et al. (2016) found that the public was becoming more punitive and that this in turn was associated with increases in the incarceration rate. One may additionally observe that during the 1970s, the
Conservative party was more alarmist about crime when in opposition
than they proved to be when in office (at least until the mid-1990s, as
we shall see in Chap. 4).
This chapter has argued that changes in property crime rates can be
understood in terms of changes in social and economic policies, which
are themselves the consequences of political choices. As the social and
economic policies of the 1980s started to have their effects in the 1980s,
unemployment and inequality rose, and with it rose property crime. Such
rises were identified by the public, who, via the British Crime Survey,
reported rising levels of concern about crime, and who became increasingly punitive. This, along with the rises in crime themselves, forced
crime onto the political agenda (Table 3.3). In short, the social and economic policies of the 1980s helped to produce the rise in crime, which
itself produced increased worry about crime and punitiveness, which
some politicians used to make political capital (Michael Howard and
46 S. Farrall
Tony Blair most obviously) and which in turn put pressure on policymakers to shift their approach to deal with crime. This is consistent with
the theory of punctuated equilibrium in public policy, where long-run
stability in policy-making is subject to occasional seismic shifts when
existing institutions and issue definitions break down and pressure for
change exceeds a threshold (Jones and Baumgartner 2005). As such, the
1990s saw increased party competition over their law and order credentials, contributed to demand for policy solutions and ‘tougher’ measures
on criminal justice, first under the Major government and then under
the Blair government. One might well ask why politicians did not simply
reassert the penal welfare model and seek to reinvest in it. Given the earlier support for exactly this approach by the Labour Party in 1983, it was
not deemed to be a successful strategy by Labour. For the Conservatives,
with a desire to reduce welfare spending and government ‘interference’,
this option was not attractive either. Reducing the role of the state was a
key theme in both neoliberalism and neo-conservative thinking (Hayes
1994), and as such penal welfarism was abandoned as an overall strategy,
even if, as we shall see in Chap. 4, this took several years to accomplish.
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Explaining the Crime Drop II: Responding
to Crime in England and Wales
What then explains the apparent enthusiasm or—at least preparedness—of actors in
some settings to follow the situational route as compared say, with the hesitancy, lack
of interest, scepticism or outright hostility of others? If [situational crime prevention]
is the characteristic crime control apparatus of late-modernity, why has it taken root
more deeply in certain (political, institutional) contexts and not others?
Hope and Sparks (2000: 178)
Abstract  This Chapter explores the extent to which the English and
Welsh criminal justice system responded to the increases in crime experienced in the 1980s. I find that the criminal justice system did indeed
respond in a punitive fashion (in keeping with New Right rhetoric on
this matter) although not until the early- to mid-1990s. At this point not
only did punitive policies increase and proliferate, non-punitive policies
abruptly stopped and crime prevention (based on neo-liberal and neoconservative thinking) was adopted.
Keywords  1980s new right · Neo-liberalism
Thatcherism · Crime policies · Crime drop
· Neo-conservativism
© The Author(s) 2017
S. Farrall, Re-Examining The Crime Drop, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8_4
52 S. Farrall
Chapter 3 explored some of the evidence which suggested that property
crime rates in England and Wales rose as unemployment increased and
as welfare spending decreased. It also explored what this did to public
concerns about crime, and the rise of crime up the political agenda. This
chapter explores what happened as politicians became aware that concern
about crime was rising amongst the population. The topics I explore in
this chapter are therefore:
i. The degree to which the crime policies and Criminal Justice
Acts since the early 1980s can be read as showing an increase in
ii. If there was a change in the tenor of policies, when this change
took place; and
iii. What might account for any patterns detected.
In answering these questions, I report on efforts to explore not just
those Criminal Justice Acts passed between 1979 and 1990, but extend
the analytical time frame to include those Acts up to 1998 (by which
time the Labour Party were in office) in order to examine whether
changes in punitiveness survived not just a change of leader but also a
change of government. In order to make sense of the lasting legacy of
New Right-inspired ideas about the causes of crime and ways to tackle
it, I again draw upon historical and constructivist institutionalisms
(see Chap. 2).
Charting Thatcherite Influence in the Criminal
Justice Arena
To date, there have been relatively few attempts to explore the extent to
which the Criminal Justice Acts passed by Thatcher’s governments can
be said to have increased levels of punitiveness. There were some assessments undertaken in the late 1980s. Yet there are various limitations
with these contributions. Wiles (1988) dealt exclusively with the 1986
Public Order Act (in the context of industrial disputes), whilst Terrill
(1989) examined just four Acts. I report on analyses of key Acts passed
between 1982 and 1998 in order to allow us to make an assessment of
the degree to which the criminal justice system was moving in a more
punitive direction, and one which was in line with what might be termed
a ‘Thatcherite instinct’ (Riddell 1991). My aim is to discuss:
•Eleven Acts of Parliament which (re)structured the legal environment (by focusing on a large number of Acts I can assess trends
which emerged slowly) and
• The rise of situation crime prevention as an initial response to rising
My analyses are based on the published commentaries of key individuals involved in the processes of drafting, implementing and evaluating
these Acts and policies. The focus is on the intentions and outcomes of
these interventions (since the implementation of a policy may produce
different outcomes to those anticipated). The election of an administration committed to ‘toughness’ on crime should be sufficient to ensure
a punitive paradigm shift (Marsh and Rhodes 1992). However, that is
not what happened. The historical institutionalist perspective is much
better at accounting for stability in the face of apparent ideational or
ideological radicalism. Historical institutionalists typically anticipate
path dependence and incremental evolution of policy rather than radical
change (Pierson 1994, 2004). They do so because of the institutionally
entrenched character of existing policy paradigms and the institutional
challenge, complexity and cost of change. However, this only partially
applies here; the costs, both institutional and substantive (in terms of
additional prison space and so forth) of a Thatcherite punitive revolution
in criminal justice did not credibly pose a serious obstacle to the implementation of punitiveness. Firstly, I discuss the eleven Criminal Justice
Acts which I and colleagues (Farrall et al. 2016) explored. My argument
is that whilst Thatcherite rhetoric on law and order was punitive, the
criminal justice legislation of the 1980s owed much to an earlier, more
liberal stance. The much more punitive and ‘Thatcherite’ criminal justice
legislation only emerged in the years after she had left office. However,
ahead of this there were a series of innovations in terms of crime prevention which did, in part, mirror aspects of Thatcherite thinking. Hence I
also outline the rise of situation crime prevention in the 1980s.
54 S. Farrall
Thatcher’s Criminal Justice Legislative Programme:
A Review
In Farrall et al. (2016), my colleagues and I selected eleven Criminal
Justice Acts passed between 1982 and 1998 in order to assess the
degree to which these evidence a trend towards a more punitive stance.
In selecting the Acts, we concentrated on those which were ‘key’ with
respect to establishing new approaches to sentencing or levels of proof,
or ways in which ‘ordinary’ members of the public or defendants were
treated by the criminal justice system, rather than just ‘tidying up’ the
legal system. Additionally, the Acts addressed the nature and length of
the sentences which could be given or on the ways in which the criminal
process could unfold. We therefore focused on the following:
• The Criminal Justice Act, 1982
•The Police and Criminal Evidence Act, 1984 (commonly referred
to as ‘PACE’)
• The Prosecution of Offences Act, 1985
• The Drug Trafficking Offences Act, 1986
• The Criminal Justice Act, 1988
• The Criminal Justice Act, 1991
• The Criminal Justice Act, 1993
• The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, 1994
• The Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act, 1996
• The Crime (Sentences) Act, 1997
• The Crime and Disorder Act, 1998
Operationalising Punitiveness
Hamilton (2014) notes that empirical studies on punitiveness have
either focused on collecting social attitudinal data towards sentences
(measured at the individual level using surveys) or have sought to catalogue ‘state punitiveness’ (levels of imprisonment, length of terms of
imprisonment etc.). I incorporate both these approaches, in that I am
interested in both the rise of punitive attitudes and the impact of these
on legislation. Farrall et al. (2016) followed Hamilton in using a range
of indicators to measure punitiveness. These included (but were not limited to): the use of mandatory sentences; support for increased police
powers and resources; increase in post-prison release and community
disposal controls; reductions in the control of police activities; increases
in the possible (and actual) length of prison terms; and limits to the
decision making of the judiciary and parole boards. In addition, we also
incorporate into our thinking the statements made by politicians and the
general support for the rehabilitative ideal.
Legislative and Policy Developments 1982-1998
Figure 4.1 lists the eleven Acts which I shall focus on by year of enactment. A tick means that the measure listed in the first column was
introduced by that act. So, for example, the 1982 Criminal Justice Act
replaced borstals with youth custody which had stronger post-custodial
supervision (Burney 1985: 1). Willie Whitelaw, the Home Secretary,
wanted to avoid imprisoning the young by strengthening non-custodial
provisions (Smith 2003: 8–9). He took a ‘tough’ rhetorical stance (referring to ‘short, sharp, shock’ for young offenders), but did not pursue
the idea (Windlesham 1993: 158–160). The government believed that
shorter sentences in detention centres would reduce the number of juveniles in prison, and requested that sentencers impose custody as a last
resort (Newburn 2003: 197). However, the Act also saw the move away
from a ‘treatment’ approach and towards the idea that responsibility was
to be borne by individual offenders and their parents (a very Thatcherite
idea). Smith claims that the Act shifted the criminal justice system away
from a focus on rehabilitation towards retributive sentencing, deterrence
and ‘just deserts’ (2003: 8–9). The Act, in fact, reduced the number of
juveniles in custody from 7700 in 1981 to 4000 in 1987 (Windlesham
1993: 170) and allowed some prisoners to be released early (Windlesham
1993: 238). Hence this act gets ‘ticks’ for both limiting the use of imprisonment and for producing actual decreases in imprisonment, whilst also
receiving a tick for increases in post-prison release/community controls.
The roots of The Police and Criminal Evidence Act (1984), go back
to 1972, and the 11th report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee
(Zander 2013: 2). Supporters of the Act claimed that existing law governing police powers in the investigation of crime was unclear (Morgan
1990: 104). Indeed, since the Act was passed, the conditions of detention and interrogation have been much more strictly controlled and
documented. However, at the time, several groups regarded PACE as
a serious threat to civil liberties (Maguire 1988). The Greater London
Council Police Committee saw it as ‘enshrining in the law the disturbing
56 S. Farrall
Fig. 4.1 Charting changes in state-backed punitiveness (1982–1998)
and growing trend of policing by coercion’. The same body however
called the introduction of custody records ‘an innovation to be welcomed’ (Maguire 1988: 20). Baldwin expressed serious doubts about the
Act’s ability to ‘clarify the law, rationalise police procedures or effect a
balance between the interests of the citizen and the police investigation’,
but subsequently concluded that the ‘wider availability of duty solicitors,
the increasing use of legal advice by detainees and the introduction of
new recording procedures can be expected to have some legitimising
effect’ (Maguire 1988: 20).
In theory (although perhaps not always in practice, Sanders et al.
2010) the changes made by PACE in terms of note-taking during interviews has prevented officers from taking the opportunity to manipulate
suspects into admission of the alleged offences (Morgan 1990: 113). The
audio recording of interviews was intended to safeguard suspects, in that
‘off the record’ confessions are reduced (Maguire 1988; Skinns 2011:
123–124). PACE established guidelines relating to the length of interrogations and also introduced written notices specifying the charge(s)
against suspects, which reminded them that they are not obliged to
say anything which may incriminate themselves (Morgan 1990: 107).
As such, the Act upheld the rights of detainees and ensured that their
rights were brought to the Custody Officer’s attention (Morgan 1990:
109–110). After PACE was enforced, the number of cases in which
solicitors attended police stations to offer legal advice to suspect more
than doubled (Maguire 1988). More recent research has suggested slight
increases in requests for legal advice following PACE (Skinns 2011:
112). Dixon, reflecting on PACE in 2008, noted that whilst it extended
police powers, it also clarified and delimited them (Dixon 2008: 29).
Dixon also argued that whilst Custody Officers were not perfect, custodial systems were better with them than without them (2008: 32). Whilst
there were criticisms levelled against PACE in the early 1980s, it is now
considered an important step towards protecting the rights of arrestees.
The Prosecution of Offences Act (1985) created the Crown
Prosecution Service (CPS), made provision for costs in criminal cases,
imposed time limits in relation to preliminary stages of criminal proceedings (Newburn 2003: 35), attempted to reduce the numbers of remand
prisoners (Cavadino and Dignan 2007: 95) and reduced the role of the
police in prosecuting offenders (Windlesham 1993: 126). For many
years, there had been concerns about the production and presentation
of evidence, the nature and functions of inquiries, and suspects’ rights
in the police station (McBarnet 1978: 455). Section 16 of the Act gave
courts the power to award a successful defendant or appellant their costs
out of Central Funds and Section 20 established scales and rates for any
costs ordered to be paid out of Central Funds. As a result of the Act,
the prosecutor could take into consideration issues such as the effect of
silence and bad character. The creation of the CPS was seen by Lord
Philips to be an essential balancing of the powers given to the police in
PACE (Kirk 2008).
58 S. Farrall
Mandatory sentences for drug trafficking offences were introduced by
the 1986 The Drug Trafficking Offences Act. Some argued that it shifted
the balance of proof so that the accused had to prove they were innocent (Garlick 1990). The Act also introduced a confiscation regime for
proceeds of drug trafficking. This introduced an element of ‘mandatoriness’ with regard to the confiscation of proceeds. The effect was to create
more severe penalties. High Courts were able to make charging orders
and restraint orders in anticipation of a confiscation order which would
be discharged if no such order was made. The Act permitted longer
terms of imprisonment in default of payment of a confiscation order than
was previously possible. The Act also shifted the burden of proof (in that
assets were assumed to be derived from drug trafficking) which led to
concerns about basic principles of justice (Collison 1995: 76).
In an attempt to reduce imprisonment, the Criminal Justice Act
(1988) reclassified a number of offences (taking a motor vehicle, ­driving
whilst disqualified and common assault as summary offences) r­educing
the numbers sent to the Crown Courts (Sanders et al. 2010: 546).
It allowed for ‘the conviction of alleged child abusers by allowing evidence to be given through a television link by a witness under the age of
fourteen in cases involving assault, abuse, or sexual misconduct’ (Boland
1988). The Act removed the requirement that unsworn evidence given
by children was corroborated, and also that sworn evidence given by
children be accompanied by a warning if not corroborated. The Act
increased the maximum term of imprisonment from two to ten years for
cruelty to children and young persons, established that it was an offence
to be in possession of an indecent photograph of a child (Boland 1988).
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme was put on a statutory
basis. The Act extended the confiscation regime introduced by the 1986
Drug Trafficking Offences Act (Feldman 1989) and made some hearsay evidence admissible in court (Birch 1989). The Act will always be
remembered for its effect on imprisonment, by establishing three criteria to determine if a custodial sentence was warranted (Thomas 1989).
Meeting any one of these criteria triggered imprisonment: if the offender
had ‘a history of failure to respond to non-custodial penalties and is unable or unwilling to respond to them’; when ‘only a custodial sentence
would be adequate to protect the public from serious harm from him/
her’; and when ‘the offence of which he/she has been convicted …
was so serious that a non-custodial sentence for it cannot be justified’
(Thomas 1989). The Act made custody a last resort for the most serious
and dangerous young offenders (Pickford and Dugmore 2012: 56).
However, it was also the case that certain offences under the Act saw
increases in maximum penalties (Thomas 1989). The maximum imprisonment for carrying an offensive weapon doubled to six months, and the
minimum disqualification for causing death by reckless driving doubled
to two years (Gold 1988). Sections 35 and 36 of the Act allowed for
‘unduly lenient’ sentences to be appealed, enabling court decisions to be
revisited (Cooper 2008). The Act allowed courts to order that the proceeds of the sale of property which has been the subject of a deprivation
order to be transferred to the victim of the offence (Thomas 1989).
The Criminal Justice Act (1991) introduced a coherent framework
which gave sentencers greater discretion. Previously, sentencers were
free to choose the philosophies underlying their decisions. This led to
claim that their decisions lacked consistency (Koffman 2006). The Act
was developed over many years and was seen as the ‘high watermark’ of
informed, liberal sentencing policy (Cavadino and Dignan 2007: 55).
Despite several attempts to reduce imprisonment, the numbers of prisoners had increased. The Court of Appeal had provided guidance on the
appropriate sentence levels for particular crimes and guidance regarding which offences warranted incarceration; however, it could do little
to ensure that these guidelines were followed (Koffman 2006). It was
becoming clear that changes would have to be made by sentencers to
avoid an increase in the prison population. The Act was preceded by
a White Paper which proclaimed that imprisonment was ‘an expensive
way of making bad people worse’ (Koffman 2006, echoing the earlier
sentiments expressed by Willie Whitelaw). It argued that ‘more offenders should be punished in the community’ and that ‘a new approach is
needed if the use of custody is to be reduced’ (Ashworth 1992). The
1992 Act was predicated on the idea that custodial sentences should be
reserved as a last resort (Koffman 2006). It created new court orders;
the combination order gave courts the power to sentence offenders to
probation supervision and community service simultaneously, whilst curfew orders required offenders to be at a specific place at a specific time
(Newburn 2003: 147–148). The aim with these orders was to demonstrate that alternatives to custodial sentencing were punitive (Newburn
2003: 147). The Act brought about a reform of the early release rules;
‘short-term’ prisoners could now be paroled after serving half their sentences (as opposed to one third). ‘Long-term’ prisoners could be eligible for release halfway through their sentence if the Parole Board
60 S. Farrall
recommended it, but had to be released by the Secretary for State after
having served two-thirds of their sentences. These changes offered solutions to courts’ reliance on imprisonment (Koffman 2006). The system
of unit fines it created resulted in better rates of fine payment (Wasik and
Taylor 1991: 4). Suspended sentences were also introduced (Cavadino
and Dignan 1992); these were less punitive in practice as courts could
only impose them if immediate custody would have been justified, and
if the suspension of the sentence could ‘be justified by the exceptional
circumstances of the case’ (Newburn 2003: 171). The Act reduced by
about 7000 those in prison and introduced a system for monitoring
biases in anti-discrimination activities (Cavadino and Dignan 2007: 115).
The first criticisms of the 1991 Act were voiced by members of the
judiciary and the media during the early months of 1993. Accordingly,
the Criminal Justice Bill (1993) was amended to abolish unit fines and to
remove sentencing guidelines (Faulkner 2001: 125). Faulkner read this
as signalling that the government no longer wanted to limit of the use of
imprisonment (Faulkner 2001: 125–126). Alongside this, political parties
were taking an increasing interest in public opinion (Rutherford 1996).
Public concern at crime levels was starting to rise sharply (Fig. 3.4), and
the policies which emerged reflected both these concerns and a wider
authoritarian stance (Rutherford 1996). Against this background, the
Act provided tougher penalties for young offenders, thus blunting the
spirit of the 1991 Act (Rutherford 1996), elements of which the judiciary had opposed. Unit fines were replaced with means-related fines,
thus ensuring that offenders were able to pay the fines they had incurred
(Gibson et al. 1994: 95). It also reversed the rule against taking previous convictions and responses to earlier sentences into account regarding the seriousness of the current offence, offending on bail became a
mandatory seriousness factor, and there were increases in certain penalties (Gibson et al. 1994: 37). The Act raised the maximum penalty for
some offences. The principle behind sentencing remained, with the seriousness of the offence determining the sentence handed out (Edwards
1994: 20). The 1993 Act changed the extent to which reference could
be made to previous convictions, stating that failure to respond to a previous sentence should be taken into account (Edwards 1994: 20). Being
on bail at the time of the offence became an aggravating factor at sentencing (Cavadino and Gibson 1993: 12–13). Through these measures
the Act increased those in custody. During 1985–1993, the number of
people on remand was around 9500–10,600 (Rutherford 1996); 1994
saw a rise of over 13% (Rutherford 1996). There was a 10% decline in
cases brought to court occurred between 1990 and 1995 (a consequence
of the crime drop), yet the total number of immediate custodial sentences more than doubled from 20,600 to 44,800 (Rutherford 1996).
Ultimately, although the increase in the number of prisoners serving long
sentences was lowered by the 1991 Act, there was an underlying pattern
of growth which remained strong, as can be seen by the 15% increase
between 1993 and 1995 (Rutherford 1996).
Michael Howard took over at the Home Office in May 1993. During
his first speech as Home Secretary at the Tory Party conference, Howard
outlined several new ‘tough’ measures. Many of these formed part of the
1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. Howard rejected Home
Office orthodoxy that there was little that could be done to halt rising crime levels and instead wanted to ensure that criminals would be
held to account for their actions and punished accordingly (Wasik and
Taylor 1995: 1–6). Howard recognised widespread public concern about
crime and unveiled his approach during the Conservative Party conference in October 1993, where he announced a 27-point plan to tackle
crime (Wasik and Taylor 1995). The aim of the 1994 Act was to amend
or extend the criminal law and powers for preventing crime and enforcing the law. Overall, the provisions were designed to increase the powers
of the courts to impose custodial sentences on young offenders (Wasik
and Taylor 1995). The Act increased the stop and search powers of the
police, reduced the rights of safeguard of suspects and allowed juries to
infer guilt from a suspect’s silence after arrest, so that adverse inferences
could be drawn (Sanders et al. 2010: 19). The Act additionally gave the
police the power to order trespassers off land, and toughened squatting
laws (Ashworth 1995) as well as prohibiting the bailing of those charged
with very serious offences such as murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, rape or attempted rape to anyone previously convicted of such
an offence (Ashworth 1995). The Act extended police powers to detain
young people after charge by lowering the age at which they could be
held from 15 to 12 (Ashworth 1995), by allowing offenders aged
10–14 to be given long-term detention for grave crimes and by increasing the time those aged 15–18 could be detained in a Young Offender
Institution from one to two years (Ashworth 1995). The Act increased
the maximum penalties available for offences relating to fisheries, the
misuse of drugs, firearms and poaching (Ashworth 1995), and allowed
courts to impose a custodial or a community sentence without obtaining
62 S. Farrall
a pre-sentence report (Ashworth 1995). The Act reduced the prosecution’s duty to disclose its case to the defence whilst introducing a duty
on the defences to disclose its ‘case’ (Sanders et al. 2010: 581). The Act
encouraged guilty pleas by restating a long-standing common law principle of giving lighter sentences to those who pleaded guilty (Sanders et al.
2010: 440). Building on the 1994 Act, the aim of the 1996 Criminal
Procedure and Investigations Act was twofold: to reverse the drift of the
common law favouring greater prosecution disclosure and to force the
defendant to engage in pretrial processes (through advance disclosure
of its case). The Act came about as a result of the then recent history
of miscarriages against justice (which often came about from serial nondisclosures). The Act was also the government’s response to a number of
proposals which were laid out in the Report of the Royal Commission on
Criminal Justice (Leng and Taylor 1996).
The Crime (Sentences) Act was passed just before Labour won the
1997 general election. It introduced mandatory minimum sentences for
offences such as residential burglary and drug trafficking. Hence when
an offender was convicted for a class A drug trafficking offence, was
aged over eighteen, and had been convicted at least twice of a similar
offence, then the court was required to pass a sentence of at least seven
years (Thomas 1997). In Thomas’ words, this created a ‘precedent for
the introduction of mandatory minimum sentences for just about any
kind of crime’ (1998). The Act also introduced automatic life sentences.
Under the Act, when life sentences are imposed, so too are fixed minimum terms, relating to the seriousness of the offence. This innovation
ensured that the Parole Board could not release prisoners prior to the
fixed minimum term. The Act also removed consent requirements in
relation to probation orders, community service orders and combination
orders (unless these were made in relation to psychiatric treatment or for
the treatment of drug or alcohol dependency).
The Crime and Disorder Act (1998, Labour’s flagship Act on crime)
established the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales and sought
to improve the effectiveness of the Youth Justice System in preventing,
deterring and punishing youth crime as well as proposing orders to prevent reoffending through an interventionist welfare approach. It contained provisions such as the reparation order and a revised supervision
order which underlined the government’s support for restorative justice
principles (Fionda 1999). The Act famously introduced anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs). These aimed to ‘provide a more flexible means
of dealing with persistent anti-social behaviour but without recourse to
criminal sanctions’ (Jones and Sager 2001). The Act abolished the doctrine of doli incapax, whereby children aged 10–12 could only be prosecuted if the CPS could prove that they knew the difference between
right and wrong (Cavadino and Dignan 2007: 326–327). ASBOs were
introduced against the background of political and popular concern with
nuisance neighbours, street thugs and juvenile delinquency (Jones and
Sager 2001). However, breaching an ASBO could lead to imprisonment
(up to five years). The Act created a range of racially-aggravated offences
which made existing offences (such as criminal damage and assault)
more serious, and which became subject to higher maximum penalties
because of the racially motivated element. Extending the philosophy initiated by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act (1994), the Crime
and Disorder Act allowed courts to draw inferences from the failure of
a juvenile to give evidence or answer questions at trial. The Act blurred
the boundaries between civil and criminal law in that civil court standards could be used in the criminal courts (Sanders et al. 2010: 5). The
Act also increased courts’ powers with regard to post-release supervision. Offenders were required to ‘undergo a longer period of post-release
supervision, when a court decided to impose a custodial sentence on
a person who has committed either a sexual or violent offence … and
where it is considered that the period for which the offender would otherwise be subject to post-release supervision would be too short for the
purpose of preventing the offender from committing further offences
and for securing his rehabilitation’ (Padfield 1998).
The Rise of Situational Crime Prevention
As well as Acts of Parliament, there were changes in the policies which
the Home Office pursued. One of the key developments with regard
to the crime drop was the introduction of situation crime prevention.
Previously, the Home Office had engaged in what has been described as
‘penal welfarism’ (or social crime prevention). This had the aim of tackling the causes of crime indirectly via social welfare programmes (better
housing, schooling and financial assistance in times of need) and directly
by offering help to people via social workers or probation officers and
avoiding the use of custody. However, this approach started to fall into
disrepute during the 1970s. In its place we see the rise of what became
known as situational crime prevention. Situational crime prevention
64 S. Farrall
aimed to reduce crime by reducing the opportunities for individuals to
commit crime by developing voluntary associations between the police
and private citizens (Hope 2009: 45–46). The rise of ‘a property owning
democracy’ coincided with the rise of highly portable, high-value consumer goods which created both opportunities for crime and demands
for security. As Hope notes the ‘moral vision’ of situation crime prevention was in alignment with some of the values of Thatcherism;
based upon self-interest, the ethos of situation crime prevention chimed
well with the kind of property-owning, liberal democracy, inscribing the
values of freedom, personal liberty and individual responsibility to which
Thatcher aspired (2009: 48)
With property crimes rising dramatically, the government borrowed
the idea of Neighbourhood Watch Schemes (first developed in the USA)
in the early 1980s. The membership of these peaked at the same time
as crime and were to be found amongst the more affluent communities,
suggesting that the rise in crime and attendant fear of crime prompted
property-owners into action. This helped to develop the taste for private
security (Hope 2009: 49). However, the police alone could not meet this
demand, which meant that citizens were encouraged into the market to
meet their needs, and in effect, mobilising individuals into a project of
responsibilisation. Other initiatives such as Crime Concern and Crime
stoppers both started in 1988, and like NW, mobilised individuals to
start to take their and their families protection into their own hands, supported by the police where they could assist and the market in security
devices. As well as forging partnerships with private citizens, the government also developed partnerships with sections of private industry. The
oft-cited example of this being the publication of the Home Office of
a Car Theft Index in 1992 (Hope 2009: 51). By publishing data about
which cars were most likely to be stolen, the Home Office made car security a commodity which could be taken into account when ­purchasing
a car. What such developments have done is to encourage individuals into taking up security measures which are in tune with Thatcherite
thinking both on the causes of crime (individual wickedness, rather than
social or economic problems), and the fusing together of the police (as
­bastions of the moral order), the private individual and their family as the
consumers of safety and the market as one of the key providers of security. Being hostile to local governments, the strategies adopted (unlike
those in France, King 1989: 310, Pitts and Hope 1997) deliberately
bypassed them. Taken as a whole, this served to promote an inequitable
distribution of both risk and actual harm (Hope 2009: 53; Farrall et al.
2016: 1244, Table 6).
Making Sense of the Response to the Rising Crime Rates
of the 1980s1
How best to make sense of the responses to the rise in crime which
England and Wales experienced? It is instructive to view the Thatcherite
project as one which emerged slowly over time (Hay and Farrall 2011).
Figure 4.1 summaries key aspects of the Acts discussed above. This
Figure contains three sorts of measures, the first ‘A)’ in the table’s upper
portion) lists various non-punitive measures (in an attempt to gauge the
passing of the former paradigm, Matthews 2005: 185), and the second
‘B)’ in the middle portion) lists punitive measures. The dark grey shaded
cells in the top left-hand side represent those acts which one might consider to have been open to Thatcherite influence during key stages of
their drafting. The 1991 Act is included as it would have been drafted
during the late 1980s (Faulkner 2014: 64–66). The dashed line running at about 45° visually alerts one to the proliferation of ways of being
punitive which grew over time. The bottom portion ‘C)’ lists the active
dates for various situational crime prevention initiatives.
The first thing to note is that core aspects of situational crime prevention started in the mid-1980s to late 1980s, and that the non-punitive
measures ceased abruptly in 1991. On the basis of this, one could characterise the Thatcher governments as the zenith of liberal criminal justice policy informed by the belief in the rehabilitative ideal. This would
be unfair, however, since 1982–1988 also saw increases in post-prison
release and community supervision, increases in some sentence lengths,
changes to the burden of proof and other measures, all of which could
reasonably be read as increasing punitiveness. This assessment is in keeping with Hay and Farrall (2011) who argue that the criminal justice
1 Alongside the developments which I outline here, there is also the issue of what was
termed ‘paramilitary policing’ (Jefferson 1990). The roots of this Jefferson traces back to
the 1970s, but the period following the 1984–1985 Miners’ Strike he identifies as being
associated with an increase in such policing styles (which involved shields, stronger helmets
and an overall more aggressive and confrontational style of policing).
66 S. Farrall
system was one of the last aspects of the welfare state to be radicalised
along New Right lines. Certainly, 1993–1998 saw dramatic increases in
punitiveness and a broadening of punitive measures, such as repeated
attempts to increase sentence lengths, extend mandatory sentences and
changes to the disclosure of a defendant’s case.
A number of trends can be detected in Fig. 4.1. For example, whilst
the 1982 Act did not bring about the recasting of the criminal justice
system along more punitive lines, it was part of a wider ‘toughening’ of
the rhetoric around crime, the causes of crime and how offenders ought
to be punished. Radicalism in the criminal justice system at this stage was
purely rhetorical. One can see the beginning of a more punitive approach
(in the creation of the Night Restriction Order and the Charge and
Control conditions in the 1982 Act). What was the key at this time was
the developing rhetoric devoted to the notion of ‘toughening’ the criminal justice system’s response to wrong-doing. As such, though 1993 represented a structural break, it was not a completely ‘clean’ break, in that
some of what emerged from that point drew heavily on past ideas.
My identification of these trends and the developmental trajectories
is informed by historical and constructivist institutionalist thinking. As
Sanders notes (2006: 42), historical institutionalists are mainly interested in how institutions are constructed, maintained and adapted over
time. Constructivist institutionalism, on the other hand, allows one to
develop explanations which include novel developments, and counterbalances historical institutionalism’s tendency to focus on institutional
inertia (Hay 2011: 69). In this way, actors are viewed as being active in
that they make decisions, have interests, goals and aims. Such perspectives, in combination, usefully illuminate this period in English and
Welsh criminal justice history. In particular these bodies of work help us
to explain the emergence and continuation until the early 1990s of what
Farrall et al. (2016) term a communicative dissonance. That is, the gulf
between rhetorical radicalism and substantive policy in the criminal justice system. The Thatcher governments were ideationally punitive from
1979. However, between 1979 and at least 1990 that rhetorical radicalism was not wholly reflected in substantive policy commitments. This is
not difficult to explain from a constructivist institutionalist perspective.
First, ideational radicalism invariably precedes policy and institutional
radicalism (Hay 2002, 2015). Second, and more specifically, throughout
this period, the Conservatives’ electoral advantage went unchallenged.
It was really only with the ‘modernisation’ of the Labour Party and
the toughening of Labour’s law and order credentials from 1992 that
their lead on crime policy and in terms of voting intention started to be
eroded. By that time, the Conservatives were well on the way to becoming substantively tough on crime to match their rhetoric. Prior to this,
the Thatcher governments’ priorities were elsewhere. They had more
important priorities which were much more closely bound up with their
future electoral fortunes—in economic policy, housing policy and welfare
reform in particular. Recall from Chap. 3 that the economy was a key
focus of the Thatcher government for much of the first term of office;
housing policy was focused on between 1980 and 1986, whilst the social
security system was radicalised between 1984 and 1988. Thus, it was
only after they had dealt with these policy fields that the Conservatives
turned to law and order, and by that time, with crime rates rising and
a much more concerted challenge from the opposition, they had much
more electoral need to do so.
Farrall et al. (2016) suggest that there are a range of institutional and
political impediments to radicalism in criminal justice policies which are
not well anticipated in the existing literatures on these matters. Amongst
these it is important to draw particular attention to:
i. The substantial opinion poll lead that the Conservatives enjoyed on
this issue when they were elected and the absence of a credible challenge to its ‘punitive advantage’ before Blair became Shadow Home
Secretary in 1992 and developed his own ‘tough on crime, tough
on the causes of crime’ catchphrase;
ii. The phasing of policy radicalism in other policy domains (which
meant that the Thatcher governments could not act radically in all,
or even many, policy fields at once and had to phase their radicalism) (Farrall and Hay 2014);
iii. The absence until the late 1980s of dramatic upwards trends in
crime rates which might draw attention to the communicative dissonance of the Thatcher administration and the consequences of
their policies;
iv. The need for Thatcher to place within her first few Cabinets leading figures of the left of the Conservative party (‘wets’) and to
give them important portfolios in order to keep her party together
in the absence of a more thoroughgoing internal Thatcherite
68 S. Farrall
v. A tendency, whilst their ‘punitive advantage’ in the opinion polls
persisted, for the Conservatives not to politicise law and order policy by advancing contentious measures; and
vi. The influence of public opinion in the story of responses to crime
rates in England and Wales in the 1980s and 1990s (see Figs. 3.4
and 3.5 above).
I want here to focus on eight trends which can be extracted from
Fig. 4.1, and which are identified as P1–P8 in the rightmost column. The first path to be found relates to the desire to reduce the use
of imprisonment (P1 in Fig. 4.1). This is evident in most of the Acts
passed before 1993 and harks back to the belief that imprisonment was
an undesirable outcome in all but the most severe of cases. This was a
cornerstone of not just Home Office philosophy, but also of some sections of the Conservative Party, and represents an idea which was firmly
rooted in sentencing policies until 1993 (Loader 2006). The Acts
passed, especially those in 1982 and 1991, appeared to have been aimed
at, and to have had the effect of, reducing imprisonment (although perhaps not to the degree desired). Nevertheless, these Acts did not reflect
the ‘get tough’ stance often associated with Thatcherite discourse on
matters of law and order. Furthermore, and as Matthews notes (2005:
190), the Thatcher governments as well as sending fewer people to
prison also improved the conditions in prison for those who were incarcerated. One might argue that the decrease in those sent to prison was
a realpolitik response to the rising costs of the criminal justice system,
but this is harder to maintain with regard to prison conditions. I would,
in any case, refute the suggestion that reducing the numbers of those in
prison was done for economic reasons. Political objectives are not always
tempered by economic constrains. In any case, as well as claiming that
she would never economise on law and order, Thatcher’s government
raised the pay of police officers.
As part of the desire to limit imprisonment, successive Acts attempted
to make community sentences appear ‘tougher’ in the eyes of the public
(P2). This reflected the rise in knowledge about both the operation of
the criminal justice system (via recorded crime rates) and, more importantly throughout the 1980s, the public’s experiences of and concerns
about crime (via the British Crime Survey, initiated in 1982). This new
form of knowledge highlighted increasing levels of fear of crime (see
Fig. 3.4). Given that the Conservative Party ‘owned’ the topic of crime
in the 1980s and that obedience to ‘law and order’ was a key plank of
the neo-conservative instinct (Hayes 1994; Hay 1996), it made sense
for some degree of rhetorical ‘toughness’ to be used to mask the Home
Office’s wider objective of reducing imprisonment.
The third path relates to the right to silence. This was significantly
reduced after 1993. Debates about suspects’ right to silence had been
raised in the 1972 report of the Criminal Law Revision Committee
(Zander 2013: 2). However, the 1972 Report was condemned as a result
of its recommendation that adverse inferences could be drawn from a
suspect’s silence (Zander 2013: 2). Consequently, the Home Office
concluded that it was impossible to implement even the uncontroversial
recommendations of a report which was so widely regarded as flawed
(Zander 2013: 2). In part, then, the questioning of the right to silence
was part of a wider pre-Thatcherite debate, but one which came to the
fore during the 1980s and the increasingly tough rhetoric around law
and order. However, it was also an attempt to undo some of the rights
gained from PACE and the curtailing of some police powers associated
with that Act. It was not until the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public
Order Act that juries were allowed to draw adverse inferences from a suspect’s silence (Sanders et al. 2010: 19).
The fourth and fifth paths relate to increases in sentence lengths and
the use of mandatory sentences. These had their origins in the Drug
Trafficking Offences Act of 1986, and, as an idea about how to tackle
crime, were extended in various Acts, most commonly those after 1993.
The Crime (Sentences) Act 1997 is considered to have created a more
punitive system in that it introduced maxima and minima sentences for
certain offences and their subsequent repetition (Robson 2010). In general, the policies introduced by the Conservative government between
1992 and 1997 were characterised as appealing to increasingly populist attitudes to retribution and deterrence (Edwards 2010). Another,
again related, trend was increased youth imprisonment (P6)—something
which the likes of Whitelaw had opposed in the early 1980s (despite his
rhetoric on this matter). The seventh path relates to changes to the duty
of disclosure, which shifted from the prosecution needing to disclose its
case to the defence towards the defence needing to reciprocate (which
can be seen as making conviction more likely).
The final path (P8) relates to the active years of various situation
crime prevention measures. For example, Neighbourhood watch schemes
started in 1982 (although the Home Office started to support them by
70 S. Farrall
the mid-1980s). In March 1982, Whitelaw set up an inter-departmental
working group on crime prevention, which reported in 1983. In 1984,
the Home Office established a Crime Prevention Unit, and slowly crime
prevention initiatives started to be rolled out (although their roots can
be traced back to the 1950s). Home Circular 8/84 promoted interagency working between various branches of the criminal justice system
and local authorities. The Five Towns Initiative started in late 1985 and
lasted into 1987, whist the Kirkholt Project started in late 1985 and
lasted into late 1989, and which in part inspired the Safer Cities programme.2 In 1986, the Prime Minister herself chaired a ministerial
group on crime prevention, underscoring the importance of crime to on
the political agenda at this time, but in early 1988 this was wound up
(Windlesham 193: 216–221). Both Crime Stoppers and Crime Concern
started in 1988, whilst CCTV schemes started to gather momentum
around 1994 (Fyfe and Bannister 1996). The Home Office’s Safer Cities
Programme lasted from 1988 until late 1995. The Home Office’s car
theft index was first published in 1992 (Hope 2009: 51), although car
manufacturers were starting to build alarms into new cars from 1985
(Farrell and Brown 2016). However, as O’Malley notes, the argument
that situational crime prevention ‘worked’ was not well supported at the
time that policy commitments to pursue it were taken: ‘The evidence [on
SCP] is not sufficiently powerful to explain the rapid take-up of strategies’ (1994: 284–285). However, SCP’s focus on the individual-level
causes of crime rather than on the structural causes resonated with the
politics of the ruling political parties in many countries. This thinking
saw offending as a rational action taken when the right opportunities
presented themselves, and as such the solution was to limit the occurrence of such opportunities. In the UK (and the USA) contexts, this was
later developed to make the costs of crime greater by increasing sentence
lengths. O’Malley (1994: 283) notes that Australia followed the path
taken by the USA and UK with regard to policing styles despite the lack
of firm evidence of their effectiveness. This is in keeping with ideational
theories (Jacobs 2015), which suggest that a key feature of an account
2 Both the Kirkholt project and the Safer Cities programme included both social crime
prevention activities and situational crime prevention ones. However, as both Gilling
(1994: 244) and Faulkner (2001: 279) these two strands were difficult to reconcile with
each other, not least of all because of the Conservative government’s reluctance to admit
the social and economic basis of crime (Faulkner 2001: 279).
of ideational change is that the variation in an actor(s) cognitions must
not be a function of only material conditions. That is to say, that the
change in perceptions or beliefs must come about following a change in
ideas about a particular issue, rather than (as was the case with adoption
of situation crime prevention initiates) new evidence that these ‘worked’.
The 1980s were a crucible for the ideas which were subsequently to
come to shape criminal justice policy in England and Wales. In the late
1980s, the Home Office started to develop its response to rising crime
(based on addressing the concerns of citizens and target-hardening, lowest portion of Fig. 4.1). After 1993, the stance changed, and legislative
action was initiated which more thoroughly reflected New Right thinking on the causes of crime. Out of this era, ideas about how to tackle
crime were placed on a particular ideological pathway which has become
difficult to change since. Although not formally an element of the work
on historical institutionalism, Thelen and Steinmo (1992) suggest that
punctuated equilibrium theory could operate alongside historical institutionalism. This theory suggests that long-run stability in policy-making
experiences occasional seismic shifts when existing institutions and issue
definitions are challenged, breakdown and the pressure for change accumulates to the point where it cannot be ignored (Krasner 1984). With
crime rising dramatically in the late 1980s, the growing inadequacy of
criminal justice policies was sufficient to lead to media and public attention. Policy-makers, due to growing public concerns about crime,
reacted, causing a shift in the policy equilibrium.
As such, the 1980s saw a number of previously unremarkable Home
Office policy goals (such as reducing imprisonment) run head-long into
dramatic rises in crime which made some of these vulnerable to challenge
within the ideological framework developed as part of Thatcherism. The
idea that prison was an expensive way of making offenders worse initially survived as the ideological and policy attention was on the economy, industrial relations, housing and social security. As popular concern
about crime was first charted and then recognised to be rising quite dramatically, the result of a new institution (‘the crime survey’), the prevailing stance on imprisonment started to come under pressure. In order
to divert people away from prison, community disposals needed to be
made to sound sufficiently tough, and in so doing, the idea of ‘toughness’ was promoted. When the idea of reducing imprisonment came to
be questioned (by Howard), the discourse of ‘tough’ responses to crime
had been established and went unquestioned and unchallenged by the
72 S. Farrall
opposition party (who started to engage in their own rhetoric of toughness in order to avoid the accusation of being ‘soft’ on crime). Howard’s
appointment as Home Secretary was a ‘critical nomination’ (Robinson
2013); an outsider at the Home Office, he had not been indoctrinated
into the Home Office’s approach to crime (‘it will always rise’) or imprisonment (‘it ought to be used sparingly’). For the first time, the Home
Office was led by an avowedly Thatcherite Home Secretary. Prior to this,
the post had been held for long periods by paternalists or non-Thatcherites or by Thatcherites only briefly. After that point, with crime a political issue on which the Labour Party were strengthening their portfolio,
the post was held by a series of Home Secretaries who sought to extend
the general tenor of the approach adopted by Howard (Straw, Blunkett,
Clarke, and Reid, all of whom were Labour Home Secretaries).
Sanders and colleagues (2010: 19) argue that in the period since
1997, the ‘Labour government … has dismantled suspects’ rights and
increased police powers at an even greater rate’ (than the Acts of 1994,
1996 and 1997). Bell (2013) provides a good summary of these developments; the prison population rose by 58% between 1995 and 2012,
due in part to lengthening prison sentences and the use of indeterminate sentences brought in by the 2003 Criminal Justice Act (in 1999,
the average length of a custodial sentence was 11.5 mths, rising to 13.7
by 2009). Further mandatory minimum sentences were created by the
2003 Act and the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders
Act (in 2012). Additional contributory factors include the limitation
of parole for many and the trend towards recalling or breaching those
who do not comply with parole requirements or community sentences
(Bell 2013: 63). Most recently, in 2013, Section 44 of the Crime and
Courts Act ‘require[s] courts to include a punitive requirement in every
community order’. Such is the accumulating power of discourses around
My argument has been that the social and economic policies pursued by
the New Right governments of the 1980s and early 1990s helped to push
property crime upwards. This eventually forced crime onto the political
and policy agendas. The response was initially to try to make non-custodial sentences sound ‘tough’. This however established the discourse of
‘toughness’ which was hard to hold back. Whilst Thatcherite rhetoric on
law and order was punitive, the criminal justice legislation of the 1980s
did not completely reflect this. Ideational change took time to become
embedded in the philosophy of those who designed and managed the
strategic direction of the criminal justice system. As such, there is no clear
paradigm break, but rather an incremental ‘drift’ towards growing punitiveness in which a series of small points of inflection can be identified. In
sum, the much more punitive and ‘Thatcherite’ criminal justice legislation
only emerged in the years after she had left office (during which there
was much more intense inter-party competition over the issue). The Acts
which I have focused on established and then reinforced path dependent
processes with regard to the criminal justice system. Some Acts strengthened earlier provisions (such as those aimed at limiting imprisonment
prior to 1993). Other Acts extended a philosophy introduced with regard
to one crime type to different crime types (such as the introduction of
mandatory sentences in 1986 which was later extended by the 1993 and
1997 Acts). Additionally, some Acts incrementally reinforced an ideal
(such as the questioning and amendment of the principle of the right to
silence). None of the path dependent processes which we have identified
owe much to organisational change, but owe rather more to changes at
the ideational level.3 Hence it is the recognition that rises in crime were
starting to cause anxiety amongst the populace, which drove the political interest in crime. As such, it was the ideas which were promoted by
first Thatcherism generally (embracing, amongst other things, a punitive
attitude towards wrong-doing), then secondly by the likes of Whitelaw
and the Home Office (who aimed at diverting people away from imprisonment by making non-custodial sentences sound ‘tough’), which were
adopted by Howard in order to promote his own stance on sentencing
and crime control. This reading suggests that the punitive sentences of
the recent era are the outcome of several developments: attempts to pander to the wider discourse established by Thatcher (Phillips 1998); the
real rises in crime (in part a consequence of Thatcherite policies in other
social policy arena); a growing recognition of popular anxieties about
crime; the later arrival of a Thatcherite-minded minister at the Home
Office in the form of Howard; and lastly, the adoption of this discourse
by subsequent Labour Home Secretaries.
3 Arguably, the organisational change followed this with the creation of the Ministry of
Justice (in 2007), closure of the Lord Chancellor’s Department (in 2003) and the creation
of Community Rehabilitation Companies in 2015, amongst other developments.
74 S. Farrall
Social and
Altered social
and economic
Social and
Recurring need to
produce solutions to
emerging problems
(character a function of
interventions in earlier
time periods)
Fig. 4.2 Feedback between initial changes and subsequent policy options
This set of observations about the post-war British experience underpins a feedback model of the relationship between crime, politics, social
change and the economy. The model is illustrated in Fig. 4.2. It suggests
that long-term social and economic change (notably in the British case,
deindustrialisation) informs change in the preferences and priorities of
political parties and the wider public, each of whom further stimulated
interest in the issue of crime and criminal justice. This in turn contributed to the politicisation of the issue of crime, sentencing and criminal
justice more generally through competition between parties, as well
as creating pressure for government action and the suggesting of new
policy solutions. Changes in governments also can lead to changes in
social and economic policies, with election of the Thatcher government
in 1979 leading to changes in the distribution of wealth, routine activities and social and economic structures in Britain. Given that levels of
crime are, in part, the consequence of wider social, economic and political structures, the feedback model suggests that, consistent with a wide
field of empirical enquiry, changes in social and economic structure contribute to changes in levels, forms and experiences of crime and victimisation. In response, such socio-economic forces can lead, over extended
periods of time, to calls for new ways of tackling and dealing with crime
and its (perceived) causes. In this respect, changes in social and economic
policies (even those not directly related to crime) may result in underlying changes in behaviour which create further pressure for government attention and action. There is a complex feedback process where
the consequences of public policies in one domain can have subsequent
effects on society and policy in another (see Fig. 4.2). Such policy
feedback processes can occur in isolation from social change—such as
between the political and public agenda, and, say, between media, public
and legislative attention.
This feedback model, grounded in theories of agenda-setting and
policy change and drawing on ideas from historical and constructivist institutionalist thinking, provides an additional means for explaining
the rise in crime and the rise of the criminal justice agenda under the
Conservative governments that held power between 1979 and 1997,
and of course the crime drop. It informs representation of the complex
interaction between society, the economy, policy and politics along the
following lines: taking office in 1979, the Conservatives responded to
growing pressures for economic and social reform which had emerged
in Britain during the 1970s through adoption of neoliberal macroeconomic policies as well as embarking on widespread privatisation of
council housing. However, some aspects of their policies only served to
prolong the economic hardship and augment processes of deindustrialisation which had started earlier. Later, neoliberal and neo-conservative
social policies cascaded through other branches of state activity between
1981 and 1989, falling most heavily on social security, education and
local government. This programme of government policies resulted
in a shift in the underlying social and economic conditions of Britain,
in particular in terms of unemployment and inequality. However, these
policies also had impacts on actual crime levels, contributing to production of a further policy problem (rising crime) which was manifested in
surveys of the public’s fear of crime and its identification of important
issues facing the country. Faced with the problem of crime and an anxious citizenry, the Conservative-led government turned to their neo-conservative roots (Hayes 1994) and saw authoritarianism as the solution to
crime. The policies they adopted helped to reduce crime. Doubling the
prison population could hardly do otherwise in the short-term at least,
although (as Table 3.2 suggests) an improving economy also played its
part. The seeming success of ‘tough’ policies and situational crime prevention measures helped to reinforce the claims of their effectiveness and
supported their promotion at an ideological level. In England and Wales
then, the economic policies emerging from the economic crises of the
1970s (at time t = 1) had effects on society and the economy which in
turn affected crime rates (at t = 2), and which meant that crime later
became a focus of further political and government attention (downstream at t = 4).
76 S. Farrall
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Congruence Testing
Why have the offence amplification processes described in the preceding paragraphs
occurred later in the Scandinavian (and some other European) countries than in
the English-speaking countries?
Tonry (2014: 45)
Abstract  This chapter takes the ideas developed by historical institutionalists
and constructivists and applies them to four further countries in order to
assess the extent to which New Right thinking and social and economic
policies may have had an impact on both crime rates and the responses to
these in Australia, the USA, New Zealand and Sweden. Each case study
starts by outlining New Right policies in that country followed by a discussion of criminal justice policies and responses to rising property crime rates.
Although not conclusive, the case studies suggest that for the four countries
explored, rises in property crime followed New Right government policies,
and decreases were associated with ‘get tough’ messages of crime.
Keywords  1980s New Right
· Crime policies · Criminal justice policies
Herein, I explore four additional cases of changes in property crime
rates, these being the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Sweden.
I pick these four because they are amongst the best-studied countries in
© The Author(s) 2017
S. Farrall, Re-Examining The Crime Drop, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8_5
82 S. Farrall
the crime drop literature, are theoretically interesting (as will become
apparent shortly) and have established communities of criminologists,
social policy analysts and crime historians who (a) provide some evidence of processes in these countries and (b) may be in a position to
confirm or refute much of the thinking and analysis contained herein.
Unfortunately, even for these countries, I have had to rely on officially
recorded data since there are insufficient self-reported data sources which
extend back to the 1970s or 1980s. Nevertheless, the case studies I
have focused on share a similar political trajectory. In all of the countries I discuss, neoliberal and neoconservative political ideologies shaped
policy formulations and implementation from the 1970s to the 1990s.
My argument is that each of these countries was to varying degrees
and at varying points of time affected by a ‘causal package’ (Thelen
and Maloney 2015: 7) in which multiple factors combined in order to
increase levels of unemployment and economic hardship (reinforced
by social welfare regimes which were becoming more punitive). These
increased quite dramatically property crime rates (which had already
been increasing) and which provoked a punitive response from the
respective governments, which in turn helped to reduce property crime
rates, in some cases at approximately the same time that the economy
started to improve.
The 1980s New Right
In 1975, Malcom Fraser became the leader of the Australian Liberal
Party and Australia’s 22nd Prime Minister. His government embarked
on a series of policies which would closely resemble those adopted later
by Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan (US President, 1980–1988).
These were pursued by the successive Labour governments led by Bob
Hawke and Paul Keating. In New Zealand in 1984, David Lange was
elected Labour prime minister, making Roger Douglas his finance minister. Douglas embarked upon what became known as ‘Rogernomics’,
a New Zealand variant of Thatcherism or ‘Reaganomics’. Finally, in
Sweden, in 1991 a Conservative government was elected, led by Carl
Bildt (Prime Minister, 1991–1994). What all of these states did was to
adopt key principles and consequences of monetarism (such reductions
in taxes, deregulation of businesses, privatisation of state assets and making deficit reduction a key policy goal), which resulted in rises in unemployment, reductions in ‘real’ wages and the growth of low-pay work
with consequential rises in inequality. Social security provisions were cut,
de-indexed, saw reductions in eligibility and the establishment of a discourse around ‘benefit cheats’. In terms of social housing provision, this
was often (but not always) ‘sold off’, resulting in increases in homelessness and the spatial concentration of disadvantage. Families saw increases
in divorce, and schools saw rises in absenteeism. Often, it was the most
influential sections of national governments which became most committed to neoliberal thinking (Schulman 2015: 70). As Tonry notes, in the
USA and England and Wales, harsh penal policies were adopted and rising prison populations were allowed (2014: 46).
As noted above, it was Fraser’s Liberal Party government (1975–1983)
which introduced monetarist thinking to Australia (Hogg and Brown
1990: 210), and in so doing cut housing and childcare budgets (Watts
1990: 145) and de-indexed social security benefits (p. 147). In addition
to the desire to tackle inflation, there were a series of wage restraint and
wage ‘freeze’ policies pursued by the Fraser government (Watts 1990:
145). By focusing on efforts to reduce inflation, Fraser’s administrations
created increases in rates of unemployment and the length of periods of
unemployment (Hogg and Brown 1990: 203). Unemployment (along
with taxation policies, fiscal restraint and the wider attempts to reduce
government deficits) was associated with redistributions of wealth away
from low and middle earners (Stretton 1987) and increases in poverty
(Hogg and Brown 1990: 203). Bob Hawke’s Labour Party administrations (1983–1991 and those led by Paul Keating until 1996) developed
and pushed further the policies initiated by Fraser (being described by
Schulman as more monetarist than Thatcher 2015: 68).1 Hawke, however, was able to avoid much of the rhetoric against the post-war consensus and the idea of ‘Big Government’ as advanced by the likes of
Thatcher and Reagan, (Watts 1990: 151). Nevertheless, Hawke presided over the privatisation of government run industries and increased
eligibility rules for the unemployed and single parents. Unlike New
Zealand, however, the strong relationship between the Australian Labor
1 That said, there were also strong social democratic resonances which mitigated some of
the harsher impact of New Right policies in the 1980s and 1990s in Australia. See Hogg
and Brown (1998: 160–165).
84 S. Farrall
Party and the unions meant that labour market reforms were less radical
(McClelland and St. John 2006: 187; Schulman 2015: 87), and Australia
is seen as having been less influenced by neoliberal thinking in the 1980s
and 1990s than the UK or New Zealand (Schulman 2015: 96). In line
with the UK experience (Hills and Walker 2014), when Australian social
security spending increased, this was due to increases in claimants rather
than increases in generosity (Watts 1990: 164).2 Claimants were derided
as cheating the dole system (Watt 1990: 164) and many became reliant on low-wage, insecure casual employment (Schulman 2015: 69).
Nevertheless, benefits did increase for some (due to selectivity, Schulman
2015: 97), and poverty declined in the early 1990s. There were also
moves toward indirect forms of taxation, and the tax burden for the betterment off declined (Schulman 2015: 76), increasing economic inequality (p. 92). Hawke’s later administrations popularised ‘law and order’
issues (Hogg and Brown 1990: 197), due in no small part to the dramatic rises in crime experienced by Australia (Hogg and Brown 1990:
198, see Fig. 5.1). The discourse adopted tended to emphasise individual
pathologies (rather than structural causes, such as unemployment, poverty or inequality, Hogg and Brown 1990: 215) and was used to bolster
both a prison-building programme in the early 1990s and an increase in
police staff (Hogg and Brown 1990: 221–222). Rates of imprisonment
grew dramatically after 1990.
What Fig. 5.1 suggests is an almost immediate increase in domestic burglary rates3 from 1976 onwards. The rise in domestic burglary between 1976 and 1983 is unrelenting. There is then a small
dip before the rise continues (albeit at a much less steep rate). Walker
(1994: 4) reports that total property crimes increased from 385,453 in
1973–1974 to 1,168,423 in 1990–1991 (an increase of 203%). Since
the early 1990s, property crime in Australia has stabilized and then from
around the year 2000, declined (Mayhew 2012: 81–83). As O’Malley
notes (1994: 283), Australia followed the US and UK crime policies.
Carcach (2004: 98) reported that the probability of custody for those
found guilty of burglary and car theft increased between 1983 and 2000,
2 In
1993, the unemployment rate rose to over 11%.
the data presented relate only to domestic burglary rates, data for robbery,
non-domestic burglaries, motor vehicle theft, larceny and fraud show similar trends. The
source of the data is Table 1 from 14, and so is truncated to 1991–1992.
3 Although
Fig. 5.1 Domestic burglary rates Australia (Table 1, Walker 1994)
as did the length of time served. Few studies have been undertaken on
crime rates in Australia. However, Moffatt et al. (2005) reported that the
property crime decline in New South Wales was driven by a fall in heroin
consumption (possibly driven by the invasion of Afghanistan, Clancy and
Lulham 2014: 847), an increase in heroin users entering rehabilitation,
an increase in average weekly earnings, a fall in the long-term unemployment rate amongst young males and an increase in the imprisonment rate for burglars. Carcach concluded that crime trends in Australia
were driven by GDP, changes in family formation and changes in the
labour force (2004: 104). Alternatively, Morgan and Clare (2007) found
that the decline in burglary rates in Western Australia was largely due
to increased levels of home security. Hence, even within one country,
different drivers of changes in property crime rates can be found.
86 S. Farrall
Ronald Reagan was elected the 40th President of the USA in 1980, taking office early in 1981 (and leaving in 1988). His period in office is
associated with an increase in individualism (Henry and Brown 1990:
324). It ought to be noted that the USA was, even before Reagan was
elected, the most market-dominated society in the world. Nevertheless,
he came to office vowing to push back the boundaries of the state
even further and embarked on a programme of economic restructuring (Henry and Brown 1990: 323). In line with many monetarist states,
the levels of taxation were reduced for the better off (Henry and Brown
1990: 320). As Currie notes (1990: 300), Reagan’s administration dramatically cut public employment, efforts to increase training and education and presided over the expansion of low-wage employment. In
general, whilst jobs were lost in many sectors of the economy, it was
the manufacturing sector which was worst hit (Henry and Brown 1990:
324). Reagan’s administration implemented cuts in federal welfare,
which because of rising inflation were already being reduced in real terms
(Currie 1990: 305, see also Henry and Brown 1990). The weakened
unemployment insurance system meant that by the mid-1980s, only
around one-third of the unemployed were covered—down from around
two-thirds in the 1970s (Levinson 1987: 206). In addition to noting
the rise in unemployment rates and the increase in long-term unemployment (p. 324), Henry and Brown note that there were increased restrictions placed on those wishing to claim unemployment benefit, such that
only the very needy could claim (1990: 322). Furthermore, those who
remained in employment took reductions in pay or reduced their hours
to avoid unemployment (Henry and Brown 1990: 325). Such policies
led to an increase in the levels of economic inequality (Hagan 1997:
289), with much of it falling on those aged below 35. In terms of housing provision, Currie notes how social housing under Reagan was dismantled and discredited, becoming associated with the concentration
of social need (Currie 1990: 308). From an average of about 200,000
such homes being constructed each year between 1976 and 1982,
by the late-1980s this had dropped to around 25,000 (Currie 1990:
308). Accordingly, such accommodation saw a concentration of social
needs (Hagan 1997: 290). Homelessness in the USA rose during the
1980s (Pierson 1994: 74) as did drug use (Currie 1990: 301). Henry
and Brown (1990: 330) reported how some states saw huge increases
Fig. 5.2 Property crime rates US (FBI, Uniform Crime Reports as prepared by
the National Archive of Criminal Justice Data)
in social welfare caseloads. Michigan’s welfare caseloads rose from 500
per 100,000 in 1979 to over 1500 per 100,000 in 1984 and by 1988
had only reduced to 1000 per 100,000 (1990: 331).
Against this background, it is hardly surprising that crime rates in the
USA rose4 (Fig. 5.2), as did the fear of crime (Henry and Brown 1990:
330). Although crime rate had been rising throughout the 1960s and
1970s, this was declining by the time Reagan arrived in office in 1981.
However, crime rate started to climb again from 1984 and peaked
in 1991. One of the responses made by the Reagan government, possibly fuelled by rising popular concerns about crime, was to initiate
4 In order to fully assess the impact of various social and economic policies on crime, and
law enforcement agencies’ responses to these, one would need to explore these processes at
US state level, which is beyond the confines of this short book.
88 S. Farrall
a ‘get tough’ response. This continued under Bush, who announced a
US $1.7bn crime package, 85% of which was to increase the capacity
of the Federal prison system (Hogg and Brown 1998: 125). The ‘get
tough’ approach continued under Bill Clinton who introduced ‘three
strikes’ provision in the 1994 Crime Bill. As Wacquant notes, spending on building prisons increased 612% between 1979 and 1989 (2009:
153) as spending on housing was replaced by spending on prisons
(p. 159). Langan (2004: 66) concludes that:
“the number of persons receiving custody sentences grew considerably
between 1981 and 1996. Four possible reasons were investigated. The two
consistently found to have had the biggest effect were increases in arrest
and conviction rates”, adding (p. 67) that “rising risk of punishment was
fairly consistently associated with falling crime rates in the United States”.
In 1973, the average prison sentence length was 3.3 years; by 1988, it
had risen to 4.5 years (Henry and Brown 1990: 335). Like Jennings
et al. (2016), Enns’ (2014) study of the USA finds that increases in
the incarceration rate were due to increasing public punitiveness and
increases in the crime rate itself. Tonry notes that the harshest punishments were introduced between 1984 and 1996 (2014: 47). Of
course, Reagan’s incarceration binge was extended by Clinton’s tenure
(Wacquant 2009: 302).
Currie concludes that the USA has, under Reagan, become ‘poorer,
less equitable, less secure, sicker and more dangerous’ (1990: 302).
Rosenfeld and Fornago (2007) find associations between collective
assessments of economic conditions and property crime between 1970
and 2003. The more sophisticated of the studies in the USA which
have attempted to explain changes over time in US crime rates find that
reductions are due to increases in the GDP (Arvanites and Define 2006)
or are related to levels of unemployment (Langan 2004: 67; Gould
et al. 2002; Raphael and Winter-Ebmer 2001), although incarceration
also played its part (Rosenfeld and Fornago 2007). The poverty rate
appeared to be related to robbery too (Langan 2004). Rosenfeld and
Levin report that inflation and imprisonment were related to property
crime (2016: 439), noting that the widespread use of car alarms has
reduced the theft of motor vehicles (p. 444). Rosenfeld and Messner
(2012: 204, 213) find that economic improvement and increases in
imprisonment accounted for decreases in burglary rates in 10 countries
(including the USA). More recent analyses have suggested that those
who had their 20th birthdays during Reagan’s period in office were at
an increased risk of arrest relative to those born subsequently (Kim et al.
2016: 370).
New Zealand
New Zealand, unlike say either the UK or the USA, has a unicameral
system, with no second chamber. As such, and unlike in, say Australia
(where policy-making required the formation of parliamentary and extraparliamentary coalitions, Easton and Gerritsen 1996: 34), there are fewer
checks and balances (formal or otherwise) in New Zealand. This meant
that when New Zealand started to adopt monetarist policies with the
election of the Labour Party in 1984, the changes introduced were both
fast and far-reaching, overturning 60 years of state intervention. Nagel
(1988: 221) noted that “Between 1984 and 1993, New Zealand underwent radical economic reform, moving from what had probably been
the most protected, regulated and state-dominated system of any capitalist democracy to an extreme position at the open, competitive, freemarket end of the spectrum”. This general shift in direction, associated
with changes in the tax regime, is possibly the reason for the dramatic
increase in social inequalities (McClelland and St. John 2006; Schulman
2015: 93). ‘Rogernomics’ involved ending subsidies to industry, supporting small business and devaluing the New Zealand dollar. What this
did was to quicken New Zealand’s entry to the global economy and to
shift the economy from production to finance (Jesson 2005). In terms
of social and welfare policies, there was a drive to abolish family benefits, introduce a user-payment system in public health, reduce state
expenditure dramatically and introduce a ‘flat rate’ tax system (Shirely
1990: 369–370), which increased the levels of poverty (Schulman 2015:
95). In line with many other monetarist-inspired governments, there
was a focus on controlling inflation, which became much more intense
in the latter half of 1985 (Shirely 1990: 372) and led to rises in interest rates. These policies hit farming especially hard, but the effects
were also felt in other labour-intensive industries, such as clothing and
furniture manufacturing. All of this had the effect of increasing unemployment. Employment rates in manufacturing for 1990 were 18–20%
down on what they were in 1984, and in the 12 months prior to March
1989, the unemployment rate increased by 50% (Shirely 1990: 374).
90 S. Farrall
Retail, hotel and social services also started to restructure in the late
1980s and lost around 10,000 jobs between 1984 and 1990 (Shirely
1990: 374). Accordingly, levels of long-term unemployment increased,
as did levels of inequality (Shirely 1990: 375–380). After two changes
of Labour Party leader and a disastrous general election in 1990 during
which the Labour party lost almost half of its seats, the National Party
took office. However, there was no major change in economic policies, with the new Finance Minister Ruth Richardson continuing with
attempts to reign in state expenditure (a policy which was so unpopular
it was dubbed ‘Ruthanasia’). These policies reduced all available unemployment, sickness and welfare benefits, and introduced market-style
rentals for social housing tenants. All in all, New Zealand’s journey to
neoliberalism was faster than that untaken by Australia (Schulman 2015:
88), due possibly to the absence of a second chamber (Castles et al.
1996: 10). As crime rates in New Zealand rose, so too did the numbers
of inmates starting sentences and the length of their sentences; Newbold
(2016: 12) suggests that burglary rates fell from the early 1980s due
to unemployment falling, the age structure of the population changing, profits from burglaries falling and the adoption of improved security systems. The 1980s penal philosophy was based on avoiding the use
of imprisonment (Newbold 2016: 221). Despite modest increases in the
use of prisons in the 1970s, the mid-1980s saw dramatic increases in its
use (p. 228).
As Mayhew notes (2012: 98), there have been very few studies of crime trends in New Zealand (rates of all crimes are reported in
Fig. 5.3). The study by Triggs (1997) suggested that business confidence was associated with decreases in dishonesty offences, whilst GDP
was associated with increases in property damage (and violence).5 Female
engagement in the labour force was associated with increases in property crimes (due, Mayhew reports to female engagement in the labour
force indexing other social changes or because taking women away from
the home reduced natural guardianship). Falling clear up and conviction
rates were associated with increases in some property crimes. Of course,
changes in business confidence, the GDP and the number of females
5 With one exception, GDP in New Zealand declined faster between 1985 and 1992 than
for any other seven year period during the post-war period Easton and Gerritsen (1996: 42).
Fig. 5.3 Crime rates New Zealand (All offences recorded by NZ Police,
Mayhew 2012: 90)
entering the labour force are all (in part) influenced by wider economic
and social policies and readjustments in these. As John Pratt noted in
1987, ‘the general increases in crime levels have coincided with major
economic change and concomitant social and cultural dislocation’.
Sweden is an important country in the examination of the theory I set
out. The Swedish welfare state was an attempt to create, via rational
planning, an orderly society in which capitalism’s worst excesses were
suppressed with the aim of creating a secure, equal and socially justice
society (Gould 2001: 9). For over 30 years until 1976, the Swedish state
pursued a policy of enforced sterilisation with the aim of reducing those
who may be more likely to commit crime and/or place a burden on the
state (Gould 2001: 24). The country embraced monetarist thinking
later than all of the countries discussed above. Sweden had been ruled
by the Social Democrats since 1930 until 1976. During that period,
trade unions and a strong collective national identity ensured that the
welfare state was widely supported. Taxation policies had been based
on socialist redistributive models with the aim of reducing economic
inequality. In order to pay for the welfare state, taxes were high, and in
the 1960s (during which the influence of trade unions was increased in
92 S. Farrall
Sweden, Harvey 2005: 112), a further plan to increase the tax on corporate profits to 20% emerged. However, from the 1970s onwards, the
Swedish Employers Federation increased its membership and started a
campaign against such regulation. Nevertheless, there was little public
support for the Employers Federation and when a centre-right government was elected in 1976, it did not act on the Employer’s proposals
(due in part to the difficulties of holding together a coalition). Instead,
the Employers Federation refused to enter into collective pay bargaining
and started to use the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics to insert neoliberal thinking into Swedish culture (Harvey 2005: 113). Indeed, the neoliberal tone of the Conservative Party became more strident in the 1980s
(Gould 1993: 230). Like the Labour Party in Britain in the 1970s, the
Social Democrats in Sweden partially introduced elements of neoliberal
thinking in the 1980s (which was becoming more prevalent in Swedish
political discourses, Boreus 1997). Banking was deregulated, and the
goal of reducing inflation (as opposed to unemployment) was adopted.
In 1988, there were cuts to sickness benefits and pensions (Pratt 2008:
277). In 1991, a conservative government with a clear neoliberal agenda
(Gould 2001: 35) was elected (again as a coalition). The policies pursued involved liberalising many nationalised industries, cutting government spending, privatising state services, wage restraint, tackling inflation
instead of pursuing full employment (Harvey 2005: 114), introducing
choice into the education system and joining the EU (in 1995)—the last
of which deprived the state of the many of the tools it had relied upon
to maintain employment and tackle inflation. The unemployment rate
in Sweden increased from around 3% in 1991 to 15% in 1994 (Gould
2001: 130), and remained high (at about or near to 9–10%) until 1997,
at which point it decreased to around 6–8% for the period from 2000
to 2010. The number of families experiencing long-term unemployment
also increased fivefold between 1990 and 1996 (Gould 2001: 70). GDP
also declined in the early 1990s, recovered slightly and then flatlined for
much of the decade, only rising again after the turn of the century. These
changes were associated with a decline in living conditions (especially for
young people), levels of poverty and inequality increased (Gould 2001:
70), and disadvantage concentrated in some residential neighbourhoods
(Wikstrom and Dolman 2004: 229; Estrada et al. 2012: 669). However,
as Pratt (2008: 278) notes, whilst welfare has been restructured in
Sweden, it has not become a ‘user pays’ society in the way New Zealand
did. In terms of housing, Sweden started in a different place to the UK,
Fig. 5.4 Property crime rates Sweden (Swedish National Council for Crime
Prevention, with manipulation by author)
in that ‘social housing’ aimed at those in greatest need was never built;
instead, universal public housing was preferred. However, in 1991, this
policy was abandoned, resulting in greater housing segmentation, overcrowding and increased exclusion of the poor (Hedin et al. 2012: 445).
The approach to dealing with drug use became increasingly r­ estrictive
during the 1990s (Gould 2001: 162–176), and even social democratic
governments started to take a lead in pursuing more punitive policies (Tham 2001), with increases in the numbers of convictions and
incarcerations. Indeed, Tonry notes Tham et al.’s study (2011) which
suggested that crime discourses in Scandinavia became increasingly moralistic and victim-centred (2014: 48). Recorded property crime data
for Sweden (Fig. 5.4) show that crime rose from the 1950s to the early
1990s (driven largely by increases in theft, Estrada et al. 2012: 673),
remained relatively stable in the 1990s and then declined after the late
94 S. Farrall
1990s (the same appears to be the case for burglaries, Tonry 2014: 24).6
In this respect, property only started to come down some ten to fifteen
or so years after the introduction of the economic policies initiated by
the liberalising tendency. The probability of custody following conviction did not change much between 1980 and 1998, but for those sent to
prison for burglary, the mean sentence length did increase (Wikstrom and
Dolmen 2004: 239; Estrada et al. 2012: 684). The use of imprisonment
did appear to grow following the 1991–1994 centre-right government
(von Hofer 2003: 29). It would also appear (Nilsson et al. 2016) that the
notion of a ‘crime drop’ only makes sense for better off Swedes; convictions increased amongst lower socio-economic groups, the result of rising inequality and spatio-spatial segregation (see also Farrall et al. 2016).
Sentencing severity has increased since the mid-1990s (Estrada et al.
2012: 678) and the net possibly widened (pp. 679–680). As van Dijk and
Tseloni note, crime rate started to decline in Sweden between 2000 and
2004 (2012: 16). As such, the crime rate increased beyond that point at
which many other countries’ crime rates had started to decline.
Summarising These Countries’ Experiences
Governments (albeit not in isolation) shape economic and social policies.
Relying on process tracing and congruence testing, I would argue that
the election of New Right governments from the 1970s lead to changes
in the distribution of wealth, changed discourses about social and economic priorities and altered economic and social structures in some
Westernised countries (Fig. 5.5). These changes (notably deindustrialisation) stimulated further rises in property crime. The crime rate increases
were so great that they contributed to the politicisation of crime (Tonry
2014: 46). Crime started to be used by policy entrepreneurs resulting
in competition between parties over the issue, and growing pressure for
government action (bolstered by public opinion, Farrall and Jennings
2012; Jennings et al. 2016). This model suggests that over time, changes
in social and economic structures contribute to changes in levels, forms
and experiences of crime and victimisation and in the policy responses to
crime (Tonry 2014: 46). In this respect, changes in social and economic
6 Von Hofer and Tham (2000: 197) report that theft peaked in 1985, slightly ahead of
all property crimes.
New Right
social and
and economic
Rises in crime
fear of crime
and pressure to
‘act’ on crime
Adoption of
tough CJS
Reductions in
crime, fear and
pressure to
in the economy
Fig. 5.5 Political, policy and social influences on crime rates
policies (even those not directly related to crime) may result in underlying changes in the distribution of resources and behaviours which (a)
create policy problems downstream, which in turn (b) create pressures
for later governmental action on crime. However, the nature of the policy responses adopted is itself shaped by political processes (namely, what
is politically acceptable, what is in keeping with the dominant philosophy
of the day and so on).
The increase in property crime rates witnessed in many countries
(which it ought to be acknowledged had been rising since the 1960s, but
which accelerated in the 1980s) appear to be related to economic processes (such as unemployment and economic inequality, and increases in
the later brought on by changes in the generosity of welfare regimes). The
declines in property crime rates (see above) appear to be related to the following ‘causal packages’ of processes (Thelen and Maloney 2015: 7):
96 S. Farrall
• increases in both the use and the length of periods of imprisonment
(for Australia, see Carcach (2004: 98), Moffatt et al. (2005); for the
USA, see Langan (2004), Rosenfeld and Fornago (2007), Tonry
(2014), Berg et al. (2016); for England and Wales, see Chap. 4; and
for Sweden see Wikstrom and Dolmen (2004: 239), Estrada et al.
(2012: 684))7;
•increased levels of security (for Australia see Morgan and Clare
(2007); for the USA, see Rosenfeld and Messner 2012; Berg et al.
2016; and for England & Wales, see Farrell et al. 2016); and
•improvements in the economy (for Australia see Moffatt et al.
(2005); for New Zealand, see Triggs (1997), Pratt (1987); and for
the USA, see Arvanites and Define (2006), Gould et al. (2002),
Raphael and Winter-Ebmer (2001), Rosenfeld and Messner (2012),
Berg et al. (2016), which reduced poverty levels in some countries
(such as Australia, Schulman 2015: 97).
On this account, dramatic shifts in the economy (‘restructuring’) act as
both the cause of increases and the cause of decreases in property crime.
Millions of people were made unemployed during the 1980s in many
countries as state subsidies were removed. As a more flexible, less Fordist
economy emerged, so the economy took off again, reducing the unemployment count. That not every country experienced the identical drivers
to increases in crime or to decreases in crime is hardly surprising, since
(a) they did not all start in the same position and (b) the policies pursued
were therefore not identical in substance, implementation or outcome.
As such, we must not lose sight of the different starting points of countries. Sweden and the UK shared a commitment to state-owned housing,
albeit expressed in different forms. When the changes came in England
and Wales, former council housing became residualised, and crime rates
increased disproportionately amongst such estates (Farrall et al. 2016).
The Bildt government in Sweden also adopted a strategy of selling off
a lot of the housing stock to sitting tenants. This too led to a very clear
increase in segregation in Sweden’s biggest cities. Sweden, with a greater
and more heterogenic state-owned housing stock, saw various forms
of gentrification (Hedin et al. 2012), which appears to have influenced
7 Von Hofer and Tham (1989) find no relationship between theft and risk of imprisonment. However, their paper is somewhat limited in that the period covered ends in 1985.
the offending careers of lower socio-economic groups (Nilsson and
Estrada 2003: 661). In the USA, social housing was far less common
and already polarised prior to the disinvestment (both politically and economically) in it (Pierson 1994: 75–76, 91–92), possibly nullifying any
new processes of spatial concentration (since it largely already existed).
On top of these nuances, one must remember that each country’s political systems allowed the pace of change to unfold at different speeds.
New Zealand (with one assembly) and the UK (with its ‘elected dictatorship’ and an opposition in disarray) moved quickly toward New Right
ideals. Sweden did not move as quickly (coalition governments moving
more slowly generally as they seek to balance competing objectives),
and the changes initiated there were not as dramatic as those in the UK
(Gould 2001: 8), but even so, the scale of the changes made may have
felt enormous given the long history of Social Democratic rule. Some
countries looked to the USA for inspiration (partly based on political
ideological symmetry, such as was the case with the UK); but others did
not. Canada for example resisted the use of US-style prison rates, preferring to invest in community penalties, and researchers have struggled
to find much evidence of a ‘law and order’ approach there (Hatt et al.
1992, see also Meyer and O’Malley 2005). The picture I paint therefore
is not a simple one to comprehend; there are many contingencies, and
causal flows are hard therefore to tease apart. But this does not make it
any less valid—and for some, attending to the role of contexts may make
it all the more valid (Pawson and Tilley 1994).
In the case of the 1980s New Right, which was a fusing of economic
liberalism and social conservative thinking, the conservative instinct (Hay
1996) provided ‘off the peg’ beliefs about human nature which could
easily be moulded into policy responses (O’Malley 1994). However, the
evidence base behind the crime prevention strategies which Australia
pursued was (at least at the time) weak (O’Malley 1994: 284).8 As
O’Malley notes, ‘the evidence is not sufficiently powerful to explain the
rapid take up of such strategies among governments and police forces
around Australia and abroad’ (1994: 284–285). O’Malley accounts for
the rise of situational crime prevention by reference to its symmetry to
post-Keynesian political rationalities. By constructing people as rational,
8 Eisner (2016) points to similar weaknesses with the evidence surrounding early intervention programmes.
98 S. Farrall
New Right governments constructed people who ‘chose’ to offend as
rational and therefore deserving of punishment (p. 288). Whilst social
crime prevention was well integrated into Keynesian philosophies, situational crime prevention was better suited (in terms of explaining the
causes of crime (individual, not social) and the responses needed to
tackle crime (making the costs outweigh the gains) in New Right thinking. As O’Malley notes, social crime prevention works in diffused manners with long-term goals (which are therefore hard to fully evidence
empirically), whilst situational crime prevention offers immediate outcomes which can be more easily assessed.9 Because the underlying New
Right philosophy had not been challenged (even if the political colour
of the governments had changed), there was an ideological symmetry between economic thinking and responses to wrongdoing, meaning
that ‘tough’ crime policies could easily be adopted. The economic policies pursued may have been associated with subsequent improvements in
some economies (Ellison 2006: 61). Had there been major ideological
changes in the time between the adoption of the social and economic
policies which accelerated the increase in crime and the pressure for
action on it, the policies adopted may have been different.
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“In retrospect it was all too much to be absorbed in a short time. … Crime rates
rose as did support in many countries for neo-liberal and xenophobic political
movements. That harsh crime policies emerged in some countries is not surprising”
Tonry (2014: 51)
Abstract  The Chapter concludes the book, arguing that the previous
theories put forward to explain the crime drop are (typically) monocausal, focusing on one causal variable. The account which I have presented acts as a corrective to this position; suggesting that a number of
processes, not least of all political decision making, brought about the
dramatic increases in crime in the 1980s and the punitive response to it
in the 1980s.
Keywords  Crime drop
Criminal justice policies
· Crime trends · 1980s New Right
Unlike the previous theories, which have tended to focus on monocausal explanations (such as changes in abortion rates or lead pollution),
the theory which I have sketched suggests that:
© The Author(s) 2017
S. Farrall, Re-Examining The Crime Drop, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8_6
104 S. Farrall
a. Political, social and attitudinal processes and change may have
driven some of the changes in crime trends witnessed in the past
20–30 years.
b. Those processes took place over a number of years and appear to
both cause crime to rise, to shape responses to crime and (in part)
to cause crime to reduce. As such, both changes in economic variables (as causes of the rise) and changes in criminal justice system
responses (as causes of the decline) can be included in the same
c. Not all countries experienced either the shift to monetarist thinking
to the same extent, nor did they experience increases in crime rates
at the same time (New Zealand pushed things further and faster;
the USA had not adopted social welfare policies to the same degree
as, say, the UK; and Sweden’s move to neoliberalism was delayed,
as were the changes in its crime rate). However, changes in the
management of the economy were later associated with increases in
property crimes for many of the countries explored above.
d. Contextual factors matter in the formation of politics, the implementationthe implementation of policies and the distribution and
timings of outcomes. We are not dealing with law-like phenomena. If there is one thing which sociologists, historians, human
geographers and political scientists can agree on it is that context
matters1; hence, the attempt to assess theories on the basis that
the causal mechanisms operate in the same way in each country
(Farrell et al. 2014) is too stringent a test.
Boiled down to its bare bones, my argument is that monetarist thinking was adopted and led to economic restructuring. This in turn resulted
in increased unemployment, family dissolution, inequality and the spatial concentration of poverty and crime. As crime rose, so increases in
popular anxiety about it also rose, politicians were encouraged to confront the problem directly. But countries do not start in the same place,
and so researching change must take account of this fact (see Pratt 2008:
280 on Sweden and the UK). However, the choice about which crime
control measures to pursue is not simply a rational one; it is also (like
the levels of unemployment one is prepared to tolerate) a political one.
1 On
this point, see Crawford (2009):18.
Situational crime prevention (as opposed to social crime prevention) was
chosen by right-leaning governments because it dovetailed with their
social and moral stance on the causes of crime (O’Malley 1994; Hope
2009; King 1989; Wyvekens 2009; Pitts and Hope 1997), which was
that it was the result of individual failings and unrelated to wider social
and economic processes. Situation crime prevention was the (eventual)
policy consequence of abandoning the search for the aetiology of crime.
Security is still possibly the major source of the property crime drop,
but we need to ask why this approach was adopted. The UK (e.g.) could
have done what the French did (King 1989: 301), or what Labour later
did (Hope 2009) and used local governments to tackle rising crime, but
the ideological underpinnings of their approach to economic and social
matters encouraged them towards the adoption of situation crime prevention matters (O’Malley 1994). As Crawford (2009: 13) notes, different
cultures developed different approaches to one another. So which policies
are pursued is not simply a matter of evidence, but also of political ideologies and imperatives. These are a consequence of public opinion on a
topic as well as the objective nature of that topic itself (see Chap. 3).
My argument will not work for all countries and may not even work
outside of those I have reviewed herein. Other countries I have not
explored for reasons of space or insufficient data may (or may not) conform to what I have suggested above. This, rather than negating my
argument, supports it, since one of my central claims is that ‘constant
cause’ thinking (to use a phrase from Levitsky and Way 2015: 97) explanations will not work in the social sciences. Alternatively, some aspects of
what I argue may fit some other countries. What is needed are a series of
detailed case studies of each country which attempts to chart the social,
economic, cultural and political changed experienced by each country,
and how these interact with crime and crime policies.
I have pointed to an additional way of thinking about and generating
hypotheses in this area of research. One of the problems with the approach
suggested by crime drop analysts assumes cross-national unit homogeneity
(i.e. a unit increase in x would be associated with an equivalent increase
in y for all countries). However, as with other social phenomena (Byrne
1998) changes in crime rates as dramatic as those witnessed will be the
result of complex processes and relationships, which are not always best
treated as linear or independent of one another (Hall 2003) and in which
reciprocal causation may be present (Skocpol 2003: 416). Few studies
have attempted to use more complex statistical analysis techniques such
106 S. Farrall
as time series modelling, and many which have (but not all) are devoted to
a consideration of violence.
These conclusions point to that fact that we need a broader theoretical canvass on which to paint the sociology of crime trends, as called for
by Tonry (2014). My aim has been to raise, in the name of the scientific
advancement of our collective understanding of crime rates, some questions about the epistemology and methodology of the ‘crime drop’ literature. My proposed additions to this body of work (and I very much
see what I propose as a set of additional activities aimed at supporting
what has gone before, rather than an entirely new approach based on a
rejection of what already exists) are as follows:
• More attention needs to be given to political decision making, and
how this impacts upon crime rates in both the short term and the
long term (by which I mean decades). This includes a concern on
both stated social and economic policies and the degree to which
these were successfully implemented and had the desired outcomes
(Marsh and Rhodes 1992).
•Rather than treat all countries as ‘more or less equivalent units of
analysis’, we need to accept that countries learn from each other and
in some cases deliberately mimic (or reject) what other countries do
(sometimes for reasons of national identity and sometimes for very
good and empirically sound reasons). Therefore, current explanations of recent crime trends need to be developed to include:
–more complex approaches to modelling change (to enable more
nuanced theorising in which the causes of causes can be examined
and more sensitive tests with which to make assessments of these,
Byrne 1998);
– a wider selection of variables (to explore other processes hitherto
unexamined) and
–additional social science methodologies to develop and test
The failure to do this may lead to the stagnation of our understanding of
a truly fascinating set of inter-related phenomena. If we are to advance our
understanding of changes in crime rates, we must adopt methodologies,
epistemologies and conceptual apparatus which enable this to happen.
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Abortion, 2, 6, 103
Afghanistan, 85
Agenda Setting, 28, 34, 35, 75
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders
(ASBOs), 62, 63
Australia, 70, 81–85, 89, 90, 96, 97
Authoritarianism, 75
Banking, 92
Bildt, Carl, 82
Biographies, 28
Births out of wedlock, 21
Blair, Tony, 28, 29, 46
British Crime Survey, 37, 42, 45, 68
Burglary, 7, 62, 84, 85, 88, 90, 94
Business Confidence, 90
Business cycles, 21
Canada, 4, 17, 97
Capital punishment.SeeDeath penalty
Car theft, 64, 70, 84
Case Studies, 22, 23, 82, 105
Causal configurations, 19
Causal packages, 21, 95
Causes of Crime
generally, 35
individual level, 54
structural level, 66, 70
CCTV Schemes, 70
Charge and Control Conditions, 66
Child Benefit (UK), 34
Civilised, 6
Clinton, Bill, 88
Coalition Governments, 97
Columbia, 17
Communicative Dissonance, 66, 67
Community Sentences.SeeNoncustodial provisions
Comparative Historical Analyses, 2,
3, 10
Computer theft, 7
Concealed weapons, 7
Concentration of Needs, 86, 97
Concern about crime (public), 37, 44,
45, 52, 61, 71
Confiscation (of criminal proceeds), 58
© The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2017
S. Farrall, Re-Examining The Crime Drop, Critical Criminological
Perspectives, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-67654-8
112 Index
Congruence testing, 3, 20, 94
Conservative Party (UK)
Party Conference (1993), 61
Constant cause, 22, 105
Constructivist Institutionalism, 14, 66
Consumer confidence, 2, 5
Crime concern, 64, 70
generally, 22, 35
politicisation of, 94
rises in, 33, 36, 42, 45, 71, 73, 94
Crime Policies
Liberal stance, 53
Punitiveness, 45, 88. See also
Punitiveness; State punitiveness
travel of, 17
Crime Prevention
policy, 53, 65, 70, 75, 98, 105
products, 38
situational, 63, 65, 70, 75, 98, 105
social, 27, 63, 82, 98, 105
Crime Prevention Ministerial Group,
Crimestoppers, 64, 70
Criminal Injuries Compensation
Scheme (UK), 58
Criminality, 5
Criminal Justice System, 2, 5, 6, 16,
35–37, 53–55, 65, 66, 68, 70,
73, 104
Critical junctures, 11, 13
Critical nomination, 72
Cross-national equivalence, 17, 22
Cultural Values, 17
Death Penalty, 2, 7
Deindustrialisation, 39, 74, 75, 94
Demographics, 2, 6
Department of Health and Social
Security (DHSS, UK), 33
Deprivation, 38, 59
Diversion from Court, 58
Doli Incapax, 63
Douglas, Roger, 82
generally, 86
heroin, 5, 31, 85
markets, 2
Economic changes, 2, 28
Economic improvement, 88
Economic inequality, 5, 21, 30, 31,
84, 86, 91, 95
Economic needs, 32
Economic policies (UK), 87
Economic recession, 30
Economic restructuring, 39, 86, 104
Economy, 5, 10, 28–30, 39, 42, 43,
67, 71, 74, 75, 82, 86, 89, 96,
E-crime, 4–6
Education Policy (UK), 34. See also
Schools (UK)
England & Wales, 96
Epistemology/Epistemological critiques, 15, 17, 106
Ethnic minorities, 21
Europe, 6
European Exchange Rate Mechanism
(ERM), 30, 37
dissolution of, 104
generally, 97
Fear of crime, 42, 44, 64, 68, 75, 87
Feedback processes, 75
Five Towns Initiative, 70
Fordism/Fordist, 96
Four Tests (which a theory of the
crime drop should pass), 5, 7
France, 4, 65
Fraser, Malcolm, 82, 83
General Linear Reality, 9, 16, 22. See
also Linear analyses
Gentrification, 96
Government institutions, 10
Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 21,
40, 85, 88, 90, 92
control, 2
generally, 7
ownership, 7
Hawke, Bob, 82, 83
Historical institutionalism, 2, 3,
10–14, 66, 71
Homelessness, 31, 32, 83, 86
Home Office (UK)
car theft index, 64, 70
circular 8/84, 70
Crime Prevention Unit, 36, 63, 70
Home Secretaries (UK), 15, 36, 72,
Housing, 28, 29, 31–34, 38, 40, 46,
63, 67, 71, 75, 83, 86, 88, 90,
92, 93, 96, 97
Housing Policy (UK), 31
Howard, Michael, 16, 45, 61
Ideas, 8, 10, 14, 15, 17, 18, 20, 30,
43, 52, 66, 71, 73, 75
Ideational change, 71, 73
Immigration, 2, 6
generally, 22
increases in, 7, 88
lengths of sentences, 54
rates of, 2, 7, 21, 41, 84
rates of, 7, 37, 41, 45, 88
Income Tax.SeeTax policies
Indirect Taxation.SeeTax policies
Individualism, 86. See also Self-Interest
Inflation.SeePrice inflation
Insurance Claims, 12
Interaction effects, 22
International Monetary Fund (IMF),
29, 31
Internet, 2, 4, 6, 7
Issue definition, 13, 46, 71
Job Seeker’s Allowance (UK), 34. See
also Unemployment Benefit
‘Just deserts’, 55
Keating, Paul, 82, 83
Keynesianism, 29, 98
Kirkholt, 70
Labour Party, 46, 52, 66, 72, 83, 89,
90, 92
Lagged effects, 44
Lange, David, 82
Large-N studies, 18
Lead pollution, 2, 103
Linear analyses, 9, 22
114 Index
Maastricht Treaty, 37
Macro-economic policy, 31
Major, John, 28, 29
Mandatory sentences, 54, 58, 66, 69,
73. See also ‘Three strikes’
Manufacturing, 30, 86, 89
Mexico, 17
Miners’ Strike (1984–1985, UK), 29
Mobile phone theft, 4, 7
Monetarism/ist, 29, 30, 82
Moralising, 93
Multiple Conjectural Causation, 22
generally, 22
rates, 6, 7, 21
Neighbourhood Watch Schemes
(NW), 64
Neo-conservativsim, 37, 46, 69, 75,
Neo-liberalism, 46, 90, 104
New Right, 52, 66, 71, 72, 94, 97, 98
New Zealand, 4, 81–84, 89–92, 96,
97, 104
Night Restriction Order, 66
Non-Custodial Provisions, 55
North Sea Oil (UK), 30
Older people, 6
Organisational change, 73
Paramilitary policing.SeePolicing,
Path dependencies, 11, 14
Path-shaping, 14
Pattern-matching, 20
Penal welfarism, 36, 38, 46, 63
Personal taxation.SeeTax policies
numbers of officers, 68
Paramilitary, 65
powers, 54, 55, 57, 69, 72
strategies, 7
tactics, 2
Policy elites, 17
Policy equilibrium, 71
Policy implementation, 53, 104
Policy makers, 15, 16
Political agenda, 43–45, 52, 70
Political choices, 10, 29, 38, 45
Political decisions, 11
Political governance, 21
Political ideologies, 82, 105
Political systems, 17, 97
Positive feedback loops, 11
Poverty, 33, 83, 84, 88, 89, 92, 96,
Price inflation
control of, 28, 83, 89
generally, 2, 5
Privatisation (policy of), 30, 82
Processes of accumulation (and diffusion), 28
Process tracing, 19, 20, 28, 94
Property crime, 2, 5, 27–29, 31–34,
37–39, 41, 42, 45, 52, 72, 81,
82, 84, 85, 87, 88, 93–96, 105
Public opinion, 10, 44, 45, 60, 68,
94, 105
Punctuated equilibrium (Theory of),
11, 13, 14, 71
Punitiveness, 5, 52–54, 56, 65, 66,
72, 73
Quantitative data analyses, 9, 28
Queen’s Speech, 43, 44
Reagan, Ronald, 86
Recession.SeeEconomic recession
Redistribution of wealth, 83
Rehabilitation (of former offenders),
Rehabilitative ideal, 55, 65
Richardson, Ruth, 90. See also
Right to silence, 69, 73
Robbery, 7, 84, 88
‘Rogernomics’, 82, 89
‘Ruthanasia’, 90
Safer cities, 70
Schools (UK), 35, 83. See also
Education Policy (UK)
Second World War, 21
Security, 2, 5, 7, 9, 10, 22, 29, 31–34,
41, 64, 67, 71, 75, 83–85, 90,
96, 105
Security hypothesis, 7
Self-Interest, 64
Sentencers, 55, 59
Shock events, 38
Shoplifting, 7
‘Short, Sharp, Shock’, 55
Situational Crime Prevention.SeeCrime
Prevention, situational
Small N studies.SeeCase Studies
Social actors, 12
Social Crime Prevention.SeeCrime
Prevention, social
Social Housing.SeeHousing
Social norms, 10
Social Security Policy (UK), 33, 41,
67, 71, 83
Social Security Spending (UK), 33, 84
Social unrest, 38
South American, 17
The State, 10, 28, 86, 91, 92
State institutions, 10, 36
State punitiveness, 54
Sterilisation, enforced, 91
Structural Equation Modelling, 22
Sweden, 81, 82, 91–94, 96, 97, 104
Symmetrical causation, 4
Tax policies, 83, 91
Teenagers, 6
Thatcherites, 36, 72
Thatcherite/ism, 37, 53, 73
Thatcher, Margaret, 28, 82
Thermostatic relationships, 5
‘Three strikes’, 88
Time series modelling, 28, 44, 106
Tipping points, 28
The Treasury (UK), 30, 33
‘Unduly lenient’ sentences, 59. See also
Unemployment, 21, 30, 31, 34,
37–41, 45, 52, 75, 82–86, 88–90,
92, 95, 96, 104
Unemployment Benefit (UK), 34, 86.
See also Job Seeker’s Allowance
Unicameral systems, 89
Unit fines, 60
Unruly pupils, 35
Up-rating Rule (UK), 33
USA, 1, 4–6, 17, 35, 64, 70, 81, 83,
86–89, 96, 97, 104
116 Index
Vandalism, 8
Victim-centred approaches, 93
attitudes towards, 2
generally, 28
rates of, 7
Welfare Spending, 37, 41, 46, 52
‘Wets’ the (UK), 67
‘Winter of Discontent’, 28
Young offenders, 55, 59–61
Youth Justice Board, 62
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