Who Do Communities Trust?

Karen Evans, University of Liverpool

Crime prevention and policing professionals are increasingly looking to key into the "...networks, norms and trust - that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives..." (Putnam 1996:56) both at the level of community and at the intersection of community and policy. While there has been some attention paid to building networks of social capital within communities and the communitarian agenda has foregrounded the process of constructing a shared understanding of neighbourhood norms and values, little consideration has been given to the ways in which trusting relations are established and maintained within neighbourhods.

This paper explores how day-to-day interactions in a number of high-crime neighbourhoods in the UK help to actively maintain relationships of trust among people who share the same "environment of risk" (Giddens 1990:35). It shows little trust of "expert systems" (Giddens 1990:21) - for those organisations and authorities which were perceived to lie outside of this shared experience. It argues that, in the absence of trust in the "expert" that people look to develop trust within their own social groupings, either through legitimate and accepted forms of organisation e.g. community groups and residents associations or through counter-cultural forms such as the criminal gang or "no grassing" dogmas (Walklate and Evans 1999).

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Updated 05/20/2006