Cultural Criminology, the City and the Irrational Actor

Keith Hayward, University of Kent

This paper sets out to critique (from the perspective of cultural criminology) the various ways in which the discourse of situational crime prevention homogenizes and rationalizes urban space. It will be argued that so-called 'situational spaces' exist only as uncomplicated, unconnected, solipsistic islands in the sea of the city. As a consequence, the lived reality of urban space -- the complex micro processes and cultural specificities that occur at street level -- is stripped of its diversity and inherent serendipity. What remains are building and streets occupied only by individuals whose spatial and temporal trajectories are assumed and who have the characteristics of 'situational (wo)man' (both victim and offender) projected onto them. This paper will attempt to challenge the situational approach to crime prevention, arguing that such strategies are of little use when it comes to the control and reduction of the growing number of crimes that can be understood as 'urban edgework'. Might it not be the case that in our world of risks and extremes, of excess and insecurity, we are now entering the world of the 'irrational actor'?

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Updated 05/20/2006