Villains: Crime and Community in the Inner City

Villains: Crime and Community in the Inner City

Villains: Crime and Community in the Inner City

Villains: Crime and Community in the Inner City


Villians provides a rare insight into local and family traditions of petty crime. It looks at attitudes to crime and law enforcement, and the relationship of those attitudes to the culture in which they are expressed.


Little research has focused on what becomes of delinquents in adulthood. Indeed, crime is often viewed as an occasional, male, and teenage detour in an otherwise law-abiding life. Those who persist are seen to choose a criminal path at adulthood, while their friends desist under the responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood.

Research on 'youth' and juvenile offending burgeoned in the postwar decades with the emergence of teenage youth cultures which were regarded as new and entirely separate from the parent generation (Hoggart 1957, Nuttall 1968, Fyvel 1963, Cashmore 1984). Consequently little attention was paid to the possible continuity in experience, the transition from youth to adulthood, or the experiences and processes of change in the period from adolescence to adulthood and beyond. We know next to nothing about the attitudes of adults who offended in their youth, and whether these attitudes differ from, or reinforce, earlier experience.

The few studies which have pursued teenage offenders into their 20s and beyond (see West 1967, 1982, West and Farrington 1973, 1977, Glueck and Glueck 1940, 1968, 1974, Wolfgang et al. 1972) tend to have a heavily statistical emphasis (see Shover 1985 as exception). Autobiographies by professional criminals (cf Jimmy Boyle 1977, John McVicar 1974) offer insights into the more serious end of the offending spectrum but there are few accounts of the common petty offender. Yet this kind of offending is a prevalent feature of many communities, with institutionalised practices and attitudes associated with it (cf Downes 1966, Parker 1974, Gill 1977, Hobbs 1988).

It is these social worlds that exist 'somewhere between the underworld and the surface' (Hebdige 1977) which blur the models of juvenile crime and adult conformity so prevalent in the literature. Surely

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