Prior to discussing and analysing the offences committed by the young people in my sample, examining the area where they grew up is important, so as to better contextualise such behaviour. This chapter aims to do this. The first section offers a brief history of the borough, followed by some current socioeconomic statistical data, such as its employment structure, unemployment and crime rates, family and housing composition, population density, percentage of population receiving income support and others. The purpose is to attempt to categorise what 'type' of borough Lambeth is. The second section focuses on additional, illicit forms of economic activity within the borough that comprise part of an 'underground economy'. The final section of the chapter addresses how the underground economy fits into the lives of ordinary people in Lambeth by looking at what some professionals and young people said about it. The point in bringing up the borough's underground economy is not only to determine what exactly these other economic activities are, but also to explore their potential role within the young people's offending.
The borough of Lambeth, located south of the Thames near the centre of London, is one of the city's largest boroughs geographically, and, at the turn of the millennium, was the fifth most densely populated. 1 Lambeth is broken up into several smaller areas. There are Waterloo and Vauxhall, which are located on the north end of Lambeth adjacent to the Thames, and Streatham, which is in the south bordering the borough of Croydon. Clapham is in the west of Lambeth and Camberwell is in the east. Other areas in Lambeth include Kennington, Stockwell, Norwood, West Norwood and, of course, Brixton (see Figure 2.1). The young people interviewed lived in areas all over the borough, and were not concentrated in just one. Likewise, the professionals worked with young people from all over Lambeth.
Lambeth has generally been considered an English working-class borough for many years. However, it remains slightly different from other working-class boroughs previously described by researchers studying young people and crime in England (for example, Downes 1966; Mays 1954; Parker 1974; Willis 1977; Willmott 1966). Many transformations in British working-class cultures have