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Re-conceptualising folk crime in rural contexts


White, R, Re-conceptualising folk crime in rural contexts, The Routledge International Handbook of Rural Criminology, Routledge, JF Donnermeyer (ed), United Kingdom, pp. 299-307. ISBN 9781138799745 (2016) [Research Book Chapter]

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Copyright 2016 selection and editorial material, Joseph F. Donnermeyer; individual chapters, the contributors

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The notion of 'folk crime' refers to offences that are generally perceived by perpetrators and other members of their community as not being particularly criminal, offensive, harmful or dangerous. Wilson (1983) outlines the main elements of folk crime: (1) the usual links between morality and law may be broken, depriving the extended criminal law of its moral sanctions; (2) strong inducements may exist for the public at large or significant segments within it to violate the law; and (3) law violation may become a chronic problem in which the resources of the legal system face a perpetual burden that diminishes the ability of the system to respond to its traditional goals.

A central idea is that 'we all do it', and so those caught doing it are not necessarily deemed 'evil' or 'unworthy' enough to warrant suffering unpleasant penalties and/or the stigma attached to ordinary criminal sanctions. Some common contemporary examples of folk crimes include traffic offences (such as speeding and parking offences) and copyright theft (such as illegal downloading of movies and music).

Folk crimes are often ignored by traditional criminological theory (see Gibbons 1972), yet, as this chapter argues, they frequently present as embedded facets of everyday life that can and do involve great social and ecological harms. Such crimes are frequently committed repeatedly by the same offenders, are well known in the offenders' community, and do not impair the offenders' public identity as respectable and law-abiding citizens (Wilson 1983). In the public eye, folk crimes may not be seen as causing harm that is of significant importance (Muth 1998). Yet, even in relation to these observations, there are complexities to how folk crime is socially constructed - and deconstructed - that make them much more complicated to study than may first seem to be the case. The particular focus of this chapter is on folk crime in a rural context, and in particular those crimes pertaining in some way to the environment.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:folk crime, rural criminology
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Criminology
Research Field:Criminology not elsewhere classified
Objective Division:Law, Politics and Community Services
Objective Group:Justice and the law
Objective Field:Justice and the law not elsewhere classified
UTAS Author:White, R (Professor Rob White)
ID Code:111053
Year Published:2016
Deposited By:School of Social Sciences
Deposited On:2016-08-29
Last Modified:2017-06-23

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