Can the Victorians teach us how to treat ‘careless’ victims of crime?

Dr David Churchill discusses the comments made recently by a senior police officer about whether students who leave doors and windows unlocked deserve to have cases of burglary investigated.

Dr Churchill has uncovered very similar debates in the Victorian period about ‘foolish’ victims and has written an article for The Conversation.

In the article, Dr Churchill draws parallels between the comments made by assistant chief constable of Leicestershire police at the end of 2016 and the attitudes to victim culpability in the 19th century. There are several examples of instances whereby police blamed the victim for their carelessness in securing their property.

These comments indicate that the issue of public and private responsibility for crime control has long remained unresolved.

Dr David Churchill

Whilst police forces are increasingly encouraging citizens to protect themselves by giving householders information on security, Churchill argues these are just the latest attempts to describe what the police expect the role of the public is in dealing with crime.

The article goes on to ask, ‘What can we learn from the past?’ and Dr Churchill posits that evidence from the 19th century suggest that concern over the welfare of would-be criminals is missing from crime prevention discussion today.

Dr Churchill concludes, "For the authorities in Victorian times, securing property was not just about preventing losses to victims but also preventing the corruption of the vulnerable. If today’s senior police officers were to explore these broader implications of insecurity, they might better guard against the charge of cynicism and self-interest in their ongoing dialogue with the public over crime prevention."

Read the full article here.