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Whose safety: crime and corruption in a world of inequality

Whose SafetyIn contexts of inequality, how is a “war on crime” waged towards the maintenance of inequality? In urban South Africa, as Christopher McMichael articulates, police violence operates to maintain and further create spatial and economic fragmentation between rich and poor. Discourses of “fighting crime” legitimise police violence, the defence of which is privileged over fighting inequality. Fundamental questions with global relevance are raised about whose security the police ensure—and how societies treat violence, or indeed criminal acts, perpetrated by police in the name of that “security”.

Unequal control over the definition of ”crime”, and subsequently the power to judge the legitimacy of responses to crime, is a fundamental feature of how unequal distribution of social and economic power operates within a society. As Abdul Shaban highlights, extra-judicial killings by Mumbai's police force are only just being characterised as illegitimate, and prosecuted as criminal. In other contexts, such as the USA, widening definitions of crime are empowering the police to make more frequent interventions in everyday life. The articles here demonstrate the multiple struggles being waged around the definition of "crime”, the legitimacy of various police “crime-fighting” tactics and the criminal acts perpetrated by police officers themselves.

Business as usual in Mexico despite 43 murdered students

The Mexican government has shown remarkable inertia since the apparent police abduction and subsequent gang murder of students in Guerrero. Now it hopes capital will not prove a coward as it denationalises oil reserves.

In search of security: "there to keep the peace"

Film: Testimony of the violence of a police-led eviction and experience of the policing which comes from racist stereotypes defining Travellers as 'criminals'. Part of the Whose Police? collection of interviews with citizens, analysts and activists around the world exploring the question: where does security come from?

It's the morality, stupid!

Why do Britons want more policing, prisons and punishment? The political left need to incorporate morality into analysis and debate around crime.

Predictive policing: mapping the future of policing?

New predictive policing technologies seem to promise crime reduction. But predictive policing also threatens the extension of policing biases; risks to privacy emergent from the data gathering required; and neglect of alternative interventions tackling the root causes of crime. Are the trade offs too large?

India’s policing disorder

In the 1990s Mumbai's 'crime-busting' policing strategy included routine extra-judicial executions, known as 'encounter killings'. Here this state violence is examined as communalisation of the police, enforcing insecurity for the minority over security for all.

Fish rot from the head

Torture is routine practice in South Africa's police stations and prisons. A lineage of impunity, traced from apartheid, has meant de facto immunity for perpetrators. With South Africa celebrating its 'Human Rights Day' this weekend, the shocking reality behind its prison walls must be a central focus.

The over-policing of America

The purview of the US criminal justice system appears to be widening: from school child 'bad behaviour' to a tenant's rent arrears. Chase Madar tracks the increasing involvement of police in everyday life.

The numbers in black and white: racism in the policing of drugs

Each year the UK police are disproportionately stopping and searching large numbers of Black and Asian people for drug possession, amounting to mass police interference in everyday life. Is an answer decriminalising drug possession?

"Our self-confidence is the main reason for police harassment..."

For adivasis in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, economic exploitation and social degradation go hand in hand. This interview with Madhuri Krishnaswamy of JADS, an adivasi organisation, reveals routine police protection of entrenched power hierarchies – and the political confidence found to fight back.

Unreformable: an end to stop-and-frisk in NYC?

Under Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelley stop-and-frisk has been a racist technology of control wielded by an unchecked police force. With large-scale popular mobilisations against police racism and violence, and de Blasio set to take over as mayor of New York City, reform of stop-and-frisk seems in sight. But is such a practice reformable? 

Footsoldiers in a social war: the police, crime and inequality in South Africa

What does it mean to declare a 'war on crime' in one of the most unequal societies in the world? And how does contemporary police violence in South Africa serve to maintain the status quo of spatial and economic fragmentation?

The heavy hand on Venezuela's streets

Faced with soaring levels of crime and violence, Venezuela's government continues to militarize the police. The public disproves of the crime, but not the response. Why? 

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