Security industry shapes public view of law breakers

Date: 
Monday, 27 March, 2017

An article examining how the 19th century security industry shaped the public understanding of law breakers has been judged the best article published in The British Journal of Criminology last year. The prize, named in honour of criminologist Sir Leon Radzinowicz, is one of the most prestigious awards in criminology.

In 'Security and visions of the criminal', Dr David Churchill of the University of Leeds contrasts two 19th century views of law-breakers: the unskilled, clumsy thief, and the expert, technically proficient, 'scientific' burglar. Advertisers for the burglary insurance industry, he argues, and purveyors of new security technologies, played a key role in shaping public fears of the 'scientific' burglar in the late 19th century.

'The security industry contributed substantially', he writes, to notions of 'the careful, intelligent, technically capable, well equipped, professional burglar'. This helped foster 'a high-security vision of crime which has since remained vital to conceptions of criminality in new times of social and technological change.'

Speaking today, David Churchill said,

I am delighted and honoured to receive this prestigious award, which underlines the significant contribution which historical research makes to criminology and criminal justice studies. I would very much like to thank the editors of The British Journal of Criminology and the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies for making the award.

Professor Sandra Walklate, Editor in Chief of The British Journal of Criminology, said,

It is with especial pleasure that the 2016 Radzinowicz Prize is awarded to David Churchill's article. It ably demonstrates what there is still to be learned from history for contemporary criminological debates.

Read David Churchill's article here.