What are some examples of everyday criminals

Internal security

Nina Oelkers

To person

Prof. Dr. Nina Oelkers holds the Chair for Social Work at the Institute for Social Work, Education and Sports Science (ISBS) at the University of Vechta.

For many people, the modern city is a place of insecurity and crime. Rural areas, on the other hand, are often considered a place of security and human closeness. In fact, the statistics confirm that the crime rate increases significantly with the size of the community. Prof. Dr. Nina Oelkers also notes that the perceptions of insecurity and the fear of crime among the small town and rural populations are much weaker. An important reason for this is that the longer-lasting social contacts promote both informal social control and a feeling of security.

Police specialists investigate the scene of the fire. Two bodies were found during extinguishing work in the horse stable. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

The rural area has always been assessed as (particularly) worth living in and, in the minds of many people, is a place of security and human closeness, "community, simplicity, modesty and naturalness, in short as the" source of truth, good and beauty "[1] In addition to such romanticized perspectives, there is also a spatial category that refers to a lower population density (cf. German Federal Office for Building and Regional Planning (BBR)) and differs from highly urbanized areas with a high population density. Rural areas are spoken of, for example , if there are less than 5,000 inhabitants, from the intermediate area, if there are between 5,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. For the FRG, it should be noted that 98% of the municipalities have a maximum population of 50,000. Around 60% of the total population of the FRG (48,436,362 People) live in communities with a population of up to 50,000 (according to ZENSUS 2011, territorial status December 31, 2012) t "the" rural or rural area, because there is no homogeneity of the areas that can be described as rural. In addition, rurality or the small town is created by the people living there, because rurality is to be viewed as a social construction. Cohesion, knowing each other and reciprocity are typical phenomena that are thought of together with rurality. This social construction or creation of rurality does not have to be directly related to (administrative) spatial categories and population figures.

(& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

Security mentalities [2] in the urban-rural relationship

The modern metropolis is generally seen as a place of insecurity or crime, while rural areas and small towns are often associated with ideas such as "it is safe here" as well as informal social control and social cohesion. Informal social control largely describes all measures and processes that are not directly organized by the state and which work towards establishing and securing a social order, for example control by "private persons" such as neighbors, parents, friends, acquaintances etc. Social cohesion is a characteristic of groups who, for example, share common values ​​and behavioral requirements, feel part of their community and also feel committed.

The anonymity of the big city or the universal strangeness of its residents to one another ("I don't know anyone here") and the integration into a (rural) community ("here everyone knows everyone") are part of the everyday perception of the population, but also the professional actors (police, judiciary, social work, etc.). The understanding of crime is largely shaped by (large) urban narratives of uncertainty and problem situations. Uncertainty narratives are those stories that are told about places where fear and insecurity are felt, based on actual occurrences ("someone has been attacked before") or fears ("it is dark there and sometimes drunk people stay there") . With a few exceptions (e.g. environmental crime or the "family drama" in the suburbs) it is difficult for us to think differently about the relationship between "big city = unsafe" and "country = safe". These assumptions also influence our security-related perceptions, our opinions and our actions, or in other words: the so-called security mentalities [3]. Security mentality is shown, for example, in the perceived threats, the taking of protective measures, the opinions on crime control or in the expectations of security institutions (e.g. police).

If one approaches the rural / small-town crime rate based on crime statistics data and puts this in relation to the big-city crime rate, the above-mentioned ideas are largely confirmed (see Table 1). An increase in registered crime since the mid-1960s can be traced across a time series, but the crime rate rises constantly with the size of the community. The ratio of 1: 3 in the crime rate, if one compares rural regions and metropolitan regions, remains the same.

Tab. 1 .: Crime levels in the FRG according to community size: Number of known cases of criminal offenses per 100,000 inhabitants, excluding road traffic offenses (total crime rate, east and west after 1990, taken from GESIS-ZUMA Dept. Social Indicators XII Public Safety and Crime, p. 1-2, indicator K001)

A total ofUp to 20,000 inhabitants20,000-100,000 inhabitants100,000-500,000 inhabitantsOver 500,000 residents
Note: "Total" means the frequency of "criminal offenses per 100,000 inhabitants" nationwide. In the other columns this is related to the common size classes. Here it becomes clear that there is a below-average crime rate in small municipalities, while municipalities with more than 100,000 inhabitants have higher frequency figures.

Nevertheless, a simple comparison falls short: Even if the subjective impression of the population that they know each other and that they are able to see the small town and rural areas, the country is viewed as low-risk and "safe", the fact that these (collective ) Perspectives are shaped by the peculiarities of a rural / small-town cohesion mode (see above), which are explained below.

Security perception and the "crime at a distance" phenomenon

Not only is the crime rate lower in small-town and rural areas, the perceptions of insecurity and fear of crime among the population are also much lower (see Table 2).

Tab. 2: Fear of crime Standard question: Is there any area in the IMMEDIATE vicinity - I mean within a kilometer - where you don't want to go alone at night? (based on data from ALLBUS 2008, own evaluation)

ResidentsYes there is hereNo, it doesn't exist heretotal
Up to 20,00016,9%31,6%
From 500,00081,1%68,4%
(n) 1,199 / 100%

Fear of crime, i.e. the fear of falling victim to an assault relevant to criminal law, is to be seen primarily as a metropolitan phenomenon. This can be seen in large population surveys (see Table 2) as well as in interviews and group discussions with rural professional actors (e.g. police, judiciary or social work) as well as with different population groups (e.g. adolescents, young adults, parents, older people). According to the respondents, crime occurs largely "elsewhere". The rural-small town area is described under the premise that "the world is still in order here". This means that you feel relatively safe in rural or small-town areas. This does not remain without repercussions on everyday actions: The police or private security service providers repeatedly describe that this underlying security concept also leads to negligence on the part of residents in rural areas: [...] when I am now walking through the village drive where I live, then I can find the back doors, not the front ones, but from the back doors, if I can pin my thumb 10 percent, I can get in. […] (SIMENTA group discussion: experts).

Alignment of lifestyles and regional differences

Even if the documented crime rate in rural and small-town areas is lower than in large cities, it has risen continuously over the years (see Table 1). This increase coincides with an approximation of rural and (large) urban lifestyles: The rural and small town population is more mobile and here too the lifestyles are becoming more individual, i.e. less traditionally mapped out. Urban centers can be reached by large parts of the population and the social stratifications and social milieus in urban and rural regions have tended to become more similar. Against this background, it is difficult to understand (large) urban and rural lifestyles as opposing (unsafe - safe).

In addition, regional differences between rural and small-town areas must be taken into account: It must be taken into account, for example, whether these are so-called rural or urban growth regions within structural change (for example in the sense of suburbanization movements around regional centers and so-called "suburban belts" around prosperous cities) or regions that are facing significant structural problems (e.g. high unemployment rates, emigration of the population, economic weakness, etc.). The same applies to rural districts close to the border or places that are heavily influenced by tourism and which often have an increased crime rate.