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Thin White Line: Juvenile Crime, Racialised Narrative and Vigilantism -- A North Queensland Study

NCJ Number
Current Issues in Criminal Justice Volume: 11 Issue: 3 Dated: March 2000 Pages: 308-326
Richard Hil; Glenn Dawes
Date Published
March 2000
19 pages
This paper examines how indigenous juvenile crime has been represented in many quarters as virtually synonymous with a more general "crime problem," with attention to how such representations have fueled the phenomenon of vigilantism in a North Queensland community.
Governmental responses to juvenile crime have included harsher penalties; changes in policing policy and practice, particularly in relation to youth in public places; and the strengthening of police-community relations. At the "informal" neighborhood level, a range of non-state-sponsored responses have also emerged to address juvenile crime in local areas. This paper draws attention to one radical variant of localized informalism, namely, "vigilantism." Specifically, the paper profiles vigilantism in an outer suburb of a North Queensland city in which the reactive actions of local residents were readily transformed into a racialized form of autonomous crime control. This involved the identification of both offenders and the "crime problem" in terms of their essential racial character. For local residents, the threat and/or actual occurrence of crime was regarded as synonymous with the very presence of indigenous families, especially indigenous youth. This paper argues that it is important to acknowledge the historically contingent nature of racialized accounts of "black crime," in so far as they are informed by a long-established belief that indigenous people inherently constitute a serious threat to social order. 60 references