Australian and New Zealand Critical Criminology Conference
Monash University, Faculty of Arts
Place of publication
The clear presence of vengeance as an underlying motive behind calls for self-help in the immediate aftermath of some violent homicides indicates that community protection is largely irrelevant where vigilantism is associated with these 'signal crimes'. This paper documents the characteristics of five major cases between 2006 and 2007 where the threat ofcommunity-generated vigilante activity received media coverage, the nature of that coverage, the role of police in cautioning the public to reassert their legitimacy and monopoly over the correct procedures for conducting criminal investigations and the implications of these issues in light of the moral 'outrage' associated with the status of the victim in each case. In an era of increased community concern about crime, it appears vigilantism is an important rhetorical indicator of the level of collective insecurity prompted by fatal assaults, especially in regional areas characterised by underlying racial tensions and cases involving vulnerable child victims. However, when viewed alongside the virtual victimhood promoted by stylised press reporting, it appears 'vigilantism' is a pertinent signifier of public anxiety over the timing, location and antecedents of some serious violent crimes, rather than a descriptor of any substantive community-generated measures aimed at promoting greater levels of public safety.
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