“Ghetto” or getaway?: Constructions of crime and danger in an east coast vacation village
Our sociological understanding of crime and anti-crime initiatives is generally derived from studies of poor and middle class urban neighborhoods fending off the ills of urban existence. In contrast, this dissertation examines community-based responses to crime in an east coast vacation community. Gardner Village1, through its economic struggles, history of racial tension, open drug-dealing markets, and handful of violent incidents, attained a reputation as crime-ridden. To remedy this reputation, revive a once-thriving tourism industry, and "make our community a safer place to live," local residents formed a set of anticrime groups. Drawing on three years of ethnographic research, I explore the local, structural, and cultural factors that support the birth and continued existence of community groups aimed at combating crime. Findings reveal the processes through which residents use mainstream rhetoric about crime and criminals to understand a local problem, how they resist challenges to their punitive and fearful view, and how these patterns ultimately translate into the reproduction and extension of dominant cultural sensibilities about crime and support for crime control policies that expunge and punish segments of the population perceived to be problematic.
1The name of the research site and the names of all informants have been changed to preserve confidentiality.