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The perception of crime, criminals and criminality in Kalgoorlie, Western Autralia

O'Connor, Michael Edward (1981) The perception of crime, criminals and criminality in Kalgoorlie, Western Autralia. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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The thesis analyses the perceptions of crime, criminals and criminality held by three hundred and forty five respondents in Kalgoorlie, Western Australia. The data were collected in 1976, through a fixed format questionnaire among a non-random sample of the population. The sample consists of Kalgoorlie Town councillors, justices of the peace, members of community service organisations, the professions, the media, personnel of the departments of community welfare and corrections and students attending the final two years of high school. A response rate of approximately ninety percent was achieved.

A labelling interactionist conception of deviance, with an emphasis on social types in framing a system of social control within a community, forms the theoretical framework of the thesis. The social type of the thief, vandal, prostitute, violent criminal, swindler, and rapist is assessed, as well as respondents’ perceptions of the general crime situation and criminal justice system in their community.

Respondents displayed a capacity to distinguish between the different types of offenders and crimes studied in this research; to respond to quite detailed questions relating to the social characteristics of these offenders; to present a reasonably accurate assessment of the crime rate and to present images of offenders, and explanations for criminality, that did not depart radically from what could be inferred from official data and the writings of criminologists and sociologists. The significant differences in response were found mainly between student and adult respondents and, to a lesser extent, especially when controlling for student-adult categories, male and female respondents. The transition from adolescence to adulthood may mark significant changes in the perception of crime and criminality, with the sex of the respondent failing to produce a uniform effect on this change.

The results suggest that the commonly held view that the public's perception of the crime situation is inaccurate should be questioned. The findings indicate that the relationship between general and particular perceptions of criminals as social types. the sequence of developments that take place in framing these perceptions and their influence on respondents' participation in the criminal justice process needs to be researched, if we are to fully appreciate the general audience 's part in the social construction of social control within a community.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Inquiry
Notes: Note to the author: If you would like to make your thesis openly available on Murdoch University Library's Research Repository, please contact: Thank you.
Supervisor(s): Raser, John
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