Revanchist sanitisation or coercive care? The use of enforcement to combat begging, street drinking and rough sleeping in England

Johnsen, S., & Fitzpatrick, S.

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Johnsen, S., & Fitzpatrick, S. (2010). Revanchist sanitisation or coercive care? The use of enforcement to combat begging, street drinking and rough sleeping in england. Urban Studies, 47(8), 1703–1723.

This paper examines recent responses to 'problematic street culture' in England, where increasing pressure has been exerted to prevent people from begging and street drinking in public spaces, with rough sleeping also targeted in some areas. Drawing upon in-depth interviews with enforcement agents, support providers and targeted individuals, it assesses the extent to which the strategies employed are indicative of a Revanchist expulsion' of the deviant Other and/or an expression of 'coercive care' for the vulnerable Other. It concludes that, whilst the recent developments appear, at first glance, to be symptomatic of revanchist sanitisation of public space, closer examination reveals that the situation is actually much more complex than a revanchist reading of the situation might suggest, and perhaps not as devoid of compassion.

Main finding
Despite revanchist overtones in England's Anti-Social Behavior Order, the study reveals substantial concern for the well-being of both residents and street users. Most stakeholders opposed over-enforcement, particularly for the homeless, and valued supportive interventions. Police did not simply enforce the order on anyone who disturbed the aesthetics of public space, but targeted street users who posed a threat to themselves or others. Police used escalated enforcement, restraining themselves from engaging when unnecessary. Enforcement strategies were generally accompanied by outreach and support services. Some street users were thankful for being coerced into care, but the enforcement strategies also had negative consequences. Restricting begging encouraged some to commit petty crimes for money, and surveillance pushed some into less policed but more dangerous locations. Overall, the authors found consensus for some degree of enforcement of street activities. They suggest future studies use empirical approaches to study policies addressing street culture.

Description of method used in the article
The authors conducted in-depth interviews with support providers and enforcement agents (n = 82) to understand the causes and effects of enforcement strategies. Focus groups were conducted with community stakeholders (n = 27) to understand their perspective of, and response to, street culture. Additional focus groups and in-depth interviews were conducted with street users (n = 66) to understand their experience of enforcement initiatives.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression
Physical types
Geographic locations