Crime, Control, and the City

The details
Sociology and Criminology
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 4
Thursday 03 October 2024
Friday 13 December 2024
06 June 2024


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA MV91 History and Criminology,
BA MV92 History and Criminology (Including Placement Year),
BA MV98 History and Criminology (Including Foundation Year),
BA MV9C History and Criminology (Including Year Abroad),
BA LV31 History and Sociology,
BA LV32 History and Sociology (Including Placement Year),
BA LV38 History and Sociology (Including Foundation Year),
BA LV3C History and Sociology (Including Year Abroad),
BA L2CH Social Sciences,
BA L2CS Social Sciences,
BA L2ES Social Sciences,
BA LFCH Social Sciences

Module description

City space matters to criminology: it is the physical and symbolic locus where crime and disorder take place, where social conflicts manifest and aggravate, where social control and resistance to it are exercised, and where broader social harms and suffering are produced.

This module examines local responses to the governance of crime, seeking to understand conceptions of urban 'disorder' by attending closely to how communities experience rapidly changing and expanding city environments. The course contrasts public experiences of crime and crime control in the context of highly securitized, enclaved, and surveilled urban spaces in London, Karachi, Maputo and other unequal global cities. Drawing on theories and methodologies from criminology, sociology, and urban studies, the course asks students to consider the possible futures of public and private urban landscapes in the context of rapid urban development.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To critically engage students with the literature addressing crime, disorder, insecurity and social control in the city.

  • To enable students to critically analyse and understand contemporary forms of social control and governance of crime, insecurity, and disorder in the urban milieu on a global scale.

  • To provide students with opportunities to examine the role of the sensory and emotive dimensions to the understanding of the social constructions of urban space and deviance, as well as the social control of crime and disorder.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be expected to be able to:

1. Understand how definitions of crime, insecurity, and disorder intersect with urban inequalities.

2. Understand how crime, deviance, and social control are intertwined with cultural meanings and representations of cities and urban spaces.

3. Conceptualise the complex relationship between urban space, harm, disorder and social control.

4. Demonstrate the ability to engage with methodologically innovative and international research on cities, crime, and control.

Module information

Syllabus Information

Theorizing the City

This first session will provide an overview of the module and will review the main criminological and sociological theories of crime, disorder and urban space.

Urban Space, Governance and Social Control

This second session will be focused on the literature on urban development in Europe, with case studies from Southeast Asia and East Africa. It will look into how urban regeneration transforms urban landscapes, and the effects of this governance for marginalised individuals and groups in the city. To understand social exclusion and social control in the contemporary city, this session will bring together interdisciplinary insights from sociology, criminology, urban studies and human geography.

Fear & Emotions in the Urban Realm

In this session, we will consider how emotions shape individual's experiences in and of the city, as well as definitions of 'problematic' or uncivil behaviour and its social control. The session will question the legitimacy of exclusionary anti-social regulations based exclusively on the emotional reactions of people holding power positions in society. How can we think critically about who and what comes to be defined as 'uncivil', and how emotion may be used in a pro-social way: to promote inclusion, diversity and tolerance?

Methodologies for an Urban Criminology

This session will be focused on traditional and innovative methodologies to research harm, crime, disorder and social control in the city. Students will use this session to begin to conceptualize their own observational studies of urban spaces in Colchester or London.

Urban Informality

This session will cover the different ways in which urban communities have resisted and engaged different forms of state control, as well as creating their own security arrangements within informal communities. Sites of intense political, economic and social struggle, this session seeks to develop a comprehensive understanding of the different ways that informal and formal groups converge in attempting to govern contested urban spaces.


What is enclaving, and how does it shape experiences of urban life? Urban enclaves may appear to outsiders as utopic, well-controlled spaces. However, taking a closer look at urban enclaves reveals a more complex reality for both residents and the broader urban environment in which they are situated. Students will examine the social, economic, and political consequences of the re-organization of space through enclaving in urban environments.

Urban Segregation and Securitization

What are the different strategies local communities use to generate 'security' in insecure spaces? How do these relate to experiences in starkly unequal global south cities? Drawing on the securitisation strategies adopted by middle-class residents of gated communities and relating these to those adopted by working class residents living in informal 'slum' settlements, students will consider how diverse engagements with security and control intersect with patterns of urban segregation to reproduce urban insecurity.

Policing Divided Cities

What models have cities used to address the 'problem' of security in increasingly divided urban spaces? The session will focus on postcolonial policing models, corporate mobilizations of security, and informal security practices in London and Karachi.

Governing Formal and Informal Economies

Using night-time economies as a case study, this session will examine why attitudes to different kinds of licit and illicit activities vary and change in different cultural settings. Focusing on how authorities respond to and seek to contain different social behaviours, the final sessions explore shifting strategies towards the governance of crime that focus increasingly on modifying emotion and behaviour.

Urban Futures

Smart cities are only one of many urban innovations designed to make work and leisure more efficient through the use of digital communication technologies. In recent years, 'smart' cities have increasingly been presented as risk-free and safe – in essence, one example of an imagination of the city of the future. Looking closely at smart cities, as well as other urban imaginaries, students draw on theories and concepts developed throughout the course to critically consider the social, cultural and environmental effects of new predictive technologies in urban spaces.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

1. One 1-hour lecture per week
2. One 1-hour class per week

The lecture will introduce students to key concepts and relate these to empirical examples of how these apply in specific urban contexts. The class will follow this. It will work to clarify concepts and deepen student learning by involving students in small group activities and class discussion.

Students will also have access to a range of teaching and learning resources outside of the classroom. They will be provided with links to relevant short blogs, films, documentaries, and news reports for each week's topic through the module Moodle page. If possible, students will also be offered an optional city walk (in London or Colchester), along with the screening of a relevant movie. These activities will enable further investigation of topics addressed during classes.

These learning and teaching methods will foster inclusivity through:

  • Making available module outlines and Moodle pages that clearly present logically structured weekly topics, and related learning expectations from students.
  • Making a variety of learning materials (such as films, documentaries, blogs, fiction, and news articles) available via Moodle.
  • Presenting best practices on how to relate theoretical concepts with real world experiences and contexts.
  • Offering support to students via clearly communicated office hours, Moodle forum, and access to the Department's study support manager.


This module does not appear to have a published bibliography for this year.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   Journal     80.00% 
Practical   Video Presentation    20.00% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Samuel Singler, email:
Dr Jason Sumich, email:



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 8 hours, 8 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Sociology and Criminology

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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