Understanding Fear and Unease in Open Domains: Toward a Typology for Deviant Behaviour in Public Space



deviance, public space, typology, signal crime, signal disorder


The aim of the study described in this paper is to construct a typology for deviant behaviour that causes unpleasant incidents in public space. To investigate what sort of unpleasant incidents people might encounter, the study used a qualitative survey methodology whereby Norwegian respondents were asked to describe unpleasant incidents. Other studies often use data on criminal incidents that have been extracted from official records and thus ignore incidents that may cause fear without being serious enough to be reported. This study has demonstrated that to understand what makes people uncomfortable in public space we must study incidents that are deviant without breaking the law, as well as criminal behaviour. All types of deviance make people change their behaviour, but deviance motivated by sexual gratification seemingly makes people change their behaviour more frequently. Hence, policymakers should focus not only on preventing crime, but also on preventing deviant acts that create fear and thus restrict individual freedom.

Author Biography

Sunniva Frislid Meyer, Institute of Transport Economics, Norway

Sunniva Meyer, PhD, is a security researcher specializing in security and well-being in public space. Her dissertation was about the protection of public targets against terrorism. Her research interests include mapping of incidents and perceived security, confidence-building measures, and tradeoffs between security and other urban values (accessibility, aesthetics, conservation).


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