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

Sunniva Frislid Meyer


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.


deviance; public space; typology; signal crime; signal disorder

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