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The contours of disorder: crime maps and territorial policing in South Africa.

Abstract. Organised violence strongly shapes political boundaries. The modern state's monopoly on legitimate violence has made national borders the primary dividing line between peaceful and violent places. However, governments that are unable to achieve such a monopoly may opt for the more modest goal of moderating the distribution of violent behaviour across their jurisdiction. This paper explores how this latter approach redefines the contours of political space through a grounded ethnography of crime control strategies in Johannesburg, South Africa. In the postapartheid era, South African police and vigilantes have synthesised statistically oriented policing logics with the racial policing tactics of the past to anticipate, locate, isolate, and redistribute patterns of violent crime. In so doing, they have created forms of territorial power and violence that are neither new nor old, but undeniably postsovereign.

Keywords: crime maps, governmentality, policing, territory, sovereignty, South Africa


Over the past fifteen years crime statistics have strongly shaped the way South Africans see their place in the world. South Africans commonly use the nation's crime rate--along with HIV/AIDS infection rates and the Gini coefficient of inequality--as a 'barometer' of postapartheid transformation (Comaroff and Comarofif, 2006). In this context, the fact that South Africa's national homicide rate is the eighth highest in the world is a major cause of public concern (UNODC, 2009). (1)

Aggregate, national crime figures like these--and the international comparisons and broad generalisations they tend to invoke--provide the backdrop to an interminable and invariably anguished discussion of crime and security in South Africa. However, more spatially disaggregated crime data may be more powerfully shaping the relationship between institutionalised power and space. When South Africans are not simply reflecting on how they feel about crime levels, but practically planning what to do about the problem, they look for information that locates where the criminals are, where crime tends to happen, and what places are relatively secure. As geographic information system (GIS) technology and data become more readily available, police officers and security-conscious civilians are increasingly using 'crime maps' to determine how to best secure themselves and one another against predators. In the process they are helping to reconfigure the relationship between 'the state' and space. A good example of this dynamic may be found in the activities of a group of street patrollers I observed during an ethnographic study of the high-crime Johannesburg neighbourhood of Hillbrow:

"It was Saturday night, and I was strolling with a group of fifteen unarmed civilian volunteers who aim to reduce crime in their neighbourhood by establishing a visible and physical presence on the streets. The street patrollers' techniques are summed up by
   their rallying cry: 'stop and search each and every person'. As
   they walked, the patrollers fanned out across the sidewalk and
   subjected many people to a full body search. They were physical
   with their 'suspects', turning them around, pushing them up against
   the wall and kicking legs into a spread position.

   Rallying chants aside, the street patrollers could not possibly
   stop and search 'each and every' person they encountered. Instead,
   they usually searched more people in certain parts of the precinct
   and fewer in others. When 1 asked them about these changing levels
   of activity, they explained that they were trying to police the
   'hot spots': city blocks, street corners, collections of stalls,
   and 'bad buildings' where crime rates are higher than average.

   Every night before patrol, the group would meet up with Warrant
   Officer Moroke from the local police station. Moroke would update
   them on crime patterns, often giving them a brief list of the
   locations of recently reported crimes. The patrollers then used
   this intelligence to plan their route for the evening and to decide
   where to concentrate their searches. In the words of one patroller,
   'we draw our operational plan according to the statistics of the

This brief policing vignette provokes at least two preliminary questions. To begin with: why was this group of civilians running a stop-and-frisk patrol? It would be intriguing to find this sort of quasi-vigilantism in any country, but this was particularly strange when considered in light of South African history. Heavy-handed policing was the hallmark of the apartheid state and an aspect of the regime that the patrol group members abhorred. So Lucas, one of the patrol leaders, told me that he first became aware of his hatred of the apartheid government when he was illegally arrested for a pass law offence at the age of fourteen: "because of that [arrest], I had hate, a serious hate for white people. When I'm talking white people I'm talking white government. Serious hate." And yet, Lucas and his compatriots--all of whom are black and working class or unemployed--were now policing their fellow civilians in an equally invasive and rough-handed manner. Why were these antiapartheid activists adopting similar policing practices to those that had been used to victimise them in the past?

I have argued elsewhere that this type of historical continuity in South African policing can be partly accounted for in two ways: (a) selective collective memory: the fact that South Africans have strategically 'forgotten' aspects of their past (Vigneswaran, 2007a); and (b) path dependence: new policing actors learn law enforcement techniques from officials who were trained by the apartheid regime (Vigneswaran, 2008; 2011). These explanations help us understand why the street patrollers may not have automatically viewed their stop-and-frisk tactics as abnormal or wrong. However, they do not fully explain why people like Lucas have come to see these policing tactics as the best way of dealing with the problem of crime. In this paper, I want to deal with this remaining dimension of the problem by exploring how seemingly outdated and unpopular policing practices attain 'scientific' justification and appeal.

My account centres on the street patrollers' use of crime maps. In postapartheid South Africa, crime mapping has emerged as a powerful way of interpreting violence as a spatially distributed social problem. Comparative statistics (COMPSTAT) policing models have become an influential means of designing and legitimating strategies for policing violent crime. In this paper I show how various actors in South Africa's growing security sector have used crime maps to 'repackage' the tactics that were originally designed to enforce racial segregation as ostensibly 'modern' means of reducing violent crime. While this is a process that may have been initiated by elite policy makers, I illustrate how crime maps and their attendant logics have given succour to a range of violent activity occurring outside the ambit of the formal state apparatus. I use this analysis to suggest that the street patrollers' vigilantism is just one example of a specific type of violent disorder generated through the fusion of apartheid policing with updated technologies of crime control.

The broader aim of this paper is to use this study of trends in South African policing to critically discuss the historiography of state territorial forms. For several decades now, political geographers and international relations theorists have sought to determine whether we are seeing broad shifts in the way political institutions are configured in relation to space (Ruggie, 1993). To the extent that these debates pay any attention to countries like South Africa, they tend to represent it as Tagging behind' historical developments or mired in its colonial and apartheid history. This study makes common cause with a brand of scholarship that suggests we should explore how historical legacies might instead provide South Africa with the 'comparative advantage' to become an 'innovator' or 'early adopter' of new geopolitical forms.

This position takes as a central assumption that neoliberalism--broadly defined--is an emergent global political norm. The central thrust of the argument is that various aspects of African political history make it a fertile context in which neoliberal institutions and practices might take root. Given the continent's long-standing traditions of (a) orienting governance towards population rather than territory (Herbst, 2000; Miers and Kopytoff, 1977; Thornton and Thornton, 1998, pages 73-97); (b) divesting public functions to private actors (Bayart et al, 1999; Chalfin, 2006); (c) mimicking models of managerial best practice; and (d) applying rational and mathematical logics to the definition and distribution of political space (Scott, 1994), it seems highly likely that neoliberal models would take root in places like South Africa long before they hollow out the stronger, and more institutionally embedded states that we find in Europe and North America.

This paper attempts to use this alternative historiographical scheme to make sense of empirical data in two steps. First, 1 argue that crime mapping and apartheid can both be understood as 'mental maps'. Much like the Westphalian political map, these maps can be understood as ways of drawing lines between spaces of violent order and disorder. By characterising these very different political systems into a set of ideal types, I develop a way of describing the transformation of territorial state forms in South Africa. In the second section I show how real actors synthesise these ideal types in an empirical account of crime mapping in contemporary South Africa. I show how policing actors fused apartheid and COMPSTAT ideals into an immanent alternative to a sovereign/Westphalian cartographic scheme, and reveal the points of contrast and conflict between these different geopolitical forms. In my concluding remarks I attempt to gauge whether the street patrollers of Hillbrow may be seen as signs of the emergence of globally relevant, neoliberal territorial forms.

Mapping violent order and disorder

The organisation, regulation, and use of violence have strongly shaped how political actors inhabit, claim, and control space (Tilly, 1985; Weber, 1965). This idea is explicit in one of the most widely accepted definitions of political power: Max Weber's claim that the state is a "human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory" (1965, page 2). Weber's definition is usually deployed to define how states order violent behaviour, but it also helps us to understand how the international system conditions patterns of violent disorder. The jurisdictional borders of nation-states have come to be seen as relatively permanent lines between an internal and domestic realm of order, loyalty, and peace, and an external and international realm of anarchy, war, and temporary alliances.

The idea that there is a geographic line which divides realms of domestic order and international disorder is a powerful cartographic abstraction (Walker, 1993), which we might call a 'mental map' (Tuan, 1977; Vigneswaran, 2013). A 'mental map' is a radically simplified way of representing complex relationships between social phenomena and space (in this case the nature of violence) in order to justify specific forms of political organization and action (in this case the armed forces and the police). In the anarchical international realm national armies secure advantage in accordance with the laws of war, while in the ordered domestic realm police forces preserve the peace in accordance with a criminal code.

The fact that governments broadly accept this Westphalian cartography of violence does not ensure that violent behaviour will always correspond to the neat lines of national jurisdictions. As civil wars, transnational organised crime, and global terrorism continually remind us, organised violence consistently defies the boundaries created by a sovereign 'mental map'. Furthermore, every state has its own understanding of where the boundary between domestic order and international anarchy lies. Despite the fact that the Westphalian map holds out the prospect of a finalised, perfect order, in which violence will occur in predictable ways, this outcome has always remained an elusive ideal.

The starting point for my analysis is the claim that the 'Westphalian' mental map is not the only way of drawing distinctions between spaces of violent order and disorder. Historical analyses have illustrated the range of radically different mental images that political systems have deployed towards similar ends. In the early Renaissance era, Italian city-states conceptualised the city as an island of peace in a sea of feudal and rural anarchy (Rosenberg, 1994; Spruyt, 1994; Vigneswaran, 2007b). In the early modern era, European empires thought of their frontiers as zones which separated an ordered and civilized realm from a disordered and barbaric exterior (Keene, 2002; Suzuki et al, 2013). These historical analyses have helped us to demonstrate the contingency of the Westphalian system. However, this brand of research has yet to show us how political actors revive, renovate, and update the mental maps of the past.

It is in this respect that I want to talk in more detail about the relationship between apartheid and COMPSTAT policing. Each of these governing systems offers its own way of differentiating between spaces of violent order and disorder; legitimating organised violence; and generating violent anarchy.

The apartheid map was grounded in a racial ideology. The central legislative tool of apartheid was the Group Areas Act (no. 41 of 1950) which divided the country into a series of racial areas and prevented different groups from freely crossing between these separate spaces (Posel, 1991). Black areas--particularly black urban areas--were painted as the breeding grounds of violent malefactors. Meanwhile, the unauthorised presence of black South Africans in white areas was seen as the primary cause of criminal predation and violent insurgency. The police responded to this cartographic representation of violence by adopting a spatially bifurcated strategic posture. Police resources were heavily concentrated in white areas, where crime control was equated with the harassment and removal of black people. Meanwhile, the police largely vacated black townships, where it was assumed that veritable anarchy could prevail.

When violence spiralled out of control in the townships, the police responded with dramatic and high-powered police actions: raids, dispersals of public gatherings, mass forced removals to distant 'homelands', and the wholesale destruction of 'illegal' settlements (Brewer, 1994). Whereas policing in white areas was somewhat restrained by the presence of a vocal and active minority white electorate, during raids on black townships the police would act with the relative impunity that was deemed appropriate for a putatively lawless realm; and occasionally with the assistance of the armed services. Paradoxically, this blanket authorisation to use force became more 'permanent' during the death throes of the old regime. In the mid-1980s, after decades of neglect, both from a policing perspective and along multiple axes of social development, the 'anarchical' realm of the townships teetered towards civil war as armed ANC cadres and government-supported Inkatha militias fought turf wars in the provinces of Gauteng and Natal. Eventually the government declared a state of emergency and sent troops into the townships. However, their inability to decisively conclude the conflict ultimately hastened the government's decision to negotiate the terms of a democratic transition. In this sense, the violent anarchy that the regime had sought to spatially banish to the periphery, and which its policies actively and indirectly fomented, eventually began to undermine its broader capacity to rule.

During the apartheid era, Westphalian jurisdictional distinctions between 'domestic peace' and 'international anarchy' often did not apply. However, it would do a gross injustice to the historical record to describe this as a simple 'lack' of a sovereign state or 'failure' of the government to implement nation-building projects. The apartheid government deliberately sought to structure the relations of violence in accordance with a very different and characteristically neocolonial map: one that consistently represented spatial distributions of violent behaviour in accordance with its own assumptions about the linkages between race, violence, and place.

In the postapartheid period, a more statistically defined understanding of the causes and distribution of violence has begun to replace this racialised map. 'Crime maps' provide us with a variegated and shaded image of space, consisting of concentrations of ordered/low-crime and disordered/high-crime areas. Jean and John Comaroff put it this way: "if maps of state mark out the terrain of the nation, GIS 'hot spots' show, vividly, the limits of governance. They delineate where order ends, where disorder prevails" (2006, page 230).

South Africa's increased reliance on crime statistics reflects global shifts in policing paradigms. Police forces throughout the world have long associated violent threats with criminogenic spaces (Clarke, 1980; Cohen and Felson, 1979; Shaw et al, 1929) and consistently tailored their policing techniques according to place-specific threat assessments (Herbert, 1997). However, a version of this spatially differentiated style of policing that is specifically dependent on the cartographic representation of crime statistics has been increasing in popularity in recent years. The majority of the research on this topic has taken place in North America and has been policy driven. It seeks to analyse and refine the way that the police use statistics to detect spatial distributions of criminal activity, evaluate the performance of local police, and redistribute policing resources. Work on COMPSTAT policing presents these techniques as means of buttressing policing hierarchies, developing ways of effectively targeting policing resources, and achieving an overall downward trend in the rates of violent crime (Bratton and Malinowski, 2008; McDonald, 2002; Walsh and Vito, 2004; Weisburd et al, 2003). A small number of empirical studies within this literature have explored how junior officials use the same data to justify acts that depart from central policing policy (Dabney, 2010; Willis et al, 2004). However, this literature has generally represented crime mapping as a means of reducing violent disorder and has not explored how it might structure and foment violent disorder as well.

This latter notion has been more fully explored by the literature on 'spatialised governmentality', which critiques how policing regimes like COMPSTAT spatially construct violent threats. This work views crime maps as part of a broader neoliberal tendency to (a) use statistics to represent social problems as geographically distributed phenomena; and (b) explain how the resources of rule might be efficaciously deployed in response to such problems (Elden, 2007; Foucault et al, 2007). As illustrated by developments such as the proliferation of private security companies, the construction of gated communities, and the increased use of 'broken-window', target-hardening, and offender-monitoring strategies, crime maps have been an important legitimating device for a broader process of redesigning public space to mitigate the perceived risks posed by 'threatening populations' (Merry, 2001; Rose-Redwood, 2006; Samara, 2010; Sanchez, 2004). This second literature specifically emphasises the fact that crime maps tend to fragment sovereign authority across space by legitimising a range of private methods of addressing actuarial risk. However, the spatialised govemmentality literature tends to share the COMPSTAT policing literature's focus on the broader order-generating aspects of crime maps, albeit emphasising how crime maps incorporate private and public providers of security in the implementation of a unified response to the distribution of violence across space. In this sense violent disorder remains something that crime maps may depict, but not necessarily something they might recreate.

In this paper I seek to build on this literature by exploring potential ways in which crime maps might help generate violent anarchy. In part my rationale for pursuing this line of analysis stems from a prosaic realism. The development of more sophisticated technologies of violence has always been accompanied by new adaptations and innovations in violent criminality and resistance. In this sense, as crime mapping becomes a more prevalent means of depicting and developing responses to violent crime, we should expect violent perpetrators to update and improve their organisational strategies in response. However, I also want to go beyond this realist scepticism, which applies to any form of mental map, in order to note how crime mapping might structure violent disorder in a unique way.

This secondary point begins with the recognition that COMPSTAT manuals envisage a 'meritocratic market' for protection in which various 'public' actors compete to develop the most efficacious strategies for managing levels of crime. Crime maps may provide elite policy-making factions, junior officials, and nonstate actors with a tool to (a) critique the value of less efficacious laws, policies, and instructions; (b) test the comparative efficacy of different sets of strategies for combatting spatial distributions of crime; and (c) justify displacing those actors who underperform. While such processes of experimentation, critique, and contestation may play out through bureaucratic and democratic channels, they also may lead to more fissiparous outcomes. Indeed, when we see crime maps not in isolation but as part of a much broader trend in neoliberal governance towards the responsibilisation of citizens, then it becomes easier to see how they might generate disorder in policing practice. 'Responsible citizens' are not supposed to wait for their 'superiors' to act, but to use whatever political, financial, and physical resources are at their disposal to efficaciously promote the goal of security--even if this means either placing one's trust in providers of protection who undermine the formal police or taking policing into one's own hands (Johnston, 2001). Crime maps provide the template for a different form of political contestation and struggle over the terms of organised violence--one ostensibly based on the principle of rational and scientific debate but--as we shall see--one that may be prone to the vagaries of subjective opinions and interpretation.

In summary, Westphalia, apartheid, and COMPSTAT may each be understood as broad governance frameworks that draw the line between spaces of violent order and disorder in different ways. In the next section I will build on this typology to explore how violent actors in South African society are synthesising purportedly 'newer' COMPSTAT policing models with seemingly 'older' (and, specifically, apartheid-era) practices to replace the Westphalian way.

The emergence of calculative territoriality in Hillbrow

We can only reveal these sorts of entanglements between historical traditions and more recently adopted technologies if we adopt an appropriate set of data collection techniques. In contemporary South Africa, policy analyses that rest solely on legislation, policy documents, media reports, and key-informant interviews will fail to detect such linkages. The struggle against apartheid has acquired a privileged status in public discourse. Hence, few actors publicly condone policing policies and practices that explicitly draw on the traditions of the past. So, we need to adopt approaches that look beyond surface-level indicators.

This study has attempted to achieve this critical perspective in two ways. First, in order to develop a chronology of policy formation, I combined a review of official statements in parliamentary records, government reports, and newspapers, with a broader sample of documents 1 obtained using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (no. 2 of 2000) and interviewed a number of senior members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) and Department of Home Affairs officials. Second, in order to dig beneath official narratives and learn how broad frameworks are implemented in everyday police work, I draw on observations collected over a period of twelve months of fieldwork, primarily at the Hillbrow police precinct in Johannesburg, but also at Brixton and Johannesburg Central. Practically speaking, this involved spending time with police officers, street patrollers, and security guards on patrol and in their offices, and conducting informal and more extended interviews covering policing strategy and work.

The following account will draw primarily on my findings for the suburb of Hillbrow. I will begin by illustrating how elite policy makers first conceptualised this suburb as a 'blemish' on the national crime map, and then I will gradually work down to more local policing practices and higher resolution maps to show how a senior Hillbrow police officer developed his operational plan for the precinct and, finally, I will explore how the street patrollers used the most finely grained statistics to legitimate their stop-and-search patrols. Each of these accounts will emphasise how crime maps were simultaneously used as a 'science' for the progressive improvement of policing strategy and as 'rhetoric' for the legitimation of a range of policing practices and powers.

The view of Hillbrow from above: a blemish on the national crime map

One of the main aims of the first postapartheid Presidency of Nelson Mandela was to replace the apartheid policing system with a 'law enforcement' approach that viewed the police as servants of the criminal justice system, the armed instrument of South Africa's courts, and the servants of democratic constituencies. The government sought to use this 'Westphalian' model to undermine racial divisions in two ways. First, in order to counter the legacies of having given the police all-purpose mandates to use violence in black areas, it created a system for the systematic monitoring and review of the use of force by the police (Marks, 2005). This change was most clearly evident in the 1998 Amendment to section 49(2) of the Criminal Procedure Act (no. 51 of 1977), which held that arresting officers should "use such force as may be reasonably necessary and proportional in the circumstances" and empowered the courts to sanction officers who broke this rule. Second, the ANC wanted to replace the racially--and thereby spatially--partisan police force with one that was directly democratically accountable to all local constituencies. Here, the key measure was Section 221 of the Constitution (no. 200 of 1993), which mandated parliament to set up community policing fora, that local residents could use to hold their local police accountable. The SAPS supported this second initiative by redistributing policing resources en masse to formerly disadvantaged areas.

In effect, the ANC was seeking to replace the apartheid map with a sovereign version. This new image represented policing practices that were suitable for a 'domestic' environment as the only legitimate form of violence across all areas of South Africa's jurisdiction. As the ANC sought to effect the transition to this new policing model, quantitative measures of police performance took a back seat. However, after Mandela's retirement, a new generation of ANC leaders began to tackle a growing perception that the government had been ignoring the spike in postapartheid crime rates.

In 2000 President Thabo Mbeki's new Police Commissioner, Jackie Selebi, launched the National Crime Combating Strategy (NCCS) (Leggett, 2005; Shaw, 2002). The primary stated objective of the NCCS was to 'stabilise' and then 'normalise' the crime rate. This involved identifying the stations that were reporting the highest recorded rates of priority crimes (between 10 and 20% of the total number of stations). The plan was to reduce these stations' crime rates to the statistical mean by applying high levels of manpower and resources to operational policing. The political agenda behind this policy was evident from the start. Policy makers saw change in the statistical landscape not as a goal in and of itself but as a means of achieving a broader objective: "to improve public confidence in the police and to improve public perceptions of safety" (Pelser, 2000).

The NCCS policy undermined some aspects of the apartheid and sovereign models, while drawing upon and reconstituting others. This plan envisaged replacing the apartheid and sovereign maps with crime maps as their ultimate guide. Manpower would now be distributed to areas where crimes most commonly occurred, not stationed for the protection of the white areas of town or apportioned in accordance with principles of democratic accountability. However, since the police officials who were responsible for developing the details of the crime-combatting strategy had been trained during the apartheid era, they viewed high-impact and dramatic operations as the best way of reclaiming lost ground. More specifically, the plan envisaged deploying the high-powered raiding approach that had been previously used in the townships, but targeting this approach at 'high-crime areas' rather than the 'black' parts of town. Of course, unlike apartheid, the plan also envisaged an end point for the raids that did not involve the total destruction of settlements or removal of populations. In this respect, the NCCS sanctioned a form of proportional use of force, accepting, but substantially reforming, a central principle of the law-enforcement approach. Whereas the law-enforcement model had provided for the courts to use legal benchmarks to decide whether each act of violence was proportional to a specific threat, the NCCS empowered the police to use statistical benchmarks to decide what proportion of violence should be deployed in which parts of the jurisdiction.

This synthesis of old and new policing models was evident in Operation Crackdown: a high-profile series of raids that began in the inner-city Johannesburg precincts of Hillbrow and Yeoville in March 2000. During a period of one week, over 1000 police and army officials put up over a hundred roadblocks and raided almost three hundred buildings in the inner city and stopped and searched over 20 000 people and about the same number of cars (Pelser, 2000). The operation produced thousands of arrests and seizures of contraband and was widely touted in the media as a dramatic example of the government's new willingness to get tough on crime (eg, The Star 2000; Chin, 2000; Mkhondo, 2000; Smith, 2000).

The choice of Hillbrow and Yeoville as targets for these high-profile raids illustrates the fact that considerations of broader political legitimacy helped shape purportedly technologically determined 'rational' decisions. While these two precincts were not reporting the highest crime rates in the country, they were nonetheless politically expedient targets. Both were former 'white areas' that had experienced massive black in-migration (Morris, 1999). As such, for the main constituency of the opposing Democratic Alliance party, these neighbourhoods had become symbols of all that was wrong with the new dispensation (Altbeker, 2005; Leggett, 2003). Furthermore, because of their high proportion of foreign migrant residents, both were areas where the police could subject residents to rough treatment without appearing as though they were primarily victimising black South African citizens. To some extent, by starting Operation Crackdown in Hillbrow, the ANC was sending a message both to potential opponents and to core constituencies.

The NCCS plan helped to significantly displace competing approaches in subsequent years, particularly the law-enforcement approach of the Mandela Presidency. The key notion here was that some areas of South African jurisdiction had become spaces of complete disorder and therefore warranted the (re)introduction of apartheid-style policing techniques, which could depart from the law and neglect institutions of accountability. In this sense, the routine abuses of basic rights--including physical abuse, unlawful eviction, unlawful detention, and unlawful destruction of identity papers--and the systematic neglect of, if not outright contempt for, community protests during these raids (Klaaren and Ramji, 2001) were the anticipated outcomes of an emerging policing model, which declared that some parts of South Africa had receded beyond a statistical pale and required radical police interventions to cleanse them of crime. Drawing on Giorgio Agamben, Loren Landau has likened this to the declaration of a 'state of exception' wherein senior officials demarcate a space within a given jurisdiction where core restrictions on sovereign authority are temporarily suspended (2005). However, the suddenness and temporariness of the raids differentiates Hillbrow from Agamben's 'camp'. Once SAPS officials believed that they had acted with sufficient force to stabilise crime rates in these areas--or more importantly, restore public faith that crime rates had stabilised--the raids stopped. After Crackdown, a range of other actors then began to use more finely grained statistics to defend their own credibility as providers of security.

A mid-level officer's crime map: bad buildings in Hillbrow

As part of the NCCS, policy makers wanted to embed COMPSTAT policing technologies, strategies, and philosophies at all levels of SAPS organisation and strategy. In support of this aim, in 2001 the SAPS began to distribute statistical mapping software and hardware to the priority stations identified by the NCCS plan, including Hillbrow (Breetzke, 2006), and lower level officials began to deploy this technology in their everyday work.

Take, for example, the former Commander of Hillbrow SAPS Station, Oswald Reddy. If one were looking for a candidate to implement a COMPSTAT-style policing approach, Reddy would be the ideal choice. He was trained at Harvard, had frontline policing experience, appreciated the subtleties of statistical analysis, and grasped the nuances of South Africa's new criminal laws. While he had been one of the architects of Operation Crackdown, he also quickly realised its limitations: "Crackdown was not a sustainable strategy. It's sort of a quick fix. You clean up but then the question is what happens thereafter?"

Understanding this scepticism requires a better understanding of Reddy's experiences in Hillbrow. Immediately after being appointed Station Commander in 1999, Reddy had repeatedly ordered raids on the crime hot spots--spatial concentrations of recorded incidents--in his precinct. It was relatively easy to use these data to determine that the crime was primarily located in a few 'bad buildings'. However, raids could not displace the criminal syndicates that used these buildings to run their drug trafficking and protection rackets. The senior members of these syndicates rarely lived in or even visited the buildings. Instead, they paid officials for tip-offs on raids to protect their junior employees from arrest and then intimidated those employees who were arrested to prevent them from becoming police informants.

Recognising this problem, Reddy sought to make more strategic use of crime data to displace these syndicates from his precinct. This involved paying less attention to criminals and criminal networks and more attention to their infrastructure: "I decided let me rather target the buildings. If I take away the building then they got no haven where they can do their deeds." His strategy involved using the forfeiture provisions of the recently passed Prevention of Organized Crime Act (no. 121 of 1998) to ask the courts for the right to seize buildings on behalf of the state. Crucially, developing this case involved the careful use of geocoded data to develop a crime map, which illustrated how seizing the buildings might positively affect crime rates:

"Over a period of time every raid that we did there; every item that we confiscated; all the crime that occurred there; all the cases that came out of that building and around it, we compiled a comprehensive affidavit to say 'listen this place is used as a den of iniquity. And if we seize that we're gonna reduce the crime in the area'."

Reddy's strategy achieved tangible results. He reclaimed many 'bad buildings' for the state and forced several crime syndicates to leave the precinct, producing a significant overall decline in crime rates in Hillbrow during his tenure. Thanks in part to these successes, he was soon promoted to the position of Area Commander.

Reddy's use of crime stats reflects an ideal and innovative application of the crime stat model. However, soon after his promotion Reddy began to realise the limits of his achievements. An approach that had proved effective for one station--and for him professionally--was calamitous for the broader objective of reducing crime in South Africa. The syndicates had simply adapted their tactics in response to his approach:

"so we focused on [Hillbrow] because it's the number one hot spot. What happens with all the [other criminals]? They moved out. They moved out to Durban; to Cape Town; to other places where the police were not so hard line and unfortunately the drug trade took off there. They moved out into the outlying areas. That's where Booysens started. Booysens was very quiet. Booysens was never a problem ... as they saw a gap they took it. Sunnyside, Pretoria [snaps his fingers]. They moved and wherever they moved they started up there."

Reddy had undermined the power base of corrupt networks at his station by using his resources precisely as had been intended by the COMPSTAT model. However, this had unintentionally dispersed a criminal organisation across the country, where it began to thrive. This story adds weight to my claim that the effective use of crime maps may nonetheless promote violent disorder. By judging policing performance on the basis of the distribution of crimes across jurisdictions, COMPSTAT policing may sanction policing strategies that disperse criminal incidence across space, without tackling root causes. As we proceed down the chain of command, and officers deploy calculative approaches at lower levels of policing hierarchy, this can have unexpectedly negative consequences for certain locations, as criminal protection rackets learn, adapt their organisational strategies, and respond.

Reddy's example also illustrates how COMPSTAT policing strategy can provoke unexpected changes in the organisation of violence beyond 'the state'. By taking on Hillbrow's drug dealing syndicates, Reddy was intervening in a dynamic system of mutual protection amongst syndicate bosses, ordinary civilians, and state officials. Of course, while the police can use statistics against nonstate actors, the reverse is also a distinct possibility. As we will see in the next example, this dynamic can become particularly problematic when private providers of protection are competing with the state for 'market share'.

The view from the streets: patrolling hot spots of temptation

Over the last decade a range of nonstate actors has begun to play a larger role in the South African protection market. While the SAPS has remained guarded in its release of statistics to the public at large, private security companies, community policing patrols, and vigilantes have increasingly gained access to local and spatially disaggregated statistics and begun to incorporate crime maps into how they sell their services and legitimise themselves. The final part of this section will explore these trends by returning to the example with which 1 began the paper and investigating how the street patrollers developed their strategy for policing hotspots in Hillbrow.

The patrols began as a community policing initiative in collaboration with the SAPS. None of the original patrollers ever formally 'decided' that a stop-and-frisk foot patrol was the most effective way of policing hot spots. This 'choice' was the product of a combination of resource constraints and policing habits: few of the patrollers owned vehicles; and local officers from the station had taught them how to police in a manner that was similar to the previous regime. Despite the patent illegality of these search techniques, senior officers in the police and wider security industry regularly hand them on informally as 'short-cut' routes to justice in a variety of institutional settings (Homberger, 2011; Matshedisho, 2009; Vigneswaran, 2010). The patrollers experimented with a range of other tactics (including detective work and raids) but came to believe that foot patrols and body searches were the most effective means of reducing crime in Hillbrow.

This was not an easy conclusion to reach. Hillbrow is already a heavily policed neighbourhood. At any given moment, Hillbrow SAPS deploys about 500 members and reservists in over a hundred vehicles across its 15 [km.sup.2] precinct and heavily concentrates these resources in the area where the patrollers work. These SAPS forces are complemented by hundreds of Metro Police, private security guards, government contracted market security, and 'car guards', who combine to create a dense, multilayered, and highly visible policing presence. This leaves any new entrant into this protection market with both an existential and a marketing problem: what distinctive service do you provide?

The street patrollers' answer to this question is implicit in their name. The patrollers were the only group that patrolled on foot all over the precinct's public spaces, including its streets, parks, markets, and gardens. Patrolling on foot had noticeable disadvantages, but also promised a means of generating large numbers of arrests. In part, this had to do with basic strategic considerations. An ambulatory mob has more ways of cornering a potential suspect than any number of vehicles, and is better equipped to chase down a suspect in a high-rise, high-density neighbourhood like Hillbrow. However, in part the effectiveness of this strategy was due to the fact that the patrollers were civilians and not 'police'.

There are at least three facets to this central point. First, the patrollers could readily switch between police and civilian identities. Like the SAPS and Metro Police, the patrollers usually worked in bright reflective vests. However, unlike the cops, the patrollers could readily discard their uniforms when an operation called for an element of surprise, blending into the crowd before emerging en masse to snare an unwary group of suspects. So, while the traders who sell pirated CDs and DVDs on many Hillbrow corners could easily warn one another of an impending SAPS raid, they would often be caught unawares when the street patrollers arrived. Second, the patrollers were not beholden to policing hierarchy. This meant that they were able to police the hot spots that other police officers considered out of their reach. Despite Reddy's best anticorruption initiatives, most Hillbrow officers rarely made arrests on the four street corners in Berea, where drug syndicates sold heroin, crack, and mandrax. In contrast, the patrollers could regularly work these areas and bust petty dealers without fear of reprisals from corrupt officials--or detectives working to build bigger cases through informants--back at the station. Third, other civilians recognised that the patrollers were part of the 'community'. This is not merely a result of the fact that the patrollers lived in Hillbrow while the police officers that worked in Hillbrow resided elsewhere. It is also a product of the fact that many black South Africans categorically reject the legitimacy of the formal police, because most of them have been victimised by a police officer at some point in their past (Steinberg, 2008). So, whereas police officers on patrol depended heavily on what they could see and the information that they received from their colleagues in uniform, the patrollers could make use of a constant stream of information on the night's evolving crime patterns as they strolled about their neighbourhood and chatted with friends and acquaintances.

They usually had a good 'read' on what might be occurring in a particular hot spot well before arriving there and could more rapidly assess situations on arrival, because they knew the parties involved.

The patrollers not only had these operational reasons to believe in the effectiveness of their approach. They possessed statistical evidence. In the words of one patrol leader, "When you compare our stats with the police station--ours are a little bit better--they're much better. Since this programme was initiated in Hillbrow the crime stats are marvellous!" Crucially, this argument was not based on mere numerical correlations. As residents of the neighbourhood, the patrollers were uniquely positioned to determine whether official crime statistics reflected real changes in levels of security across space. For example, they could verify that the downward trend in crime rate in specific areas across the precinct was reflected in their greater confidence to use specific areas, whether this meant being able to send a child with 10 rand to buy groceries from the store without fearing for their safety, or walking certain streets while talking on one's cellphone without feeling the need to look over your shoulder. At the same time, the patrollers could also detect false positives. So, when the Berea drug dealing corners showed up in the official stats with low levels of reported crime, the patrollers knew that this did not necessarily mean that the police were doing their job.

The patrollers were also able to read different types of value into their performance statistics, because they had a different working knowledge of the causal mechanisms that produced hot spots of crime. The officers at the station saw hot spots as places where criminals resided and worked and places where victims were particularly vulnerable to criminal predation. Hence, policing hot spots became a matter of returning to these areas, detecting criminal activity, taking custody of criminals, or warning potential victims to disperse. In contrast, the patrollers interpreted the hot spots through a moralistic lens: as radiating sources of criminal temptation (drugs, sex, and alcohol) and fellow community members as potential victims of this seductive 'heat'. This explains why it was important for them to stop and search each and every person, because in doing so they were protecting fellow civilians from crimes that they might be tempted to commit. Take, for example, Yoliswa's explanation for why she sought to disarm civilians near the hot spots. In her mind, it was the patrollers' way of protecting their fellow civilians from temptation:

"[the knife wielder is] going to say to you that T needed the knife to protect myself and my wife and baby and I'm on my way to the supermarket to buy some formula'. But then if someone comes to him with a gun, he is going to stab them. If someone comes to me with a gun I'm going to stab them, so really we are protecting them."

The patrollers' belief in the need for this protection meant that they also valued a specific type of performance stats. Each and every search was important because each and every seizure of a gun or knife represented another potential violent crime averted. In their minds, these repeated searches, over time--and not necessarily arrests or convictions--were more likely to bring down the violent threat level in their neighbourhood hot spots.

Thus, despite the intensive level of policing resources in Hillbrow, the street patrollers had generated a strong defence of their relatively exclusive capacity to protect their fellow citizens. Crucially, statistical measures of performance across space constituted the backbone of this choice to synthetically blend various elements of other policing models. While adopting tactics that were similar to the pass law police, the patrollers did not use the race of the residential population to decide what constituted legitimate force. While adopting the law enforcement concept of 'proportional force', the patrollers challenged the idea that the courts could measure whether an act of violent policing was proportional or not. The patrollers also picked up on the law-enforcement model's notion of accountability, but interpreted this to mean that local constituencies were best positioned to determine the veracity of official measures of security. Finally, while adopting the crime-combatting model of calibrating levels of violence according to the spatial concentration of crime, the patrollers believed themselves--and not the police--to be the most efficacious actor in eliminating hot spots of crime.

There are strong reasons to believe that the street patrollers will evolve in ways that conflict with sovereign logics and favour options suggested by the more variable contours of order and disorder shown on their crime maps. They see themselves as competitive players in a protection market, whose 'selling point' is their record of reducing crime concentrations--not eliminating competitors from an area or forming relationships with a constituency. For one of the more entrepreneurial members, the future lay in turning the patrollers into a private company. Having observed the increased concentration of street stalls selling pirated CDs and DVDs across the city, he argued that the patrollers should arrest these traders wherever they worked, in the hope that recording and publishing companies would begin to pay them for the service. Some patrollers felt that the group could be dissolved once crime levels had been brought under control. For others, the patrols merely represented a means of personal development, to gain experience and skills that they could use to access jobs in the security sector or police force. For others still, the patrols were a more sinister vehicle to enrichment. These members had started to patrol outside Moroke's purview and visit the hot spots to shake down traders and peddlers for bribes. While these types of thinking are diverse, they all involve viewing crime as a spatially distributed problem, adapting force levels in relation to measured threats, while creatively using policing as a means of personal and partisan advancement. In this respect, all of these measures fit neatly with crime mapping as a way of thinking about violence but produce results that depart significantly from the themes reflected in the COMPSTAT and 'spatialised governmentality' literatures.

A 'new' form of territorial disorder?

This small case study of one particularly violent neighbourhood of Johannesburg has explored how crime maps might provide the basis for a more disorderly policing future. We have seen how crime maps might encourage policy makers to temporarily suspend the law in certain places to rack up points with the public; how a policing model which rewards strategies to dislodge criminal infections can spread organised crime across space; and how a diverse range of actors can use crime maps to undermine the state's monopoly on legitimate violence. In each of these ways, crime maps are a specific type of mental map, and one which follows its predecessors in conditioning the relationship between violent order and disorder while leaving this relationship dynamic and unresolved.

While more senior policy makers, Commissioner Reddy, and the street patrollers all used official crime maps to navigate Hillbrow, each read the map differently and drew a different set of conclusions about the appropriate response. It is highly likely that Reddy's approach was the most 'effective' in reducing violence in Hillbrow. However, this does not mean that his approach will become accepted policy, or that actors who follow his model will necessarily gain in power and status. More extensive use of crime mapping does not necessarily ensure that the more effective forms of policing prevail. In a protection market like this, precise calculations do not ensure certitude or consensus but are the grounds from where a new form of politics begins. SAPS policy makers, station level officials, gangsters, and the street patrollers of Hillbrow are involved in a competitive struggle to decide who is a legitimate territorial actor, and what forms of violence are permissible in Hillbrow. Much like sovereign states engaged in disputes over jurisdictional borders, not all of their claims have equal weight, but each actor possesses just enough evidence to make plausible claims to jurisdiction and to dispute the veracity of their competitors' conflicting accounts.

The potential for disorder in a calculative territorial mode is not a reflection of some latent 'irrational' tendencies in 'African' society. The types of lawlessness, unintended consequences, and political manoeuvring I have identified take root not only in the fallibility and malleability of statistics, but in their accuracy and utility as well. As the drug syndicates' response to Reddy illustrates, when one actor uses statistics to design more effective strategies, other actors in protection markets can always change their territorial practices, shifting the theatre of conflict and spreading violence throughout the system. Meanwhile, it was the very effectiveness of the street patrollers' use of statistics that made them less willing to accept the jurisdiction of their local police, or the authority of South African law. When a calculative territorial mode is working to perfection, it may generate a diverse range of disruptive violence. Again, echoing themes of a sovereign territorial system, disorder is not necessarily a sign of the weakness of this system but a sign that a specific type of mental map is strongly shaping how violent disorder is geographically structured and organised. Of course, the patterns of conflict and competition that I have indicated do not look anything like the internecine warfare that occurs amongst states in a sovereign system, because crime maps define the boundaries between order and disorder in a fundamentally different way.

This brings us back to my original empirical puzzle: how have seemingly outdated forms of policing in South Africa reemerged in conjunction with seemingly advanced technologies of the state? The street patrollers did not see their stop-and-frisk policing as mimicking the actions of the apartheid police, but as leading the way in applying a more modern philosophy of crime control. For the patrollers, the searches were an efficacious way of dealing with crime distributions, and drew little support from an ideology of race. Crucially, crime maps gave them not only a positive means of validating why they should conduct a stop-and-frisk patrol but a negative argument to explain why they ought not to give preference to the human rights of their fellow citizens. The street patrollers did not accept that human rights laws limited their prerogative to conduct searches, because these searches were essential to protecting the residents of the community against the criminal temptations of the hot spots. Furthermore, this strategy of policing was one more way in which the street patrollers differentiated themselves from the formal institutions of the state--the presidency, senior police, and politicians--which might preach the rule of law and human rights, but not know precisely how to root out crime infestations on the streets.

By illustrating how contemporary security providers seamlessly synthesise 'outdated' and 'modern' policing models in the practice of everyday policing, I have sought to generate some material to cast doubt on where we ordinarily place South Africa in relation to broader global trends. If COMPSTAT policing models can fit so neatly with crude vigilantism, perhaps we need to revisit our image of it as a scientific rationalisation of policing practice? If apartheid practices are so compatible with our most generic policing doctrines, perhaps we need to revisit its status as pariah in the family of state forms? Once we abandon the fixation on oldness and newness or on advanced policing methods and backward policing methods in the study of African case material, we can get down to the dirty work of theorising, detecting, and describing patterns of historical change (Cooper, 2005). Indeed, perhaps the most important insight of my analysis of Hillbrow emerges from patterns that run directly counter to our received chronology of state territorial forms. Crime maps presented a serious challenge to the institutions of sovereignty, precisely because South African security providers were able to draw on the vast intellectual and practical resources of the apartheid regime. This last finding--possibly the most disturbing of the study--should provide us with ample grounds to trace the history of emerging calculative territorial modes in a wider variety of places outside of Europe and North America which, like Hillbrow, are experiencing rapid experimentation in the ways violence is organised and disorder remade.

doi: 10.1068/d18311

Acknowledgements. The research on which this article was based was generously supported by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa and the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity. The author would like to thank Diana Aurisch, Christine Hentschel, Julia Homberger, Setha Low, Joel Quirk, Steven Vertovec, and two anonymous referees for their comments on previous drafts.


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Darshan Vigneswaran

University of Amsterdam, Binnengasthuis, Oudezijds Achterburgwal 237, 1012DL Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and African Centre for Migration and Society, Wits, 2050, Johannesburg, 2000, South Africa; e-mail:

Received 13 September 2011; in revised form 3 July 2013; published online 20 December 2013

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