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Volunteer street patrols: an ethnographic study of three Manchester volunteer street patrols and their role in community safety and the policing family

Westall, Adam John (2019) Volunteer street patrols: an ethnographic study of three Manchester volunteer street patrols and their role in community safety and the policing family. Doctoral thesis (PhD), Manchester Metropolitan University.

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Abstract

The aim of this ethnographic research is to explore the actions, contribution, motivations and relationships of volunteer street patrols in the urban environment. The study followed three independent and diverse volunteer street patrol groups, located in the city of Manchester, UK, during their routine weekend evening patrols around the city. The research is set in a time when policing and the criminal justice system is under pressure following an extended period of austerity and cuts. As such, the voluntary sector has an ever-increasing role to play in supporting and substituting the state. The volunteers in this research are considered from the perspective of responsibilised citizenry, where the continual processes of empowerment and participation feature in their motivations to help others. The research uses participant observation over a twelve-month period to explore the actions of the volunteers whilst on patrol in the city. Semi-structured interviews complement the observations and provide rich information on what motivates volunteers to participate. Their relationships with each other and with the local police, ambulance service and other stakeholders in the city are considered. They provide an insight into the stories, opinions and experiences of the volunteers. The findings demonstrate how the presence of volunteers allows them to act as a guardian on the city’s streets, reducing opportunities for anti-social behaviour, harm and vulnerability. The actions of volunteers centre around reassurance, care, well-being and support. Their motivations show a collective efficacy and continual willingness to act to address the city’s problems, which the volunteers have an increased awareness of and a strong desire to address. While their independence remains key, accountability and legitimacy in their relationships with others form a local governance structure that must be maintained, managed and developed.

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