Formal and informal guardianship

Maud Bavel

Promotor: prof. dr. Henk Elffers (NSCR) & prof. dr. H. Boutellier (FSW-VU)

The PhD project on ‘formal and informal guardianship’ is a collaboration between the Faculty of Social Sciences of VU University Amsterdam and the Netherlands Institute for the Study of Crime and Law Enforcement (NSCR). The concept of ‘Guardianship’ stems from the routine activity theory’s crime triangle, created by Felson and Cohen (1979), and posits that three elements need to converge in order for crime to occur: a motivated offender meets a suitable target in the absence of a capable guardian. Cohen and Felson (1979) defined guardianship as “any spatio-temporally specific supervision of people or property by other people which may prevent criminal violations from occurring”. The guardian is thus the one actor that can prevent a crime from occurring, even by simple presence.

A substantial amount of research has been carried out on guardianship by civilians, also known as informal guardianship, but considerably less attention has been given to the formal counterpart. The current research focuses on both the formal and informal guardian, as well as the interaction between the two. Through the use of interviews, observations and social experiments, the overall relationship between the two guardians but also the influence of the formal guardian on the decision of the informal guardian to exercise his or her guardianship when faced with criminal violations, will be explored.