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Crime and PunishmentCrime prevention in the community Return to the main page
Case Study 1 - In what ways did the local community try to prevent crime? Task Glossary
  The roots of local responsibility for crime prevention seem to lie in Anglo-Saxon customs. Many of these were continued after 1066 by the Norman rulers who needed a system to control the largely Anglo-Saxon population.
1. Every male over the age of 12 had to belong to a group of nine others, called a tithing. These ten men were responsible for the behaviour of each other. If one of them broke the law, the others had to bring that person before the court. The sanction, to make the system work, was that if they did not, they would all be held responsible for the crime. This usually meant paying the victim of a crime for their loss.
2. The community was also responsible for doing their best to chase after a criminal. If the victim of a crime "raised the hue and cry" -called out for help -- everyone nearby was supposed to join in the chase. Again, if they did not make an effort then the whole community was held responsible for the crime.
3. If the criminal got away, the king's representative, the sheriff, could call upon everyone to join a "posse comitatus" to pursue him.

The system was obviously well-suited to a time when there were few government officials and everybody knew everybody else in small, stable local villages.
The growth of towns in the later Middle Ages brought some changes, but even then each "ward" or area of a town was expected to react to the "Hue and Cry" just like a village community. Such officials as were appointed were responsible to the town government and were often part-time.
This local, small-scale, more democratic, community-based system was much admired by some people in later centuries when a more remote, centralised crime prevention system was being put in place (see Gallery
Prevention 1750-1900)

Case Study 1 Sources
Source 1 Source 2 Source 3