This introductory chapter illustrates the state of crime and punishment in Belfast. A major by-product of the political and civil conflict in Northern Ireland has been a lack of consensus among the population over who should police ordinary crime and how. This is clearly evidenced among the predominantly Nationalist and Republican inhabitants of West Belfast, who have consistently sought to prevent crime and punish offenders by employing a variety of informal strategies, rather than rely upon the police service. The most notorious of these informal approaches are shootings, beatings, and exclusions by Republican armed groups. The chapter then discusses the research methods and data behind the succeeding chapters.
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