Neoliberalisation of Security, Austerity and the ‘End of Public Policy’: Governing Crime in Memphis (TN, USA) Through Predictive Policing, Community, Grants and Police ‘Mission Creep’

Keywords: Urban policy, crime prevention, low-intensity austerity, public safety, United States


The government of security and safety constitutes a privileged angle from which to study the links among government, public policy and urban dynamics, particularly in places where neoliberalisation intersects with historical racial and class tensions – as is the case in many US cities. I am concerned with the connection between (racialised) security politics and the institutional transformation of local security policymaking. I use the case of Memphis (TN, USA), which is paradigmatic of the neoliberalisation of security and permanent ‘low-intensity’ austerity; present four practices and trends – ‘predictive’ policing, rhetoric about ‘community’ self-defence, safety ‘grants’ and the ‘mission creep’ of the militarised police department; and discuss continuities/discontinuities with regard to long-term trends of restructuring crime control in the USA. The case of security policymaking allows me to argue that austerity and neoliberal rule tend to replace public policy – intended as a course of action stemming from conscious choice by the government – with a complicated patchwork of state intervention/disengagement, whose ultimate effect is the ‘end of public policy’ proper. 

Author Biography

Simone Tulumello, Universidade de Lisboa, Instituto de Ciências Sociais; University of Memphis, Department of City and Regional Planning
Post-doc research fellow
How to Cite