The desire to work in the fast-paced world of criminology has led Griffith University PhD scholar Rebecca Wickes on a new career path.

As a student with psychology and social science degrees in hand, the decision to do a PhD in criminology was a natural progression.

“Many of the subjects that I enjoyed most during my undergraduate years were those centring on social exclusion and inclusion and their association with crime or pathology,” Ms Wickes said.

“Therefore, understanding how community structures and processes impacted upon the life chances of residents was a logical choice for my PhD. Coming on board with the team at Griffith to develop this interest further seemed the only way to go!” Ms Wickes said.

Her thesis titled – An exploration of collective efficacy, social capital and crime across South-East Queensland – examined how strong or weak community ties affected perceptions of crime levels.

One of her main findings was that a working trust among neighbours was more important than strong social bonds. She surveyed almost 3000 residents in 82 Brisbane communities supplemented by extensive interviews with local residents and stakeholders in two communities.

Where social ties were not explicit she said people still felt a strong sense of community. This correlated to low levels of perceived crime.

Ms Wickes said she hoped her work would advance the literature on the changing nature of social relationships in contemporary communities.

“My research helps explain the relationships necessary to evoke a collective community response to local problems. It will give policy makers a better understanding of how to gain support for action around particular crime prevention tasks.”

After she graduates this year, Ms Wickes will begin work as a lecturer in criminology at the University of Queensland.

“Of course, I will also continue my relationship with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice here at Griffith University through future collaborative projects,” she added.