The conceptual development of criminological scholarship is inextricable with city life. Studies of crime and its control in rural and remote contexts are rare, and often positioned against an urban norm. This is particularly evident in relation to police research. While a rich body of work has explored how the cultural pressures of police work are pivotal in understanding what policing is and how it works, the elements of working life that have come to be seen as central to these questions are derived from urban environments. all our foundational work had been instead been conducted in remote contexts, what would we notice? What phenomena would become important in understanding social control?
Drawing on an ethnographic study of policing in the remote Northern Islands of Scotland, this paper explores the experience of policing in a context which is peripheral to the preoccupations of criminological research. It explores what policing becomes where communities are tiny, scattered and tight-knit, where there are extremes of weather, light and darkness, and where crime rates are low and resources scarce, and considers the challenges these experiences raise for the conceptual vocabulary of criminological research.