Sun, Mar 24, 2019 - Page 6 News List

New rules for ‘special businesses’

By Lin Tsang-song 林滄崧

Over the past few weeks, there have been numerous reports of violent incidents, including brawls, at adult-oriented entertainment venues, which in Taiwan are collectively known as “special businesses.” Police departments have responded to the spate of violent incidents by conducting frequent raids on special businesses to deter such incidents.

Of course, there is nothing new about this strategy of intensified raids; it has long been the measure most often employed by Taiwanese police to deal with criminal incidents at special businesses.

However, although this strategy might have an immediate effect of suppressing crime and restoring social order, it is generally only effective in the short term and some commentators have raised doubts over its long-term effectiveness.

Violence and brawls at special businesses need to be handled in a different way from conventional incidents of street violence, because they are characterized by a high degree of spontaneity, emotionality and often break out between people who do not know each other, or do not know each other well. In terms of current criminological theory, violent incidents of this sort are generally a result of poor emotional processing. In such cases, the two conflicting parties might not harbor deep hatred for one another or be involved in disputes over things like heavy debts. The theory is that they occur when the two sides misinterpret the situation and respond badly.

In 1977, US criminologist David Luckenbill published a paper titled Criminal Homicide as a Situated Transaction, in which he analyzed violent crimes from the point of view of emotional processing. Based on his research, Luckenbill took the view that violent crimes result from emotional interactions between the two conflicting parties, as well as third parties, such as onlookers. He found that the modes of behavior of the two conflicting parties are stimulated and influenced by each other’s actions, and are focused on saving face, maintaining their reputations and demonstrating their strength of character. Under such circumstances, they find that resorting to violence is the most effective way to resolve issues of face and character.

In the late 1960s, Canadian-American sociologist Erving Goffman proposed the concept of a “character contest.” The idea is that when the two sides come into conflict, they both want to maintain face and their reputation, and cannot allow themselves to appear relatively weak in character, so the use of violence becomes a natural choice.

This is especially true at special businesses, whose mostly young customers are surrounded by their peers and members of the opposite sex. In such an environment, there is likely to be a greater potential for conflict.

While criminology suggests that “club violence” should be handled by emotional control, the police establishment’s strategy of frequent raids only has the short-term effect of situational control. Of course, the police cannot control things by standing guard at the doors of special businesses all day every day, so the business operators must bear responsibility for controlling situations. In other words, when operators become aware of signs of illegal activity or conflict, such as when customers are carrying narcotics or suspicious people enter the premises, or when a conflict situation gradually escalates and is going to get out of control, they have a duty to report it to the police.

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