The N8 Policing Research Partnership is pleased to announce that the 5th round of Small Grants have now been awarded. We received a number of strong applications this year and, as with previous years, it was a difficult task deciding which of the proposals to fund. After hearing feedback from an external panel and also from the N8 PRP Steering Group, a decision was made to fund the following two projects:
(1) Knife crime imagery and messaging: Effective intervention tools or ineffective sensitisers?
- Mike Parker – South Yorkshire Police (Lead Partner)
- Dr Matthew Bacon – University of Sheffield
- Owen Miller – Thames Valley Police
- Dr Kate Whitfield – Sheffield Hallam University
The project aims are to investigate the effects knife crime (KC) images have on perceptions of the prevalence of knife carrying, fears and attitudes about knives, and information recall about KC campaigns. Further, this research will assess how knife imagery can impact upon perceptions of KC informational messaging that is often used alongside imagery in police campaigns. These results will inform police forces and other organisations about the impacts of including knife imagery in releases/campaigns. The potential impact is incredibly wide ranging, from considering imagery use in interventions, campaigns (such as Fortify), and even for media releases by local, national and international news media, and will therefore be of interest and importance to every organisation that engages with or reports about KC. This project will require academic partners to: support policing partners in the development of two related experiments; pilot them; deliver them in schools and deliver them with KC involved young people (YPs); develop and run follow up focus groups; and analyse all results. To develop the experiments, we need to generate suitable knife crime imagery, and a set of questions exploring KC perceptions and recall of stimuli information. The experiments will also continue current work developing a measure to assess attitudes to KC, which when complete can be used to assess attitudinal shift towards KC in interventions/campaigns with YPs. As attitudinal shift can be used as an indicator of subsequent behavioural shift this measure will be an important tool in assessing the efficacy of future KC interventions. The focus group questions need to be developed from the early results of the experiments. All studies need to be delivered in schools (they have already agreed to take part) across South Yorkshire and Thames Valley by a Research Assistant (RA) with support and input from police staff.
(2) Tackling the Developing World of OCG’s through a multiagency strategy
- Darren Downs – Humberside Police
- Xavier L’Hoiry – University of Sheffield
- Marcella Goligher – HMP Humber
- Simone Santorso – University of Hull
- Tony Oliver – HMP of Hull
- Alicia Kidd – University of Hull
The project seeks to lay the ground for a new and innovative multiagency strategy to tackle criminal networks coordinating the action of police and prison service. This will be possible through the achievement of two objectives: the creation of a structure matrix of Humber region criminal network and the improvement of disruption and dispersion strategies within and beyond prison walls. Although criminal networks in prison are not a new phenomenon, organised crime and gangs (OCG) are increasingly treating prisons as a place for potential lucrative activities and proliferation (Campion and Mercia, 2019), such as recruiting new members (Wood et Al., 2014), creating joint ventures with other organisations and expanding their activities towards new markets (Gaston and Huebner, 2015). Accordingly, for the UK government, prisons have emerged as a new frontline in fighting organised crime, intensifying the difficulties of tackling OCG networks. The risk that convicted criminals with a known link to organised crime go on to reoffend is considered serious and it becomes critical to track and manage OCGs within and beyond prisons. Recent successes in fighting criminal networks (Kirby and Snow, 2016) demonstrate the potential for a new coordination between police and prison intelligence to consolidate disruption and dispersion of OCG activities (College of Policing, 2018). At present, intelligence coming from different law enforcement agencies is not systematically shared or jointly collected and there is little cooperation among law enforcement agencies despite the substantial potential value in developing consistent disruption strategies through effective multi-agency working.
More broadly, the creation of a structure matrix of OC seeks to provide an up-stream solution to the ongoing challenge of OCGS proliferation. As well as serving the purposes of the project, this approach will also open a new pathway for the introduction of innovative ways to investigate OCGs or other criminal networks; for example, it will support police/prison intelligence by using Social Network Anlysis (SNA) and this will create new protocols and practices for collaboration and data sharing between the different law enforcement agencies, particularly between the HM Prison Probation Service (HMPPS) and the Humberside Police (HP). The project brings together criminologists with expertise in policing, prison and organised crime with CJS practitioners and officers with expertise in investigating OCGs to push the boundaries of crime prevention and criminal network disruption. The study has been co-designed with the participating police and prison forces and it is closely aligned to the Humberside Police’s desire to develop innovative strategies to fight criminal network. The project clearly puts research end-users at the centre of the research design and methods by having two law enforcement agencies and academics working on the project. The study has significant scope for impact both within HP and HMPPS and beyond, as it will help to test out the prison service’s ‘disrupt and disperse’ protocol in terms of impact and outcomes with the aim of identifying how to develop interventions beyond the current strategies towards more effective outcomes. This will support law enforcement agency in understanding the profile of the relationship between recognised OCGs and the recruitment and development of new members within the custodial setting and the level of grooming / radicalisation that takes place. Finally, the new strategies will help in preventing the harm caused by OCGs in the wider community following release and re-locating their prison-based activity into the local community of Hull and Humberside.
Overall, the project outcomes will be:
- To protect people at risk of becoming victims of OCG
- To preserve community safety by reducing OCG- related serious violence (i.e. knife crimes)
- To prevent vulnerable segments of the population from getting involved in and exploited by criminal networks
- To prevent the association and expansion of OCG capabilities. As such, there is clear potential for further development of the project and for future deployment to other regions, opening up clear avenues for further research and collaboration.