Small Grants

As part of the Research Coproduction element of the N8 PRP we will annually make a call for bids to our Small Grants.

The Small Grants Awards open call will provide pump-priming funds to support research into targeted and important areas of policing work and areas where the gaps in knowledge are most prominent and where research benefits are of greatest value. It will provide the necessary flexibility to move swiftly to respond to emergent areas of policing, new challenges and pressing concerns. Ideas generated via the ‘Policing Innovation Forum’ activity strand are particularly welcomed as are proposals that link to other activity strands and ensure stakeholder involvement in the choice of topics for research co-production.

The Policing Innovation Forum takes place annually in autumn. In 2016 and 2017 the Forum focused on the theme of Domestic Abuse, under a wider theme of vulnerability and early intervention. In 2018, the Forum took a slightly different direction with the theme of Policing Mental Health: Improving services, reducing demand, and keeping people safe. Responding to the challenges of mental health has become a key focus for a number of services in recent years, so it is a timely topic for the Forum to shine a spot light on. The fifth forum in the series focuses on Tackling Knife Crime – Police and Multi Agency Responses to a Headline Problem.

The intention is to support emergent collaborations and innovative partnerships between researchers and policing partners and research pilots that will result in applications for larger funding grants. We are focusing the Catalyst Project Small Grants Awards towards building multi-partner collaborations. The purpose of allocating funds is to facilitate and energise the development of proposals for collaborations – we expect this to take the form of short projects, delivering a proposal for larger scale collaborations. This funding is for the strategic development of research collaborations, as well as research itself.

The Office for Students Catalyst funding ends in April 2020, however the N8 PRP will continue! There will be a change to the funding structure and only contributing partners will be eligible to receive Small Grants funding, these partners are:

Durham University, Lancaster University, Univertsity of Leeds, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, Newcastle University, University of Sheffield and University of York.

The policing partners are confirmed as:

Cheshire Constabulary, Cumbria Constabulary, Greater Manchester Police, Humberside Police, Lancashire Constabulary, Merseyside Police, Northumbria Police, North Yorkshire Police, South Yorkshire Police and West Yorkshire Police.

The first round of small grants produced a high number of applications and after a lengthy review process, three were chosen to receive funding from the N8 PRP:

Policing Bitcoin: investigating, evidencing and prosecuting crimes involving cryptocurrency

(Greater Manchester Police, North West Regional Organised Crime Unit, University of Leeds, University of Liverpool, Birmingham City University and Crown Prosecution Service)
Project Outline
Cryptocurrency has increasingly become a common method of value exchange in a number of types of criminal activity such as Ransomware cases for example, where victims of extortion included police forces. Significantly, in 2014, the Greater Manchester Police Economic Crime Unit investigated a case in which several million pounds of Bitcoin were stolen from an international victim by a locally based Manchester criminal. Following a complex investigation the victim refused to provide an evidential statement to the police, stating that he would bear the loss of 3 million dollars rather than lose his reputation in the cryptocurrency community. The Crown Prosecution decided that there was not enough evidence to pursue a prosecution and the case was dropped. Recently, Operation Viscount highlighted the fact that the police alone cannot successfully investigate cases involving cryptocurrencies.
The objective of this research is therefore to bring together interdisciplinerary experts from national and local law enforcement, academia, the Crown Prosecution Service, private industry and the financial sector in order to explore and comment upon the various challenges that cryptocurrecncies, such as Bitcoins, create for the police.
contact Professor David Wall
Final Report - Key findings

Mapping the contours of modern slavery

(University of Manchester, Greater Manchester Police and University of Leeds)
Project Outline
The main aim of the collaboration is to establish a profile of human trafficking incidents and offences known to GMP since the implementation of the Modern Slavery Coordination Unit (MSCU) in March 2015, Greater Manchester Police has been collating a database of such incidents and offences since this time.
The database includes details of over 250 cases, including those that were reported to the National Referral Mechanism, and those that were reported to or detected by the police. Many such offences are facilitated to some degree online, via websites and social media, and the database has some relevant details that can be extracted about the cyber components of such crimes. Other information contained in the database includes: the nationalities of victims and offenders; the types of offences committed; the charges brought; the locations of the activity and the success or otherwise of convictions; and the progress made with the investigation. As it stands, GMP and the multiagency Challenger Team (including Immigration, UK Border Force, Gangmasters Licensing Authority, and local authority professionals) have no capacity to include all information in the database and to perform a thoroughgoing analysis of it. This analysis is much needed, however, for it can reveal how the new law is working, where policing efforts are successful, as well as something of those cases,victims and offenders that are not so readily resolved under the Modern Slavery Act.
contact Professor David Gadd
Final Report - Key findings

Exploring Novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) use and its consequences for police practitioners and substance users in the North East of England 

(Newcastle University, Northumbria Police and Durham University)
Project Outline
This project will gain insight into the impact on current policing practice of novel Psychoactive Substance (NPS) use.
The work will have two linked strands: first we will explore with a range of police staff the impact that the fast changing culture of NPS use has on their day-to-day work as first responders in the criminal justice system; we will also explore with NPS users the sourcing and purchasing, including on-line availability, as well as immediate behavioural impacts and wider consequences of NPS use. As well as offering an insight into risks and harmful behaviours connected with NPS use, we will explore perceptions about the legality and impending illegality of NPS use, its relationship with wider substance use (classified drugs and alcohol), and how police custody suite interactions are viewed and managed by a range of police staff and detainees.
contact Dr Michelle Addison
Final Report - Key findings
Seventeen applications were received for the 2016/17 round with an overwhelming number linked to the Policing Innovation Forum.  It was evident that applicants had thought more clearly about the aspects of collaboration and co-production this year with many of the proposals having numerous agencies make up the research cohort.Five projects have been funded in year 2 with the partnership providing almost £100,000 of seed-corn funding to support research into urgent areas of police work:

The Manipulative Presentation Techniques of Control and Coercive Offenders

(Cheshire Constabulary, Lancaster University, University of Liverpool)
Project Outline
In November 2015, new legislation came into effect that recognised control and coercion of another as a criminal offence. In Cheshire, where domestic abuse interviews make up the majority of the Interview Custody Unit’s (ICU) workload, officers are now conducting many interviews with a view of prosecuting for control and coercion. One difficulty they experience when conducting these interviews is that the suspects offer compelling and believable accounts of their circumstances. For example, in line with their offending, many suspects are proficient manipulators. Interviewers become convinced of their innocence, even when subsequent evidence leads to a successful prosecution.
The possibility that interviewers are being misled by manipulative behaviours needs to be addressed urgently. Interview teams that do not recognise the suspect’s coercion may put the victim through further, challenging questioning, and they may ultimately release a guilty suspect. This will only exacerbate the current reluctance of victims to come forward. It is thus essential that research be carried out to raise awareness of the kinds of manipulations used by offenders in control and coercion cases. Translated into training, this knowledge will allow interviewers to become more adept at identifying manipulative behaviours. It may also provide them with communication strategies to counter and overcome the manipulative behaviours of suspects, thereby improving their efficiency.
contact Julie Jackson
Final Report - Key findings

Policing Drugs in North Yorkshire

(North Yorkshire Police, University of York)
Project Outline
The policing of the possession and supply of illicit drugs takes up significant amounts of police time. The impact of such policing activity can also be profound for the offenders involved (many of whom have multiple vulnerabilities) and, consequently, for relations with the police more broadly. Despite the salience of such issues in policy and media debates, and despite growing interest among a number of police forces in piloting new approaches to these issues, this is all but virgin territory for academic research.
There are two main aims of this project: first, it will describe and analyse the nature and extent of work undertaken in enforcing the Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) (MDA) in NYP. This will represent the first detailed study of its kind. It will draw on the initial analyses already being undertaken by the NYP Strategic Intelligence Team for the Force’s Strategic Assessment. Staff from this unit will work closely with researchers at York and Leeds to drill down into these data and produce detailed analyses of pathways through the CJS for all offences under the MDA: from initial contact through to conviction/disposal. This statistical picture will then be developed by semi-structured interviews undertaken with police officers at all levels of seniority to develop a rich and nuanced understanding of frontline and strategic perceptions concerning the policing of drug offences. The second aim is to draw on this analysis, along with local evaluation evidence and experience from around the country, to explore different models of enforcing the MDA.
contact Dr Charlie Lloyd
Final Report - Key findings

Police officer Responses to Coercive Control

(Merseyside Police, Lancaster University, University of Liverpool, University of Central Lancashire, Women’s Aid)
Project Outline
This project seeks to understand police officers’ current responses to coercive control, and to consider how existing knowledge can be used to maximise the effectiveness of their future responses. It is increasingly recognised that physical violence is just one of the many techniques that may be used to gain greater power and control within intimate relationships (Dobash & Dobash, 1992; Stark, 2007; Johnson, 2008). Other behaviours could include verbal abuse, humiliation, threats, isolation, dominance, economic abuse and coercive control. Although a more multifaceted conceptualisation of domestic abuse is evident in theory and increasingly policy, scholars have criticised legal and criminal justice responses for not adequately recognising the full spectrum of abusive behaviours, such as coercive control (Dutton and Goodman, 2005; Stark, 2007). With this in mind, this project proposal emphasises the importance of recognising the harm and long-term impact that non-physical methods of abuse, such as coercive control, can have on victims.
contact Dr Charlotte Barlow
Final Report - Key findings

Exploring the impacts of Body Worn Video in Incidents of Domestic Abuse

(Cumbria Constabulary, West Yorkshire Police, University of Leeds)
Project Outline
At the recent N8 PRP Policing Innovation Forum in Manchester (08/11/16) Zoe Billingham of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Constabulary identified the pressing need for research to be conducted into the impact of Body Worn Cameras (BWCs) in incidents of domestic abuse. This proposed study responds to this agenda by bringing together a consortia of two N8 Police Forces and an N8 University, to work collaboratively to identify policy and practice lessons in the use of this potentially 'transformative' technology (Soboroff, 2014) and therin help police to better protect from harm those citizens who are vulnerable on account of their domestic circumstances. This study has been co-designed and emerged directly from discussions between the collaborating forces held in the light of the recent N8 PRP Innovation Forum on domestic abuse. The specific aims of the study are to:
  • Identify the challenges and opportunities of ensuring that BWCs are used in ways that increase the effectiveness and efficiency of police response to domestic abuse incidents;
  • Examine the impacts of BWC on how incidents of domestic abuse are dealt with (i.e. 'disposed of') within the criminal justice process.
contact Stuart Lister
Final Report - Key findings

Innovation in Policing Domestic Violence: Understanding Success

(North Yorkshire Police, Northumbria Police, West Yorkshire Police, Durham University, Northumbria University)
Project Outline
Recent HMIC (2014, 2015) reports provide further indications of the limitations of the police service response to victims of domestic violence (DV). The scale of DV – generating around 1 million calls for assistance per year, and accounting for 10 per cent of recorded crimes – is daunting. Nationally, 80 women die at the hands of their abusers each year in the UK (Kelly and Westmarland, 2015). It might appear that police sometimes lag behind in terms of policy developments (such as the concept of ‘coercive control’). Nonetheless, the HMIC reports also indicate considerable innovation in policy and practice. Within the N8 area alone, police services have (among other things) created specialist posts and new training packages; piloted Domestic Violence Protection Orders; led on Domestic Violence Disclosures; and introduced multi agency teams, school liaison officers, and victim advocates.
In recognition of the key realist principle that evaluation needs to concentrate on mechanisms of change, as well as outcomes, the central idea of this project is for academics and police officers and staff to work collaboratively to identify areas in which innovation has been successful, and to develop deeper and richer understanding of the enabling circumstances and how these might build capacity in other police services. Indeed, a central objective of the project will be to help transfer innovative practice around DV as well as, more broadly, to provide police and academic researchers with greater understanding of the mechanisms and contexts shaping successful changes in operational practice.
contact Professor Mike Rowe
Final Report - Key findings
Eighteen applications were received for the 2017/18 round of the N8 PRP Small Grants process. Applications had come from a wide range of topics and featured a range of partners, showing a strong commitment to collaboration and co-production. The applications were to a very high standard making shortlisting no easy decision. In the end, four applications were funded for this round of grants:

Early Identification of Honour Based Abuse

(West Yorkshire Police, University of Manchester, Karma Nirvana, Ahmed Iqbal Ullah Race Relations Resource Centre, and Education Trust )
Project Outline
Honour-based abuse (HBA) is both underreported and under-recorded (Kulczycki and Windle, 2011; Iranian and Kurdish Women’s Rights Organisation [IKWRO], 2014). In the UK, there are approximately 12 ‘honour killings’ per year (Association of Chief Police Officers [ACPO], 2008), with thousands more victims suffering non-fatal forms of abuse: between 2010 and 2014, based on data obtained from 39 police forces, there were 11,744 incidents of HBA (IKWRO, 2015). Of course, these figures are likely to be vastly underestimated, with many HBA cases going unreported or unrecognised.
This project emphasises the importance of early and accurate identification of HBA, by focusing on improving West Yorkshire Police’s (WYP) response to victims of HBA. Using a mixed-methods approach, consisting of a detailed review of the academic literature and policy developments, an analysis of cases, and qualitative interviews, the research will help to locate and address gaps in existing police practice for identifying HBA cases.
contact Dr Claire Fox

Policing vulnerability: An evaluation of the Sex Work Liaison Officer role in West Yorkshire Police

(West Yorkshire Police, University of York, Durham University)
Project Outline
Sex workers are one of the most vulnerable groups in contact with the police. The policing of sex work takes up significant amounts of police time, and has a profound effect on sex workers’ lives, as well as on the local community where sex work takes place. Classified as offenders due to their soliciting sex publicly, sex workers are also often victims of serious physical and sexual violence, which they are reluctant to report for fear of prosecution for soliciting (Kinnell, 2010; O’Neill and Jobe, 2016; Sanders, 2016).
Responding to these concerns, West Yorkshire Police (WYP) has been at the forefront of national sex work policing innovation with their introduction of a designated Sex Work Liaison Officer (SWLO). SWLO duties include first response to violent attacks on sex workers, assisting investigations of serious crimes and sensitive community liaison work in close partnership with neighbourhood policing units. As well as playing a crucial role in Leeds’ ‘managed approach’ to street sex work. This will be the first detailed study into the value and effectiveness of a SWLO role, with six objectives:
  • To provide a picture of work undertaken by the SWLO
  • To gain detailed insights about the challenges and benefits of the SWLO role
  • To produce a report which evaluates WYP’s SWLO role in a national context
  • To co-produce a best practice tool that can support other forces in establishing SWLOs
  • To showcase best practice in policing sex work
  • To develop a larger scale multi-force collaborative research project on best practice in the policing of sex work.
contact Dr Kate Brown

Mapping and identifying modern slavery vehicular activity: A proof-of-concept study

(West Yorkshire Police, Lancashire Constabulary, University of Liverpool, University of Hull)
Project Outline
Modern slavery exploits the most vulnerable in society for financial gain by forcing them to work in low-skilled physical labour occupations. Unlike classical images of slavery, modern slaves reside independently of their enslavers but are economically coerced into slavery. Slaves are typically collected by modern slavery perpetrators at a set meeting point at the beginning of a working day, driven to a place of work and later returned to that point, making logistics a defining feature of the offence. The overarching aims of this project are to develop and test an algorithm using machine learning that can identify vehicles involved in this modern slavery activity based on a distinctive driving pattern and to establish a protocol to facilitate the expansion of this algorithm-driven approach to crime detection. A sufficiently predictive algorithm would be a valuable tool in crime detection and to help prevent modern slavery offending.
However, many obstacles must first be overcome: establishing proof-of-concept that an algorithm has a better than chance capacity to detect target vehicles; the number of existing target vehicles on which to train models is small; and security issues emerging from a police-academic collaboration that uses classified data. This project will take a step towards demonstrating how police can use machine learning technology to aid crime detection, while establishing a model of good practice that will inform future police data analytics.
contact Dr Iain Brennan

Emerging technology and Big Data analytics: Realising the potential of Automatic Number Plate Recognition

(West Yorkshire Police, The North East Regional ANPR User Group, University of Leeds, University of Leicester)
Project Outline
Superintendent Mark Jessop is chair of the police Automated Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) Northeast Regional ANPR User Group comprising 8 police forces: West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, North Yorkshire, Humberside, Durham, Cleveland, Northumbria and, Police Scotland. In 2017 he gave a presentation at the University of Leeds Institute for Data Analytics in which he called for police-university collaboration on ANPR that would bring university expertise together with police operational experience and data. This project responds to that call. It seeks to catalyse a process to realise the huge untapped potential of ANPR to tackle crime by mobile offenders and to promote safe traffic management.
Our work will include an audit of activities to identify potential and problems, and a scalable pilot study using machine learning to identify vehicles with stolen number plates that will greatly increase the hit rate and automate the detection of stolen vehicles and mobile offending: a pilot in West Yorkshire can be scaled out via the Regional User Group, then nationally and internationally. The project speaks to the N8 PRP small grant funding call’s specified interest in new and emerging technologies and the N8 PRP strand theme of data analytics.
contact Professor Graham Farrell
Fourteen applications were received for the 2018/19 round of the N8 PRP Small Grants process. Applications had come from a wide range of topics and featured a range of partners, showing a strong commitment to collaboration and co-production. The applications were to a very high standard making shortlisting no easy decision. In the end, three applications were funded for this round of grants:

Identifying sexual trafficking online

(University of Sheffield, Teesside University, South Yorkshire Police )

Embedding Mental Health Support within District Police Stations: developing an evaluation framework for an innovative multiagency response to mental health crises

(West Yorkshire Police, University of Sheffield, University of York )

Policing Children and Families: A Study of the Police Response to Child-to-Parent Violence

(University of Leeds, West Yorkshire Police, Cumbria Police )