ESRC Terrorism, Security and Social Media Briefing on UPSI and Cardiff School of Computer Science Research into Community Impacts of Lee Rigby Murder

The recent terror attack in Tunisia highlights the ongoing risk of terrorism both abroad and in the UK, where the threat level of terrorism is ranked as 'severe'. Social media has increased the community impact of terror attacks, and ESRC research shows the need for post-event strategy measures to deal with this impact.

Social media is changing the speed of how the public learns about terrorist attacks, and the way they react. The first information to the public about incidents is now likely to come through social media channels such as Twitter rather than through traditional news outlets.

The ubiquity of smartphones means that information can be spread to a wide audience in real-time, providing details about the attack and police response, and updates on further developments. This new reality means that policymakers, security services and police forces need to consider the impact of social media in the aftermath of terrorist attacks, in terms of response planning for terrorist incidents, rapid dissemination of information and criminal investigation procedures.

The research project 'After Woolwich' is analysing social reactions to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May 2013 using social media data collected from Twitter, blogs and other sources. The data has enabled researchers to track how public perceptions and sentiments evolved in real-time as key events occurred, from the crime scene through to the conclusion of the court case, to understand how public opinion is shaped and evolves throughout the events.

Read full ESRC briefing:



UPSI Work on Rural Policing for Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioners Office Informs Neighbourhood Policing Strategy

Local bobbies with local knowledge making local decisions – they’re crucial to helping residents of rural Wales feel safe.

High-level new research by the Universities' Police Science Institute and Aberystwyth University reveals that communities want stronger neighbourhood bonds with the police.

Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Christopher Salmon, who funded the work known as Rural Connect, said: “Local policing is vital. I want officers to know - and be known - in their communities. That way we build trust and confidence.

In light of the report, Mr Salmon’s actions will include exploring:

  • Better mobility for local officers, including cycles and mopeds;
  • More Special Constables with specialist local or professional knowledge;
  • A Say Hello! campaign encouraging officers and public to speak more often.
  • Local initiatives to replace ineffective PACT meetings;
  • More public access to mediation.

He is already considering how schools work can become the responsibility of local officers.

He wants a better 101 system, more investment in police IT, a review of police middle management and to review provision of the Bobby Van service – “Its withdrawal was a mistake.”

The research was led by the Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI) based at Cardiff University and used the expertise of Aberystwyth University’s Department of Law and Criminology.

It included detailed discussions with members of the public, police officers and police staff. The sessions were run by UPSI, the Commissioner’s Office and Dyfed-Powys Police.

The key question was: “How can the police best connect with people living in rural communities?”

More Information:



The Changing Face of Policing in Austerity and How ASB Victims are Increasingly Being Dealt With by PCSO’s

Researchers from the Universities’ Police Science Institute at Cardiff University have published findings from a study commissioned by Welsh Government to assess the impact of deploying an additional 500 Community Support Officers (CSOs) across Welsh Police forces. The study examines how police forces are using these CSOs to respond to the challenges of austerity and reductions in police funding, focusing upon their impacts in terms of making communities safer.

The key finding from the research is that CSOs are playing an increasingly important role in how police forces are responding to and managing anti-social behaviour problems. Over the past three years the amount of ASB being dealt with by CSOs as opposed to police officers has risen substantially across the majority of areas examined.

The research also identifies a different trajectory in the public face of policing in Wales compared with England. Whilst the number of police officers has fallen across both countries, the additional CSOs in Wales have mitigated the reduction and its potential impact on community engagement through maintaining a neighbourhood policing presence. This is in contrast to England where police visibility has declined.

Evidence compiled by the research team identifies that the four forces in Wales are using CSOs to deliver different services to local communities. These differences can be summarised as:

•  Community Support: CSOs focus on developing familiarity with the communities they serve, providing a visible and accessible service to reassure the public.

•  Police Support: CSOs are providing a vital support function to their police officer colleagues, performing community-based tasks associated with many aspects of the policing remit.

Talking about the findings, UPSI Director Prof. Martin Innes says: "This is the most comprehensive study yet conducted of the work of Police Community Safety Officers and how policing is responding to austerity. Our evidence shows that the public face of policing has been changing and that when members of the public are victims of ASB they will increasingly be dealing with PCSOs rather than police officers."

Click Here to Download the Full Report




Nesta Report 'Data for Good' feat chapter by UPSI and Cardiff University Researchers on Community Mobilisation After Lee Rigby Murder

New ways of capturing, sharing and analysing data have the potential to transform how community and voluntary sector organisations work and how social action happens. However, while analysing and using data is core to how some of the world’s fastest growing businesses understand their customers and develop new products and services, civil society organisations are still some way off from making the most of this potential.

Over the last 12 months Nesta has grant funded a number of research projects that explore two dimensions of how big and open data can be used for the common good. Firstly, how it can be used by charities to develop better products and services and secondly, how it can help those interested in civil society better understand social action and civil society activity.

Five organisations, including UPSI were grant funded to explore how data–driven methods, such as open data analysis and social media analysis, can help us understand informal social action, often referred to as ‘below the radar activity’ in new ways.

The report Data For Good includes a chapter highlighting UPSI's work, funded by Nesta, entitled Soft facts and spontaneous community mobilisation: the role of rumour after major crime events written by Colin Roberts, Martin Innes, Alun Preece and Irena Spasic.

More information on Nesta's work can be found at



New Report: Strategic Police - Community Engagement: A Report to the Scottish Police Authority

Strategic Police-Community Engagement: A Report to the Scottish Police Authority

by Martin Innes

The report was commissioned by the Scottish Police Authority to examine the issue of strategic police community engagement in England and Wales. It addresses a notable gap in the research evidence base in that, whilst there has been considerable attention paid to operational and tactical forms of engagement often in relation to community policing programmes, more strategic uses have been neglected. The analysis conducted is used to inform a position about how and why the development of a methodology for strategic engagement by police organisations is likely to be significant in the future.  For the purposes of this report ‘strategic community engagement’ is defined as formal interaction and communication with members of the public that is undertaken to inform policy development and strategic decision making. In this sense, it is distinct from more operational forms of engagement that directly shape service delivery at a local level.




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Dr Colin Roberts joins UN experts meeting in Tunis on Policing & Use of Force in Law Enforcement

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is running a series of regional experts meetings to consider use of force by police forces and other law enforcement agencies as well as by private security providers in partnership with the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights (Geneva Academy). The meetings, which bring together governmental, intergovernmental, and non-governmental experts from each region, are looking in particular at how the 1990 Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials have been reflected in national legislation and operational policies and procedures across the region.

The meetings include consideration of key issues from each region, including, as a cross-cutting theme, the treatment and protection of vulnerable groups, such as persons with disabilities, children, and women. The Geneva Academy will research and draft a background paper on applicable international law and policies to be circulated to participants in advance of each experts meeting. Experts will be asked to deliver presentations on their national or regional framework and experiences. The aim of the meetings is to share lessons learned and identify good practice at national and regional level, with a view to feeding into the Thirteenth Crime Congress in Doha in April 2015.

UPSI's Dr. Colin Roberts joins the meeting in Tunis, which brings together experts from the Middle East and North Africa region, to speak on the UNBPUFF Special Provisions on the use of lethal force and firearms.

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Dyfed-Powys centre to help tackle 'neglected' rural policing

UPSI and Dyfed-Powys Police are helping set up a centre of excellence to improve rural policing with the Police Commissioner saying it will lead to people feeling safer.

Christopher Salmon said rural policing developments have been "neglected" compared with urban policing.

The College of Policing, responsible for the training and development of police officers, has given £44,000 towards setting up the project.

It will work with academics to develop and share best practice with police.

Dyfed-Powys Police and the commissioner will collaborate with the Cardiff-based Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI) and others specialists at Aberystwyth University and University of Wales Trinity Saint David to start a "high-level network to develop new expertise in keeping rural communities safe from crime".

...little attention has been directed to the particular policing needs of people living and working in rural areas”

Christopher Salmon Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commisioner

Mr Salmon said: "The work we do with UPSI and others will lead to people in some of our most isolated areas feeling safer.

"What works in policing in rural areas and communities is an issue that has been neglected by researchers, policy makers and practitioners.




Fear vs terror: signal crimes, counter-terrorism, and the Charlie Hebdo killings

Headline image credit: Paris rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, 11 January 2015. Photo by “sébastien amiet;l”. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. - See more at:

Headline image credit: Paris rally in support of the victims of the 2015 Charlie Hebdo shooting, 11 January 2015. Photo by “sébastien amiet;l”. CC BY 2.0 via Flickr. - See more at:

Oxford University Press blog by Martin Innes

Signal crimes change how we think, feel, and act — altering perceptions of the distribution of risks and threats in the world. Sometimes, as with the recent assassinations and mass shootings in France, sending a message is the intention of the criminal act. The attackers’ target selection of the staff of Charlie Hebdo magazine, and that of taking and killing Jewish hostages, was deliberately designed to send messages to individuals and institutions.

Researchers examine social reactions to different kinds of crime events and the signals they send to a range of audiences. The aim is to determine how and why certain kinds of incidents and situations generate fear and anxiety responses that travel widely and, by extension, how processes of social reaction to such events are managed and influenced by the authorities.

The murder of Lee Rigby in London in 2013 can be understood as a signal crime as it triggered concern amongst the general public and across security institutions, owing to the macabre innovation of the killers in undertaking a brutally simple form of assault. Analysis of the crime has identified a number of key components to the overarching process of social reaction. Observing how events have unfolded in France, the collective reactions have followed a similar trajectory to what happened in London.

See more at:



UPSI to launch report on spontaneous community mobilisation in the aftermath of the Lee Rigby murder at NESTA event on Big & Open Data

UPSI's Director Prof. Martin Innes and Prof. Alun Preece from Cardiff University's School of Computer Sciences will officially launch a report on spontaneous community mobilisation in the aftermath of the Lee Rigby murder at NESTA's event on Big & Open Data For The Common Good.

The free event will take place in London on the 18th February.

The day will include presentation and discussion of the following projects:

  • Analysing data to identify emerging social issues: Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and Datakind have partnered to explore how a data driven approach to mining the rich data that CAB hold on social issues in the UK can be used to develop a national map of emerging social issues, such as payday loans.

  • Understanding hidden social action: Nesta has funded 5 research grants to explore how data driven methods, such as open data analysis and social media analysis, can help us understand new types of informal social action, often referred to as “below the radar activity”.

  • 360 giving: Nesta’s work with Indigo Trust to develop a funder-collaborative that is openly publishing spending data from the UK’s major funding bodies and philanthropists. 360giving will help the sector create better intelligence on its activities and will ultimately enable more effective collaborations and decision making.

  • Open Data Challenge Series: Through Nesta’s partnership with the Open Data Institute, this series of Challenge prizes is encouraging teams to develop viable products and services for social good using open data predominantly from the public sector.




Cutting crime: Cardiff University surgeon’s research that helps stop street violence

Prof Jonathan Shepherd’s pioneering research helped cut violence in Cardiff by 40% – now he wants R&D thinktanks linking up public policy across the UK

Nights out in Cardiff around 20 years ago often ended in grim scenes at the A&E of the University Hospital of Wales, not least for Prof Jonathan Shepherd, a surgeon with the job of treating what seemed a steady stream of patients with facial injuries.

Beyond the injury toll lay something surprising when Shepherd and his researchers examined the figures – less than a quarter of the A&E cases treated were recorded by police, largely because victims were fearful of reprisals, were confused about what had happened, or were victims of domestic violence.

Over the following 15 years, the surgeon brought together the police, medical staff and local authorities to pool information on weapons, times and the city’s violent hotspots. The move allowed officers to better focus their energies, with streets pedestrianised and plastic glasses introduced. By 2007, violent incidents had fallen by around 40%, with savings of £7m to the taxpayer that year alone, and Cardiff rank as safer than similar-sized cities.

“The cost savings are not just for the NHS but for the criminal justice system as well – probation, the courts, prisons, all the rest of it,” says Shepherd, who is professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at the school of dentistry at Cardiff University and director of the university’s violence and society research group. “The other aspect of this in terms of the economy is that clearly people want to work in a city that is safe. There is an economic impact in developing a safe city and a safe region.”

The “Cardiff model” is now employed to pinpoint hotspots of violence across the UK as well as in Amsterdam, the Western Cape in South Africa, and Milwaukee in the US. Shepherd, now an adviser to the Cabinet Office, has become a vocal campaigner for such collaborative research methods to be used across government and for different public services to work together , with all the attendant savings for the public purse.

“It seemed the logical thing to do but you don’t know until you test it whether it is going to work or not,” he says. “Around 2005, I was surprised to read a report that compared about 55 cities in Great Britain which had a population of more than 100,000 and Cardiff was down there … [with] Eastbourne and Cambridge and others which were leafy, gentle, nonviolent places. That was the first clue that this was working.”

By bringing together the police, health professionals and the local authorities – which came to be known as “community safety partnerships” – the various public services started to talk to each other , says Shepherd. Prior to that, the various departments and authorities worked independently, in what is called “silos”.

The principle that public services and the professions have a lot to learn from each other came out of the local violence-reduction partnership, he says.

While chairing meetings with law enforcement staff, Shepherd noticed that although he had been trained at a medical school, there was little by way of research and development facilities for the police. “Why don’t we have a college for policing or a professional body for probation? It is part of the furniture for many of the other professions but not in this arena.”

By 2007, the Universities Police Science Institute was opened in Cardiff University and now acts as an R&D unit for policing, looking at topics such as intelligence gathering and counter-terrorism. It is a model which could be rolled out across the public services, Shepherd says.




'Cuts could 'sacrifice' crime prevention in Wales' Martin Innes BBC Wales News

Police budget cuts could lead to fewer crimes being prevented, a policing expert said.

Cardiff University's Prof Martin Innes said if resources are reduced there will be more "reactive" policing.

His comments come after Gwent Police commissioner Ian Johnston said brutal cuts had reached dangerous levels.

Despite a 4.9% funding cut, the Home Office said forces in England and Wales would still have the required resources.

"The police always cope, they're an emergency service and they always cope," Mr Innes, a professor in police science, said.

'Very concerned'

"Where this does come into play is where you start to think about the prevention of crime rather than just responding to crime.

"So if the resource gets smaller and the capacity gets smaller then the ability to prevent things happening in the first place - that gets cut back - then you'll probably see more reactive policing rather than preventing crime in the first place."






Daniel Morgan murder: Prof. Rod Morgan joins team investigating police handling of the notorious killing

Home Secretary Theresa May has announced that two leading criminal justice experts will join the investigation into the police’s handling of the murder of Daniel Morgan.

Professor Rodney Morgan, Emeritus Professor of Criminal Justice at the University of Bristol, and Samuel Pollock, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, will join Baroness Nuala O’Loan’s independent panel.

Mrs May said the panel’s task was to “shine a light on the circumstances of Daniel Morgan’s murder”. The Metropolitan Police has admitted corruption was a “debilitating factor” in the original investigation.

Ms O’Loan was Northern Ireland’s first Police Ombudsman from 2000 to 2007 and she is leading the effort to uncover the full story of how police have dealt with the murder of the 37-year-old private investigator from Llanfrechfa, who was found in 1987 with an axe in his head in the car park of a London pub.

In 2011 a trial of four men charged with his murder collapsed. Five police investigations have failed to secure a prosecution.

Professor Morgan is a member of the Universities’ Police Science Institute, Cardiff University.




UPSI's Pioneering Research Impact Recognised in REF 2014

The outstanding quality and impact of Cardiff University’s sociology research has been recognised in a national assessment that has ranked the University third in the UK in this area of research.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) which is published today (18 December 2014) assesses the quality of research in UK higher education institutions.

The results endorse the innovative, interdisciplinary research undertaken at the School of Social Sciences and the positive impact it has on people’s lives, with 80 percent of its research judged as ‘outstanding’ for its cultural, social or economic impact.

Professor Amanda Coffey, Head of the School of Social Sciences, said: "The School is delighted to have its sociological research recognised in this way. We are extremely proud of our research record and of the ways in which our research has been judged as having a high impact."

Among its research impacts is pioneering research by the Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI), based at the School, which has made police more effective at understanding and responding to crime and disorder. Its work has changed Home Office policy for the policing of antisocial behaviour across England and Wales and informed the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy for the UK and overseas.



RUSI Launch Organised Hub on Strategic Crime

Organised crime is receiving increased attention, both from government departments and academic researchers. However, the current state of knowledge of this area remains limited. The research community is fragmented, and academic research is disconnected from the needs of policymakers. More effort is needed to bridge the gap between theory, policy and practice.

In partnership with the Home Office, National Crime Agency, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Research Council UK’s Partnership for Conflict, Crime and Security, RUSI has launched a Strategic Hub on Organised Crime to develop a world class research agenda that meets the needs of policymakers.

Prof Martin Innes took part in a panel on 'Disrupting Organised Crime - Do we understand what we’re up against, are our strategies effective and are they ethical?' at the one-day which conference launched on 8 December. The event also included panels on two other priority areas for policymakers – what do criminal markets look like, and where are the vulnerabilities in the system.

See for further information



Martin Innes discusses Community Impacts of Lee Rigby Murder on BBC Radio Wales

UPSI Director Martin Innes was interviewed on the Good Evening Wales programme on BBC Radio Wales following the publication of the Intelligence and Security Committee's report into the Woolwich killing of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

Prof Innes highlights UPSI and Cardiff University's School of Computer Sciences' ground-breaking research using social media analysis to assess the community impacts of the murder

Click the link below to listen, the interview starts at approx 1:18 mins



Wales Online Feature on Lee Rigby Killer's Welsh Links Highlights UPSI Research

Criminologists and computer scientists at Cardiff University are investigating “what lessons can be learned from the murder of Lee Rigby for managing the community impacts of terrorist attacks of this kind in the future”.

They have tracked “social media traffic from the first tweet at the crime scene through to the conclusion of the court case”. There was “in excess of 800 tweets a minute about the Lee Rigby murder at its peak” and “the suspects were first named on Twitter - several hours before their identities were released by the broadcast media.”

Professor Martin Innes, Director of the Universities’ Police Science Institute who is leading the research, said: “A lot of attention focuses upon how social media can be monitored to spot individuals who pose a potential risk of terrorism. But as the Intelligence and Security Committee Report identifies, in practice this is much harder than might be assumed, and not all attacks can be detected, especially those involving ‘lone wolf’ assailants.

“Reflecting this, our research is focused upon what can be learnt for the future from the murder of Lee Rigby in terms of improving the management of community impacts when terrorist incidents do occur. Our work has shown that social media is increasingly important in influencing how the public understand such attacks and what happens in the aftermath.

“There are very important consequences for the police and authorities in terms of taking the heat out of a tense situation and reducing the opportunities for the kinds of ‘secondary crimes’ that we saw following Lee Rigby’s killing.”




'How schools have been pushed to the front in preventing extremism' Martin Innes in The Conversation

The chief inspector of schools’ intervention into the running of seven London schools shines a light onto several emerging developments in the Prevent strategy for countering violent extremism. Michael Wilshaw, head of Ofsted, identified that in six independent Muslim faith schools in Tower Hamlets, pupils may be vulnerable to “extremist influences and radicalisation”. In a seventh school, the Sir John Cass Foundation and Redcoat secondary school, insufficient responses were made to social media after an student Islamic society Facebook group posted links to extremist viewpoints.

Following similar allegations made recently about schools in Birmingham, known as the “Trojan Horse” affair, it is becoming clear that the education sector is being forced on to the “frontline” for tackling extremism.

This is a trajectory of development that can be traced back to the review of the Prevent Strategy commissioned by the Coalition government in 2010. This review sought to “refresh” Prevent and to re-orientate it in several important ways. Especially significant was a move to lessen the emphasis on and investment in “grassroots” community-based interventions. Instead, all statutory agencies were to be required to perform more of the work in identifying individuals at risk of radicalisation and delivering interventions to mitigate these risks.




Learning from the community impacts of the Lee Rigby murder

A study led by Professor Martin Innes, Director of the Universities' Police Science Institute, has looked at what lessons can be learned from the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby by analysing community reactions to the impacts of terrorist attacks.

The Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report issued today identifies that it will be impossible to prevent lone wolf terrorist attacks in the future. Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, this study has been conducted by researchers at the Universities' Police Science Institute and the School of Computer Science and Informatics to identify the lessons for better managing the consequences of terrorism when it happens.

Professor Innes said: "A lot of attention focuses upon how social media can be monitored to spot individuals who pose a potential risk of terrorism. But as the Intelligence and Security Committee Report identifies, in practice this is much harder than might be assumed, and not all attacks can be detected, especially those involving 'lone wolf' assailants. Reflecting this, our research is focused upon what can be learned for the future from the murder of Lee Rigby in terms of improving the management of community impacts when terrorist incidents do occur.

Our work has shown that social media is increasingly important in influencing how the public understand such attacks and what happens in the aftermath. There are very important consequences for the police and authorities in terms of taking the heat out of a tense situation and reducing the opportunities for the kinds of 'secondary crimes' that we saw following Lee Rigby's killing."

The full story is available on the University's News Centre webpages.



College of Policing Feature UPSI and School of Computer Sciences' Work on using Social Media to Monitor Large Scale Events

A study into social media during the NATO summit found overall commentary about the event was negative after an increase in police presence - until officers began posing for selfies.

Computer and social scientists from Cardiff University studied community reactions on Twitter during last September's NATO summit in Newport, Wales, which drew world leaders including US President Barack Obama.

They found there were wide variations in public perceptions of the event, with the key findings revealing the overall commentary on social media about the summit was negative in tone.

The study found an initial increase in police numbers, especially highly visible armed officers, generated a negative public reaction, but this was recovered by many of them posing for selfies with members of the public.

The study can act as an example of how police forces could use social media analytics to carry out a 'live' community impact assessment during large scale events.

Researchers were able to measure public reaction to events surrounding the summit, such as the announcement of local school closures and national media headlines which reported on a 'ring of steel' around the summit.

Part of the work also involved analysing the tone of tweets based on location.
NATO organised events in Cardiff Bay, which included a display of warships and a fly-past involving the RAF's Red Arrows, generated a far more positive public mood compared with the disruption experienced in the centre of Cardiff and Newport.