The UPSI at Cardiff international reputation for its innovative and ground breaking work.
— Tom Brake, MP, Liberal Democrat Paper on police reform.

Open Source Communications, Analytics Research (OSCAR) Development Centre

Funders: Home Office, HEFCE and the College of Policing

Partners: The National Counter-Terrorism Functions Command; South Wales Police; Surrey Police; Sussex Police; Safer Sutton Partnership; Cardiff Council; West Midlands Police and the University of Surrey.

The Open Source Communications, Analytics Research (OSCAR) Development Centre is an innovative, multi-disciplinary Centre bringing together academics and police practitioners to develop a research evidence base around the use of open source information for policing and community safety services. The work of the centre is helping to develop open source methodologies, technologies and insights that will shape the future of policing.

The Centre uses a range of innovative techniques, ideas and methods to engage with the challenges of Open Source, underpinned by a commitment to knowledge co-production.

The operating methodology of the OSCAR Centre is built around a suite of co-production techniques designed to enable creative and innovative policy and practice development. These include: Peer knowledge exchange events; ‘Red Team Tests’, evidence camps and ‘Simulation’ Exercises.

Further information:

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary

For the past decade the Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI) has been working with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) to support the inspection of Neighbourhood Policing and associated issues.

UPSI’s 2010 report to HMIC Re-thinking the Policing of Anti-Social Behaviour advised focusing on the harms of ASB, and adopting a more victim-centered approach in the policing of ASB. The findings informed a fundamental change to Home Office policy; resulting in widespread improvements to police responsiveness for victims in England and Wales. 

In 2012 HMIC commissioned UPSI to conduct research to further understand the different types of people suffering anti-social behaviour (ASB), with a view to identifying the potential for adopting differing responses according to the need.

The report provides information on how forces can identify the ASB victim profile in their area in a way that allows them to make response decisions based on evidence. This study makes a significant contribution to the evidence base around the impact of ASB on victims and ‘what works’ in terms of police responses to the problem. Click here to download the full report.

Further Information:

Crime Prevention Behaviour Change

Funders: What Works Centre for Crime Reduction, Economic & Social Research Council, Metropolitan Police Service

Crime prevention communications targeted at the general public commonly adopt a ‘fear frame’, using perceived risk and threat to evoke a fear reaction in its audience and trigger subsequent preventative behaviour. Recently, an alternative approach to behavioural change founded in social psychology has come to the fore. Underpinned by Thaler and Sunstein’s ‘Nudge’ (2008), focus is placed on modifying communications to bring about a desired behavioural response. To date, the application of nudging to public crime prevention communications has remained neglected.

UPSI were funded by the What Works Centre for Crime Reduction and the ESRC to address this research gap and empirically test, in a real-world setting, crime preventative messages that vary what is communicated, how, when and by whom.

These are (1) The Social Experiment and (2) #Copcat Field Trial stages of the research:

1.     The Social Experiment

A quasi-experimental study was carried out with a variety of public audiences between January and March 2016. Participants recorded their responses to nine short films based on real life crime victimisation scenarios.  Each film manipulated different ways of presenting information altering: the contents of the information conveyed (the Message); who was providing the advice (the Messenger); and, what behaviour change was being invoked (the Mechanism). The data were analysed to understand the effects the communications had on peoples’ emotions, behavioural intentions and attitudes. 

2.     The #Copcat Field Trial

The Communications team at the Metropolitan Police Service were developing a crime prevention campaign in early 2016 to tackle the emergent problem of bike-enabled snatch theft (offenders using mopeds to snatch mobile phones on the street). The police’s #loveyourphone campaign drew on the traditional fear framing approach and warned people about the dangers, showed them real life incidents and told them what to do. In partnership with the communications team, we developed an alternative ‘mirror’ campaign drawing on Behavioural Crime Prevention principles. #Copcat was an animated cartoon cat and a likeable and empathetic messenger.  This campaign used humorous puns, offered simplified preventative advice and, importantly, showed people the desired behaviour change.

A briefing document summarising key findings is available to download here

What Works Centre for Crime Reduction

Partners: College of Policing, Economic and Social Research Council, University College London, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Birkbeck College, Dundee University, Surrey University & Cardiff University.

The government has selected the College of Policing to host the What Works Centre for Crime Reduction - part of a world-leading network of centres providing robust, comprehensive evidence to guide public spending decisions.

The What Works Centre for Crime Reduction is working to:

  • review research on practices and interventions to reduce crime
  • label the evidence base in terms of quality, cost and impact
  • provide Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) and other crime reduction stakeholders with the knowledge, tools and guidance to help them target their resources more effectively.

It is being led by a core team from the College of Policing, and supported by a "commissioned partnership programme" including Cardiff University and the Universities’ Police Science Institute, and has been jointly funded by the College and the Economic and Social Research Council.

Further information:

Administrative Data Research Centre Wales

Partners: Cardiff University, Swansea University, Bristol University & the Economic and Social Research Council.

The Administrative Data Research Centre Wales (ADRC Wales) is a collaborative venture between the Universities of Swansea and Cardiff. The Centre is part of the Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN). The Administrative Data Research Network (ADRN) has been created to make the vast amount of information collected by different government departments and agencies available for academic research.

This information, held by the government, is generally referred to as administrative data. It contains a wealth of information about our society. Social researchers can use it to analyse the impact of government policies, or find new explanations for what happens in our everyday lives.

The ADRN wants to help academic researchers have access to this information, while making sure the data collections are safe and de-personalised. 

ADRC Wales provides support and facilities for researchers to carry out analysis using administrative data. The centre has access facilities based at both Cardiff and Swansea Universities.

Further information:

Policing Futures Masterclass Series

Funder: South Wales Police

The Policing Futures Masterclass Series is a unique collaboration between the Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) and South Wales Police (SWP), designed to provide the knowledge, skills and experience required to develop critical thinking and evidence-based practice among those considered future leaders within the force.

A cohort of 50 officers and staff, of all ranks and functions, are nominated and selected by SWP to take part in the programme. In the first sessions, delegates hear from internal SWP speakers on the challenges for policing in the next five years and the force’s strategic Policing 2020 vision. This is supplemented by external speakers from industry, other public service organisations and the College of Policing regarding the management of change and research evidence-based interventions.

Participants then self-align to a force strategic priority area of particular interest to them, before designing a small research project to answer a key question in relation to that priority area. Each project group is allocated an academic ‘Mentor’ from UPSI to advise on study design, methodology and analysis, together with a senior force ‘Shepherd’ to provide internal governance, operational input and aid the data access/generation process. The groups conduct their research in their own time, meeting regularly over a nine-month period with both Mentor and Shepherd for input and guidance and presenting their progress at appropriate force governance boards.

The series of Masterclasses during the research period provides an opportunity for participants to hear more academic, internal and external speakers on topics related to research, policing and change management and to present their progress to peers in other groups, a wider academic audience and senior SWP staff. The series will culminate in a formal presentation to the SWP Chief Officer Group, together with a short, written report on their findings, interpretation of the evidence and recommendations in relation to the force's strategic direction.

The South Wales Tri-Service Public Service and Joint Emergency Control Centre: An Evaluation

Funder: South Wales Police

This study involves a multi-method evaluation of the development of a Tri-Service Public Service and Joint Emergency Control Centre in South Wales.

South Wales Police (SWP) have identified that the lack of a ‘joined up’ approach to emergency service provision is resulting in inefficiency and a poor response service to the public. The force have already developed a single, highly efficient Public Contact Centre with modern technology and the two Fire and Rescue Services across the force area (FRSs) have committed to similarly rationalise their contact centres and co-locate with SWP on a shared technology and infrastructure platform. The All Wales Ambulance Service (WAST) has also made a request to become part of the largest single Tri-Service Centre in Wales with over 200 contact stations under a single open plan environment, working side-by-side to deliver an integrated emergency response to the public and a 101 non-emergency service.

The award of a grant from the Home Office Police Innovation Fund has allowed the development of an extension on the existing SWP headquarters, creating a highly cost-effective solution for a single, open-plan environment in which to locate the Tri-Service Centre. Annual efficiency savings of at least £2m are anticipated for the partners and the shared running costs will contribute towards the challenging Value for Money plan savings required over the medium term.

The evaluation of the project will commence with the mapping of a Theory of Change model in order to fully define the strategic picture of how it is anticipated it will achieve its long-term goal (Taplin and Clark, 2012; Harris, 2005; Rogers, 2005). Notwithstanding the findings from this initial aspect of the evaluation process, it is anticipated that the substantive evaluation of financial efficiency savings, response categorisation and deployment, public outcomes and the implementation process.

In seeking to deliver these aims, the research will make use of a combination of financial and administrative data from each of service providers, secondary analysis of existing deployment and public satisfaction data from each of service providers, and primary quantitative and qualitative data on public and practitioner response to implementation and outcomes.

After Woolwich: Social Reactions on Social Media

Funder: European Social Research Council

The murder of Drummer Lee Rigby on the 22nd May 2013 in Woolwich rapidly acquired the properties of a signal crime (Innes, 2004). The changes to public and institutional perceptions of security were amplified by a series of secondary incidents of violence in the days and weeks following the original crime.

The study seeks to develop the Rigby homicide as a case study of social reactions to high profile major crimes to generate new knowledge about how publics interpret and make sense of such events. The proposed approach blends conceptual and methodological innovation by using social media data to study collective reaction patterns in ways not previously possible through more orthodox social science. Specifically, this involves examining how publics think, feel, or behave in relation to high profile crimes, and tracking these reactions as they ‘travel’ across public digital social networks. This will allow exploration into how perceptions, attitudes and polarised narratives emerge, are communicated, become modified, spread and ultimately decay.

The research has found that:

  • Social media is increasingly driving the tenor and tone of public reactions. The research has tracked social media traffic from the first tweet at the crime scene through to the conclusion of the court case. The research found that social media has:
  • Implications for the first response by police to such attacks, with witnesses tweeting direct from the scene;
  • Social media becomes a key information source for the public when such incidents occur, there was in excess of 800 tweets a minute about the Lee Rigby murder at its peak;
  • The suspects were first named on Twitter - several hours before their identities were released by the broadcast media.
  • In the days and weeks after the murder there was a spike in hate crimes and public order incidents. These incidents happened in different towns and cities across the country.
  • Over the past few years the beliefs of young Muslim people that police will treat them fairly has been declining (as shown in the graph below). This has important implications for the Government's Prevent Strategy and how counter-terrorism resources are used following future incidents.

The findings from this study have been published in a working paper available to download in full here.

The study has informed an ESRC evidence briefing on Security, Terrorism & Social Media, click here to download.

‘Soft Facts’ and Spontaneous Community Mobilisation: The Role of Rumour After Major Crime Events

Funder: Nesta

Innovation charity Nesta has 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.

The Universities’ Police Science Institute is one of five organisations to receive funding under the scheme 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 project brings together researchers from both the Universities’ Police Science Institute and Cardiff University’s School of Computer Sciences to examine how social media increasingly shapes and frames processes of community mobilisation following major crime events. In so doing, it illuminates social reactions that are frequently ‘seen but unnoticed’ in the aftermath of high profile crimes. Pivoting around several case studies of community mobilization in difficult and emotionally tense situations, the analysis distils some generalisable lessons about how social media are transforming the ways contemporary social life is organised.

The early results of the study have been published as a working paper - ‘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. Click here to download.

Productive Margins

Partners: Bristol University & Cardiff University

Community engagement needs radical re-design. All too often decision-making is top-down and decision makers do not adequately engage, deeming ‘community engagement’ a passive exercise. Communities are often only invited to comment on decisions which have already been made. Leaving isolated and excluded communities feeling even more powerless, adding to the dislocation between politicians and the electorate.

This new and exciting programme of research asks:

What happens when diverse communities and academics come together to re-shape engagement and work creatively with ideas that run through society, law, history and art?

Can the findings of this research help release creativity, knowledge and the passions within parts of society often on the margins of decision-making and power, to co-produce new forms of engagement and decision-making?

Further information:

Rural Connect: How the Police Can Connect with People Living in Rural Communities

Funder: Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner

The Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI) led a programme of high-level research for the Dyfed-Powys Police & Crime Commissioner which revealed that communities want stronger neighbourhood bonds with the police.

It research 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?”

The Rural Connect report concluded that, although excellent work is being done by police communities across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys, much still needs to be done. It recommended that neighbourhood police officers and volunteers should be fully valued, that local knowledge should be developed and retained, that local decision making should be encouraged and that the police should connect more with local people.

A report on the study is available to download here.

Mapping Services For Victims Of Crime In South Wales

Funder: South Wales Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner

The Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI), in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Swansea and University of South Wales, were commissioned by the South Wales Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner to investigate the quality and delivery of victim services in South Wales and set out options for future development.   The research covered six key crime areas in-depth: violent crime; acquisitive crime; hate incidents; anti-social behavior; Female Genital Mutilation, forced marriage and honour-based violence, and service provision for child victims of crime. An over-arching report on main findings highlighted cross-cutting issues and policy recommendations across these crime types.

The research focused on three key areas:

  • An analysis of existing capacity and capability in South Wales, in terms of provision for victims of crime and anti-social behaviour;
  • Victim needs that are being met by existing arrangements, as well as those needs that are either ‘invisible’ to current service providers or are remaining ‘unmet’;
  • An evidence base to inform future decision making around the future commissioning and configuration of victim services in South Wales.

A multi-method research design was used to address these questions including in-depth interviews with victims and service providers in South Wales, a statistical analysis of data from South Wales Police and for the force area in the Crime Survey for England and Wales.

Tackling Radicalisation in Dispersed Societies (TaRDiS)

Funders: London Borough of Sutton / Police Academy of the Netherlands

Working in partnership with the London Borough of Sutton and the Police Academy of the Netherlands, UPSI has secured funding from the European Commission to explore how the risks of radicalisation can be reduced. The particular focus of TaRDiS is upon communities where there are no defined population centres or clusters, reflecting how across Europe most activity aimed at preventing violent extremism has tended to be targeted towards particularly 'vulnerable' urban areas.The research aims to develop new community intelligence methods that will enable European authorities to better detect a variety of risks and threats posed by different forms of extremism. In so doing, it builds upon and extends UPSI's established research programme on counter-terrorism policing.

preventing violent extremism has tended to be targeted towards particularly 'vulnerable' urban areas.The research aims to develop new community intelligence methods that will enable European authorities to better detect a variety of risks and threats posed by different forms of extremism. In so doing, it builds upon and extends UPSI's established research programme on counter-terrorism policing.


The work of Welsh Government funded
Community Support Officers

Funder: Welsh Assembly Government

The Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) was awarded a grant to evaluate the impact of an additional 500 Community Support Officers (CSOs) funded by the Welsh Government.  These officers were deployed across police forces in Wales in 2015 with the objective of increasing community safety and reducing fear of crime.

Over the next 18 months, the UPSI team assessed how far CSOs are a visible presence to the public, how they were being deployed in different communities and to what effect. A key aim was be to evaluate how far this additional investment in police resource was having positive impacts on public confidence and concerns about crime and antisocial behaviour, particularly in Community First areas identified as a priority by the Welsh Government.

A report on the study is available to download here.