Hacking through the issues for 21st Century Policing

The effective management of local, national and international security is one of the biggest challenges we face in today's world. The Crime and Security Research Institute’s response to this challenge is to work alongside security practitioners, combining existing academic excellence to foster creative and innovative conceptual and methodological approaches to shape policy and practice development.

One such concept is that of the ‘hackathon’. Developed primarily within the computer science discipline, it generally refers to a sprint-like design event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development collaborate on particular project over a short but intensive period.

Driven by its fellows from the Universities’ Police Science Institute and the Informatics and Visual Computing Research Group, the CSRI has developed the idea of applying the conceptual framework of the hackathon to day-to-day policing challenges. Working alongside police and other criminal justice and community safety partners, this short, intensive problem-solving approach is designed to provide an innovative and unique way for academics and practitioners to ‘co-produce’ potential solutions to the more intractable problems faced by today’s forces.

The UPSI and CSRI hosted its first hackathon event with South Wales Police in the summer of 2018. The two organisations worked together to define a broad challenge which became the focus of the problem-solving event. A number of teams composed of police officers and staff, other public-sector practitioner partners, private sector stakeholders and academics worked together over two days to apply their knowledge and experience to that problem. Firstly, they identified the constituent issues and problems faced, before turning to the development of potential solutions.

The hackathon culminated in a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style pitch, where each group presented their ideas and findings to a judging panel. The teams competed for a ‘cash’ prize which has provided the winning team with a dedicated budget to refine and develop their ideas further, guiding appropriate multi-disciplinary practice development and interventions within their respective organisations.   

The winning team were given the broader theme of Road Safety in Major Cities and after analysing the data provided identified an area of Cardiff (St Mary’s Street) as being a hotspot for pedestrian road traffic incidents. The group developed an idea for a behavioural change intervention, and are currently using their funding to conduct further research.

If you are interested in running similar programmes within your own force please contact Trudy Lowe: Lowet@cardiff.ac.uk