Civic Innovation In Community: Safety – Policing and Trust with Young People

Not a day goes by without another tragic incident: Knife crime has become one of the most pressing issues that London, as well as other cities in the UK, are facing right now. With London’s knife crime at a record high (Office of National Statistics), this devastating trend has not only captured media attention, but it is also a crucial policy issue on the London Mayor’s agenda. Violent attacks involving young people, in particular, have an absolutely devastating and long-term effect on the victims and their broader communities, while existing strategies and interventions to tackle knife crime influence people’s trust perceptions and their relationship with police. 

While much has been written about ‘knife culture’ on London’s streets and despite the emerging dialogue on youth violence and broader societal changes, it remains unclear what young people and their communities think about knife crime, how they experience it and what they believe is the most effective way to prevent or reduce it, while building and improving their trust in policing. One example of this is the controversy surrounding stop-and-search as part of a tougher stance on young offenders and suspects. While many commentators called for an extension of stop-and-search practices, there is rising concern about the detrimental effects of such measures on people’s trust in the police – suggesting that it may even make young people turn towards knives through a false sense of security. 

Our Aim:

In CinCity (Civic InnovatioN in CommunITY), we will work directly with young people, 16 to 21 years old. Together with Citizens UK, schools and colleges in East London and Hackney police, we hope to answer some of the most pressing questions related to knife crime, issues of distrust and explore what actions need to be taken using a completely bottom-up approach driven by young people themselves. In line with the public health approach to tackling crime, we want to explore the multiple dimensions of the problem by directly involving and interviewing those at the heart of the issue – young people, the community and the police. 

Using, the so-called, Mental Model Approach from the Risk Communication field, we will explore the underlying assumptions and perspectives that shape young people’s and police officials’ perceptions of knife crime, safety and trust in policing. Ultimately, this will help us identify gaps, misconceptions, needs and directions for tangible solutions which will subsequently help re-establish trust in policing while empowering London youth at the same time.  

Our Funder & Partners:

CinCity is a joint project, supported by the Not-Equal Network+ funded by the UKRI and the ESPRC

At UCL, CinCity is part of the interdisciplinary Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group situated within the Department of Geography. Led by Dr Artemis Skarlatidou and supported by research assistant Lina Ludwig, UCL will be engaging with young people and city officials, collecting and nalyzing the data by building mental-models of knife-crime and trust in policing. The mental-models will be part of an academic publication as well as other types of dissemination to engage with the people and communities who participated in the project at various stages. 

Additional data on situational experiences of knife crime and safety will be collected by our co-investigator Dr Reka Solymosi (Manchester University) through the mobile-based Fear of Crime App.

Our partner and co-investigator Citizens UK will take the lead on connecting us with the communities, as well as local authorities. This includes our supporting partners, namely schools and colleges in East London such as New City College in Hackney – and, importantly, their students who will participate in CinCity. Some of them have also expressed interest in volunteering for one or two days on a weekly basis in additional capacity to contribute to the research and analysis stages of the project.   

The pilot project started on the 1st of December 2019 and will run until August 2020.

For further information about the project you may contact Dr Artemis Skarlatidou  


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