Making the Case – launch of crime booklet

30 June 2011

Making the Case - Crime

The Justice Minister has highlighted the critical role of social science research in crime prevention at launch of new publication by the Campaign for Social Science.

“The role of the social sciences is crucial to understanding the operation and impact of new policies on crime prevention. We rely on evidence showing what works, what doesn’t work and why. If we do not adopt a research-based approach we fall victim to tabloid headlines,” said Justice Minister Lord McNally at the launch of Making the case for social science: Crime.

Speaking to an audience of MPs, policy makers, researchers, academics and charities (on 29 June) as the ‘Breaking the cycle’ consultation was being discussed in the House of Commons, he stressed the dangers of policies that are developed in a vacuum and the vital role the social science community plays in understanding the complexities in dealing with offenders.

The new publication shows how research can make a significant contribution to reducing crime, policing crime and addressing the causes of crime. A collaboration between the Academy of Social Sciences, the British Society of Criminology and the British Psychological Society, it brings together case studies showing that the preventative approach used in health screening, for instance, can be applied successfully to the study of crime prevention so that policy can draw on proper evidence.

“What often appear to be common sense solutions to crime are often way off the mark. Rigorous social science research can provide a sound basis for addressing the causes of crime,” said Professor Mike Hough, President of the British Society of Criminology.

Examples in the publication show the impact of research on policy and crime prevention:

  •  A 50-year study of boys in London shows how early interventions can prevent them offending.
  • Research on the use of imitation guns and air weapons in violent crime led to a change in the law prohibiting these kind of firearms.
  • A study of the psychological motivation of killers (the modus operandi) has been adopted in an official murder investigation manual.
  • Research on ‘mob mentality’ has changed the way police deal with crowds.
  • Evidence showing that 70 per cent of burglaries in Liverpool were committed by offenders breaking in at the back of properties led to the installation of alley gates, which reduced burglaries by over one third.
  • A 15-year research programme found that illicit drug use does not necessarily lead directly to other forms of crime. Instead it revealed that problem drug users typically start their criminal careers in their teens, before they become habitual drug users.

“Crime policies based on unsound evidence are ineffective at best and damaging at worst. So any strategy designed to control crime needs to be underpinned by a proper understanding of the underlying social, cultural and economic causes of crime,” says Professor Cary Cooper, Chair of the Campaign for Social Science.