Project: Serious Violence Research: Crest's two year violence research programme

Thursday 5 September 2019

DOWNLOAD (PDF): Serious violence in context: understanding the scale and nature of serious violence
DOWNLOAD (PDF): What is driving serious violence: drugs
PROJECT: Drivers of Serious Violence: Vulnerability

Crest is running a two-year programme of work examining the underlying causes and drivers of serious violence and testing the potential for implementation of more problem-oriented, preventative approaches.

Our objective is to increase understanding of a complex phenomenon, equipping policy-makers, Police and Crime Commissioners and chief constables with a suite of practical policy recommendations for combating serious violence. This programme has been funded by the Dawes Trust.


Crest’s research on police demand (also funded by the Dawes Trust) revealed that a rise in violence and sexual offences has been the biggest contributor to the pressures policing is currently under. However, there is no consensus on what is causing this rise. Instead, the public debate is focused on individual solutions such as stop and search or increased police officer numbers with little evidence of what the root causes of this problem are.

In order to develop effective interventions and strategies policymakers must first be equipped with accurate information about what is happening and why, and avoid focusing on often ideological solutions.

What are we looking at?

We have segmented the problem into distinct subject areas to explore them in greater depth. Our first report here sets out the overall context for serious violence, detailing the trends and drivers which required more in depth analysis. We are now researching the four drivers set out in the Home Office serious violence strategy. A final paper will summarise the overall findings and recommendations.

The four drivers are:

1. Shifts in drug markets - e.g. increased production/purity of cocaine

2. Increased vulnerability - e.g. increased numbers of ‘at risk’ children drawn into violence, including through Pupil Referral Units (PRUs)

3. Decline in effective enforcement - e.g. weakened police intelligence and reduction in prosecution/charge rate

4. Greater opportunity - e.g. rising social media use

How are we working?

Our team of researchers, analysts and policy experts are carrying out a mix of field and desk-based research, to bring together the evidence on the context and drivers of serious violence. In order to dig into the issues further, we are seeking to work in partnership with a number of police forces and PCCs to develop a stronger understanding of local drivers in local areas and opportunities for change.

Our quantitative and qualitative research involves analysing published and locally-held data, such as police, health and local authority data, in order to understand the nature and pattern of serious violence in the UK and engaging with a wide range of stakeholders to conduct focus groups and test hypotheses and conclusions with experts.

We will be engaging with representatives from agencies related to criminal justice, social justice, health, education and wider public services, as well as academia, the third sector, members of affected communities and harder to reach groups to ensure individuals from all walks of life and interests are consulted in this research.

How you can get involved?

Crest is eager to engage with and hear from stakeholders from across the criminal justice and policy spheres, in order to gain an extensive evidence base to guide our conclusions. At this stage, there are three key ways you can get involved:

  • Share your views/research/experiences: If you wish to share your views, or if you would be interested in contributing more extensively to our research, please contact a member of the project team.

  • Partner with us: We are already working in partnership with a number of police forces and PCCs but are keen to develop a stronger understanding of local drivers in local areas and opportunities for change. If you’re interested in your area getting involved, please get in touch with Head of Strategy and Insight, Sarah Kincaid,

  • Sign up to our newsletter: In the coming months, we will be publishing a series of papers focusing on different aspects of the project - sign up to our newsletter to be kept informed.


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