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Project: Drivers of Serious Violence: Vulnerability

Project leads: Sarah Kincaid, Assistant Director | Jessica Lumley, Senior Analyst | Dr Molly Corlett, Assistant Analyst

Wednesday 14 October 2020

BLOG: Misinterpreting trauma: why young people fall through the cracks when it comes to serious violence

For the past year, Crest has been researching the drivers of serious violence. In our first report from this programme of work, an overview of serious violence in context, we described the link between adverse childhood experiences, school exclusions and involvement in violence.

We know that young people who have experienced trauma are at greater risk of exploitation, especially within the increasingly violent drug markets described in our second report, and that they are more likely to become both victims and perpetrators of serious youth violence. However, the evidence suggests that early warning signs can be missed, so that children and young people end up instead subject to later, more costly interventions through the criminal justice system.

The third phase of our research focuses on vulnerability as a driver of serious violence. It investigates which young people become drawn into serious violence, whether services are able to recognise and support them, and the numbers affected. We will also explore emerging approaches to the identification and engagement with those at risk of serious youth violence including social network analysis, trauma-informed approaches and contextual safeguarding. The aim of this is to develop some practical policy recommendations to improve early intervention.

What are we doing?


We are using local deep dive analysis to understand the vulnerabilities of a cohort of young people caught up in serious violence, and their engagement with services. A cohort of young people involved in or on the periphery of serious violence will be collected from these areas using a timeline of serious violence in the area constructed in partnership with local practitioners. We will then compare our findings to national published data, to understand whether the risk factors we have identified are increasing overall (especially in light of COVID-19).

The project has three stages:

  • an initial scoping stage, based on a literature and evidence review, exploratory interviews with experts and violence reduction practitioners, and preliminary data analysis;

  • deep dives in two local areas, where we will overlay data from different agencies to create a timeline of violent incidents in each locality, and use this to identify a cohort of young people caught up in serious violence;

  • analysis of national data, to assess whether the vulnerabilities we have identified locally are increasing overall.

The final report will bring together these three strands of analysis into one cohort narrative with a range of practical evidence-based recommendations. We will also be publishing long read blogs which highlight our interim findings.

Contact us


We will seek the input of experts and practitioners throughout the project to form our thinking. If you are interested in contributing your experiences, please contact


The UK's only consultancy dedicated to crime and justice.

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