Knife Crime Moral Panic: Assessing the interactional dynamic between the media, public policy, and frontline services.

Lead Research Organisation: University of Exeter
Department Name: Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology


To understand how knife crime/carrying spreads among young people aged 10 to 25 years, to investigate the urban and rural vulnerabilities with a view to identifying prevention strategies.

To answer the following:
- Can knife carrying/crime be identified through social networks as a contagion?
- What is the narrative promoting knife carrying/crime?
- Why the narrative evolves/spreads? (aggression/fear/need for protection etc.)
- How the narrative is spread? (connections/networks/gangs/'county lines' influence/media etc.)
- Are some places more/less vulnerable to the contagion (urban/rural/coastal including socio-economic factors)?
- Who is more/less vulnerable (gang/gender/age/social class etc.)?
- With the above ascertained, can the contagion be opposed by counter-narratives; what might be an effective counter-narrative to knife carrying/crime?

Demands of project
The proposed project uses mixed methods for data collection and analysis. Data will be collected as well as conducting secondary data analysis of existing police data. Social network analysis will be utilised to explore and test the hypothesis that contagion of knife carrying/crime occurs. Surveys will be developed; young people will be interviewed to investigate any narratives promoting or discouraging this behaviour. This will help ultimately to develop effective counter-narratives. The methods will evolve, and the exact approach will be refined during the Master's year.

Familiarity of relevant/proposed
Having worked for the police for the last ten years, I have significant access to appropriate networks and contacts across four police forces to facilitate data collection. I have interrogated police and partner (e.g. health, schools) databases to ascertain a variety of information when working as a researcher in the multi-agency safeguarding hub and as a crime/performance analyst.

I will use a mixed methods research strategy. I have experience in quantitative and qualitative methods at degree level study and in my professional career. I will use descriptive and multivariate analysis which I have experience of performing. I will also employ network analysis. I have conducted criminal network analysis and I will be taking Q-step advanced methods including a module focused on network analysis within the Master's. Although I have experience in conducting interviews, I would attend a qualitative methods module within the Master's.

Ethical issues
There are ethical considerations around harm, consent and confidentiality. Consideration would be given to potential legal or emotional consequences of discussing illegal activities with the participants. This could be mitigated by a participant consent form detailing the purposes and value of the research including ethical responsibility to declare anything said which may harm themselves or others.

Consideration will also be given to GDPR and the sharing/recording of information. All data will be stored according to appropriate guidelines, including those of the University of Exeter and the ESRC such as the RCUK Policy and Guidelines on the Governance of Good Research Conduct. It is likely that prison/youth offending environments, schools, police and voluntary organisations will be accessed. Despite organisational contacts and networks, there may be potential accessibility issues; lack of participant engagement, whilst others may show reluctance if their knife carrying/crimes are unknown to the authorities.

Potential impact
This research has the potential to make an academic, economic and societal impact. Academically, I will expand the theoretical public health approach to the study of knife crime/carrying, to identify vulnerable people and places. Then devise strategies to target resources to address the contagion of knife crime/carrying, which will bring significant economic and societal benefits.

My networks will help facilitate the translation of research into practice loc


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000630/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2268998 Studentship ES/P000630/1 01/10/2019 02/11/2023 Jennifer Louise Wilcox