Centre researchers address renowned European criminology conference with talks on ‘policing vulnerability’

Researchers from the ESRC Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre have shared emerging findings from the Centre’s current projects at EuroCrim2023.

8 September 2023

Held in Florence, Italy, this year’s conference saw participants from a wide range of international organisations join, with Centre researchers speaking in several panel sessions.

The first roundtable explored contested issues around policing vulnerability and how research can be used to address some of these issues. Speaking on this subject were Centre Co-Director Professor Adam Crawford with team members Dr Laura Bainbridge, Professor Ben Bradford, Dr Chris Devany, Dr Larissa Engelmann, Dr David Rowlands and Dr Öznur Yardımcı.

The panellists debated the meaning and value of the concept of ‘vulnerability’, and whether it stigmatises people or helps organise service provision. They also discussed the political space and appetite for policing reform around vulnerability and harm reduction.

Research in Bradford

The Centre researchers provided insights into current research projects and shared emerging findings in presentations about how ‘vulnerability’ is used in policing. Focusing on place-based research in Bradford, UK, the speakers talked about the different views of ‘vulnerability’ across the city and how these affect different services’ operations.

They also outlined ongoing work in Bradford that combines insights from connected datasets with qualitative research. This work aims to understand both the effects of multiple vulnerabilities and the interactions between different services seeking to support vulnerable people and reduce harm.

County lines

Focusing on the Centre’s county lines project, Dr Devany explored how police officers have attempted to delineate between ‘victims’ and ‘offenders’ and how they navigate the contested areas in-between. The presentation focused on how people’s status can shift from ‘victim’ to ‘offender’ in the eyes of the law as young people transition into adulthood.

Victims of exploitation can play a key role in the recruitment and exploitation of other vulnerable people within county lines networks. Dr Devany spoke about this and how there are often complex and overlapping notions of vulnerability and culpability in county lines.

Online child sexual victimisation

The final presentation looked at emerging findings from a Centre project that seeks to build community resilience to online child sexual victimisation. The project is taking place in Blackpool, UK, and is examining current preventative efforts from organisations across police, education, health, social care and the voluntary sector.

Dr Engelmann spoke about the links between online and offline child sexual abuse and ambitions for the work in Blackpool to have positive implications for community-based responses elsewhere.

“Pioneering new, integrated approaches”

Professor Adam Crawford said, “It was great to share these emerging findings at EuroCrim2023. We have begun to gain some interesting insights from our projects about how different services are approaching vulnerability-related problems, and how policing vulnerability varies across regions.

“A number of our current projects are drawing into their final stages. We hope that our research can pioneer new, integrated approaches to drive positive change in the ways police and other services respond to problems stemming from vulnerabilities. In the coming months we’ll be publishing these findings so keep an eye out on our Centre channels to find out more.”

In addition to the Centre presentations, Professor Crawford spoke about police and local authority interventions and their impact on crime and vulnerable groups based on work from the IcARUS project.