The rationale of this PhD project is to rethink the kind of research that can best support crime prevention policy-making in Wales. The principal conjecture is that what is needed, but typically lacking in current evidence-based approaches, are narrative accounts that explain how particular crime problems are possible in certain social contexts and thus what kind of interventions are liable to effectively and sustainably reduce these problems in these contexts.
A corollary of this is that the propensity of crime problems (those who are and those who are not likely to experience crime within a population of interest), is more insightful than the more familiar preoccupation with the frequency of offending and victimisation. The consequent aim of the proposed research is to shift the analytical focus of evidence-based policy-making from a concern with the incidence of offending and victimisation to a concern with the likelihood of not offending or not becoming a victim: from ‘contagion’ to ‘immunisation’. An exemplar of this shift being current work on the resilient factors that counteract ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACEs) that otherwise provide pathways into offending and/or victimisation. In these terms, the key questions for the research are:
- What might explain the ‘immunisation’ of non-victims and non-offenders amongst populations at risk of inter-personal violence?
- What lessons can be drawn from this explanation for a violence prevention strategy that is concerned with enhancing resilience against inter-personal violence?
The project will be a cross-sectional study entailing three main stages:
(a) using available officially recorded data to identify the risk-factor-profile of those experiencing different kinds of violence (mindful of finer-grained differences between inter-personal violence, violence against the person (VAP) and criminal exploitation of vulnerable groups);
(b) using this to select a matched sample of non-offenders and non-victims to identify their protective-factor-profile and then
(c) drawing from this a purposive sample to explore further factors associated with their resilience to violence, using qualitative methods, in particular unstructured narrative interviews about respondents’ life histories.
Identifying protective-factor-profiles will also be informed by existing tools currently used by police and health professionals to assess the risk of violence. In these terms, the project aims at making a significant contribution to the currently under-researched and under-conceptualised understanding of immunisation and resilience, potentially including the development of a methodology (combining epidemiology and narrative interviewing) that could be transposed into the study of other crime problems.