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17 June 2011
Cardiff’s innovative role in shaping police methods has been explained to an influential committee of MPs.
The University hosted Westminster’s Home Affairs Select Committee, as part of a national tour the Committee is making to gather evidence on the future of policing. Professor Jonathan Shepherd, Director of the Violence and Society Research Group, and Professor Martin Innes, Director of the Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI), were among those giving evidence.
Opening the session, the Committee chairman Keith Vaz, explained: "The Select Committee is in Cardiff to place stakeholders and the public at the heart of any decisions we make about what we want to see happen as far as policing is concerned."
His colleague on the Committee, Cardiff South MP Alun Michael, said: "I thought the Committee would like to hear from specialists like Professor Shepherd and Professor Innes on the work that’s being done here to analyse the nature, causes and geography of crime, particularly violent crime."
In his evidence, Professor Shepherd explained the origins of the Violence and Society Research Group, and its pioneering work, linking accident and emergency data to police data about assaults. This led to the creation of the prototype Community Safety Partnership in Cardiff in 1996, involving the University, the NHS, the Police and Cardiff County Council.
Professor Shepherd said: "We wanted to build on our discovery that many violent incidents were not reported to the police. The object was to make policing in Cardiff more effective by adding information from emergency departments as well as the police’s own source of information. This combined information helped get police to the violence hotspots more frequently and earlier, thus keeping more people out of hospital. By 2003, we were beginning to see it working. Cardiff was doing better than 14 other comparator cities, with around a 40 per cent difference in numbers of violent assaults, based both on hospital admissions and police records."
Professor Shepherd explained how the Partnership work led to the idea of a research institute for policing. This was developed with South Wales Police and resulted in the Universities Police Science Institute (UPSI).
Giving his evidence, Professor Innes then explained the UPSI role in integrating police practice, research, training and education. He said: "As we have developed we have come to define the Institute’s mission as being to develop ‘evidence for the art, craft and science of policing.’ "
Professor Innes gave a number of examples of evidence-based policing, including the Institute’s review of the Government’s Prevent strategy on violent religious extremism and its assistance with national inspection of the policing of the victims of anti-social behaviour.
Professor Innes also explained the Institute’s work with South Wales Police in developing Community Intelligence in Cardiff. He said: "Arguably our most ambitious attempt has been in implementing an innovative community intelligence and engagement methodology in support of Neighbourhood Policing. The officers engaged in the programme were effectively being trained to conduct research to determine public problems through face-to-face interviews with members of the public. We have established that people will tell officers things to their face they would not otherwise say. As a result, these interviews are yielding significant amounts of criminal intelligence."
Other speakers giving evidence to the Committee included the Chief Constable of South Wales, Peter Vaughan and the Welsh Assembly Government’s Deputy Director of Community Safety Karin Phillips. The session was also attended by representatives of Neighbourhood Watch, Cardiff Magistrates, Cardiff Council, Safer Wales and other interested stakeholders. The Committee intends to present a report to the Government, based on all the evidence it has taken, in the next six months.
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