The University of Leicester were able to secure research funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to establish a Violence Reduction Information Network (VRIN) to support East Midlands police services and beyond.
The academic team at VRIN comprises Associate Professor Matt Hopkins, Dr Claire Davis and Dr Keith Floyd, supported by the administrative skills of Laura Nevay, They are, in turn, working with operational representatives of the five East Midlands forces, to explore ways of improving the policing of violence.
The aims of VRIN are to:
- Develop a network for knowledge exchange
- Disseminate good practice in order to influence policy and practice. This will be facilitated through a VRIN webpage
- Become a repository of good practice in violence reduction accessible to practitioners
- Map current interventions used nationally and internationally to reduce weapons related violence and to ascertain ‘what works’
- Map data sources and assess the feasibility of building composite datasets regionally using data from a range of agencies
- Design and conduct future research that meets the needs of practitioners and is easily transferable into practice, making a positive impact
- Ensure the sustainability of the partnership beyond the initial funding period
- Provide opportunities for post graduate researchers in violence reduction
- Evaluate interventions
- Organise a project conference at the end of year one
- Development of the VRIN webpages. Hosted in the research area of the School of Criminology website, the external-facing VRIN website will be a one-stop shop for practitioners, academics and members of the public to discover the landscape of violence reduction throughout the East Midlands thanks to an interventions map, summarising and publicising the most significant initiatives taking place. The site it almost ready to launch, following some final cosmetic tweaks and additions of the latest content from forces. Go-live is planned for early December. VRIN Aims and Objectives, Publications and Briefing Papers, links to resources, a What Works database and a Discussion Forum will complete the webpage structure.
- Planning has begun for a conference to be held in 2021. It is hoped that this can be a conventional meeting of academics and practitioners but the possibility that it will need to be a virtual event is also a consideration. The former option is the preferred one and the date could be moved from Spring to late Summer/early Autumn if the likelihood is a physical meeting of attendees could safely take place. A number of significant speakers are being considered and various categories of awards are being devised.
- Enquiries and requests for academic inputs and advice have been growing steadily from forces, often encouraged and instigated by EMPAC’s Dr John Coxhead, who has been a valuable ally in promoting the new network amongst his extensive range of contacts both inside and beyond the region. Requests have ranged from assistance in marketing violence reduction campaigns to advice given to dissertation students completing policing degrees to promoting research requests in forces from colleagues from other universities within the East Midlands region.
- The current Chair of the East Midlands and EMPAC strategic lead, PCC’s Hardyal Dhindsa, who also leads on violent crime in the region, joined the VRIN members in a very productive meeting. The Commissioner was very interested in the proposals suggested for greater collaboration in the field of violence reduction in the region. He was very supportive of forging closer links between academics and practitioners and amongst force experts working in the violence reduction field.
- The University of Leicester has accommodated a Microsoft Teams group for the first time allowing external stakeholders, initially from police forces, to enjoy full access to resources, discussion boards and documentation hosted by the VRIN team. This is in response to the need to develop innovative new ways of home, virtual and agile working imposed on everyone by the pandemic. This group will facilitate far more efficient internal communications between the now established group of force and academic stakeholders formed earlier in the year and will be made available to coincide with the external website launch in early December.
- In addition to the conference later next year, a series of violence reduction-themed webinars are being planned in further response to new ways of working. Inspired by the success of the first virtual Scarman Lecture hosted by the University of Leicester School of Criminology in September which reached a huge audience across forty-five countries, similar technology will be used to host the webinars. They will feature prominent figures in the region, nationally and internationally working in the field of violence reduction, academics and police practitioners. They will appeal to a wide audience and the VRIN team are particularly excited to have the opportunity to showcase preferred practice and exciting possibilities for newly-formed Violence Reduction Units and other local initiatives.
If you would like to know more about VRIN activities or have any queries or suggestions, please direct them in the first instance to Dr Keith Floyd by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ongoing updates on the work of the VRIN and useful information will be made available to police and academic personnel via the EMPAC and Department of Criminology websites and EMPAC’s media partner, Police Professional.