Sheffield university researchers to analyse impact of knife crime images on young people in new study
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Academics in the Forensic and Applied Investigative Research group (FaIR) at Sheffield Hallam, the University of Sheffield, South Yorkshire’s Violence Reduction Unit and Thame’s Valley’s Violence Reduction Unit have received funding to explore whether using images of confiscated knives may cause more harm than good.
Researchers received investment from the N8 Policing Research Partnership to explore the impact of using pictures of the weapons from in-person interventions and in the media.
Psychologists Dr Charlotte Coleman, Dr Kate Whitfield and Dr Martin Thirkettle from Sheffield Hallam will lead the study which aims to investigate the effects knife images have on perceptions of the level of knife carrying as well as the fears and attitudes that surround knives.
Academics hope the research will inform future public engagement, through school-based interventions, national campaigns such as #knifefree, the work that police forces carry out with young people and media releases.
The study comes after South Yorkshire Police and Thames Valley Police now avoid showing such images for fear that they are making the public more, not less, worried about knife crime.
Researchers will examine whether using fewer images of the knives helps prevents fear around the issue increasing, or whether the lack of knife images may reduce the impact of these messages and young people’s engagement with them.
There are concerns that using knife crime images could increase young people’s desire for protection, leading them to carry knives themselves.
Dr Charlotte Coleman from Sheffield Hallam University said: “We are delighted to be working across our Sheffield universities, and with our Violence Reduction Unit partners in South Yorkshire and Thames Valley.
“This research contributes to our ongoing work around violent crime and will enable us to inform the development of future work into knife crime reduction activity.”
The research is due to begin this month with school visits across South Yorkshire and the Thames Valley.
Performance review officer for the South Yorkshire Violence Reduction Unit Mike Parker added: “We want to make sure that our messages have impact.
"What we don’t know is if pairing them with images of knives improves or distracts from these messages.
"What we don’t want is to frighten young people into thinking that carrying a knife is more common than it is.
“This research will help us understand how young people react to knife images, and make sure we get it right.”
Dr Alan Billings, South Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner commented: “For some time now knife crime has blighted too many lives and communities, including some in South Yorkshire.
“I am often asked to fund campaigns to deter people from carrying knives that feature photographs or images of them.
“However, we need to be sure that these images do indeed deter rather than frighten or cause anxiety or lead people to think they must take them up as ‘protection’.
“I welcome this research which, hopefully, will give us some definitive answers to these crucial concerns.”