"I have gotten immense value out of being part of the CSaP community."
In February, after a long career in the Department for Transport, I became the Director General for Crime, Policy and Fire in the Home Office. In the longer term I expect my role will involve dealing with complex long-term questions around tackling the drivers of crime, understanding how you design an effective criminal justice system which stops recidivism, and exploring how policing might be restructured to improve performance. Truthfully, however, the first six months on the job has largely centered on designing and implementing some of the regulations which are being used to manage the covid-19 crisis – ranging from complete lockdown, to the tiering model which is being created to manage the next stages of the pandemic.
Throughout the covid-19 pandemic, the role of experts, academics, and how we bring knowledge into government has been such a hot topic. For me, the question where I have called on experts and academics the most has been in informing the development of strategies on compliance and enforcement which are informed by behavioral sciences. I am interested in what we can learn from interventions in other domains, and what we know about how to influence behaviour in that space. The information I have received from experts in addressing those questions has been really grounding and super helpful.
In fulfilling my longer-term mandate as the Director General for Crime and Policing, it is pretty clear to me that building strong partnerships with academia will be vital if I am to be effective in my role. I have already tried to begin building into my work the clear orientations that I have gotten from working with academics on how to respond to the rigorous challenges we face in tackling crime. As part of this, I am trying to be really clear about the theory of change I am bringing to my work on crime prevention and crime reduction.
In government, we talk a lot about the drivers of crime, but working with academics has challenged me to unpick the drivers of crime into something which is more cause-based. This is the difference between doing a fact-based analysis of the characteristics of a crime and understanding the cause of a crime. I have had rich conversations with academics in which we have explored contextual factors, and what actually makes crime take place.
CSaP has convened an amazing group of policymakers from across government, and an amazing group of academics from many different disciplines. The Centre has brought us together and given us a chance to share our perspectives and experiences. Moreover, through CSaP, I have kicked off a couple of very practical collaborations with individual academics. For example, in my previous work in the department of transport, we started a joint project with Addenbrooke’s Hospital exploring interventions to make travel more physically active. We have also worked closely with experts on alternative models for decarbonizing technologies – such as how we can make lorries electric. My connections to CSaP sparked that collaboration, by connecting me with the experts who are working on groundbreaking findings in that research area.