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With this research we will be focussing on changing patterns of crime and victimisation across time and space. This work will have a particular focus on the development of indicators and risk assessment tools for reducing harm and vulnerability, taking into account the identified drivers and patterns of crime. 

This work is connected with our broader theme of Spatial inequalities, as well as Justice, Well-being, Age and Gender inequalities.

Research Papers

Stop and search reform in Scotland: A study of effectiveness and equity


Stop and search, and its impact on crime and communities is one of the most contentious aspects of policing activity worldwide. In 2015, following a major review, the Scottish Parliament passed legislation to regulate the use of stop and search in Scotland, and introduce a new Code of Practice. In practice, the reform ended the widespread use of non-statutory stop and search and put the tactic on an exclusively statutory basis. While aimed at improving proportionality and fairness, the shift to a legalistic model also prompted concerns that falling rates of stop and search would result in a rise in crime, especially violence. This paper examines the consequences of shifting from a deterrent model to a more legalistic model of stop and search. It does so by examining the effectiveness of stop and search as a measure to prevent crime and the degree to which it is used equally across communities with different levels of crime and deprivation. 

Types of inequalities

Communities, crime, justice, policing

Like Mother, like child? The intergenerational transmission of maternal offending

That parental offending acts as a strong risk factor for offending in children is well-established within criminology. Yet research on the effects of prior maternal offending is relatively limited, despite the fact that many women take on a significantly higher share of childcare responsibilities, and as such, might reasonably be expected to exert an especially strong influence on their children. Aimed in part at redressing this imbalance, this study investigates the intergenerational transmission of maternal offending, and whether prior maternal offending affects boys and girls in different ways. Drawing on the longitudinal Growing Up in Scotland survey, the analysis uses a series of regression models to assess to the risk of offending among a cohort of 12-year-olds.  In addition to maternal offending, the analysis also considers contemporaneous risk factors, including family functioning and structural deprivation, to ascertain whether past behaviours, more recent circumstances or a combination of both are most likely to predict offending in children.

ACEs, places and inequality: Understanding the effects of adverse childhood experiences and poverty on offending in childhood

Over the last three decades, an extensive body of research evidence has emerged on the relationship between adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and a range of negative outcomes, including offending. Using data from the longitudinal Growing Up in Scotland survey, this paper investigates how both ACEs and material deprivation influence the risk of child offending at age 12. The analysis uses a series of binary logistic regression models to show that while the simple number of ACEs is a strong predictor of child offending, that the type of experience is also important, and that parental maltreatment is particularly significant. The analysis also shows that there are complex interactions between poverty and ACEs, and that persistent poverty at the neighbourhood level also acts as a key predictor of childhood offending.

Policy implications

Overall, the results suggest the need for an ACEs and Places agenda: for universal services to support all children who experience parental maltreatment, and for policies that mitigate the adverse effects of living in deprived areas.

Police use of the new Covid-19 powers: Using administrative data to analyse and evaluate practice

Photo showing the torsos of two police officers in yellow high visibility uniforms

McVie and fellow collaborators at the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research (SCADR)

Research questions: 

The report scrutinises Police Scotland's use of temporary new powers of enforcement introduced to tackle the Covid-19 pandemic and asks the following questions:

  • Are the temporary powers being used appropriately, with enforcement being used only as a last resort?
  • What is the public's perception of the police use of these temporary powers?

Type(s) of inequality and how inequality is defined:

Differences in the use of the powers in terms of absolute numbers and rates per capita.

Approach or method used:

From childhood system intervention to adult criminal conviction: Investigating sex and Indigenous status inequalities in Queensland administrative data

Matthews, McVie and collaborators at Queensland University, Australia 

It is well known that youth justice intervention is associated with a criminal conviction in adulthood.  What is less well known is whether “cross-over” children, who have contact with both child welfare and youth justice systems, experience relatively worse outcomes and, if so, whether these outcomes are exacerbated by important demographic factors, such as sex and Indigenous status.  Criminal careers scholars have examined the existence and patterning of adult convictions for different groups, but attempts to understand inequality of outcome have been constrained by limitations of standard statistical analysis.  Using administrative data from the Queensland Cross-sector Research Collaboration, we adopt a novel regression model specification more commonly used in epidemiology to explore the cumulative effects of childhood system contact on adult conviction trajectories, and how these associations vary by sex and Indigenous status.

Testing the relationship between changing patterns of crime and stop and search in Scotland: the impact of the introduction of a new Code of Practice

Jahanshahi and McVie

Recent changes to stop and search legislation, policy and practice in Scotland has significantly reduced the use of the tactic.  In a wider context of rising violence in the UK, this has raised questions over the extent to which the reduction in stop and search has impacted on crime rates, and especially violence. 

This paper addresses the following research questions:

·         What is the relationship between rates of stop and search and patterns of crime in Scotland?

·         Has the introduction of a new code of practice on 11th May 2017 caused a ‘shock’ in terms of this relationship?

·         Does this relationship vary according to type of search power used and type of crime studied?

·         Is there any variation in the relationship between stop and search and crime rates across Police Divisions?  And is this contingent on level of deprivation  across divisional areas?

Type(s) of inequality and how inequality is defined:

The changing profile of crime victims in Scotland: Has the crime drop resulted in greater concentration of inequalities?

McVie, Norris, Pillinger and Skott.

Building on previous work (McVie, Norris and Pillinger, 2019) this analysis aims to explore the factors that have influenced growing inequality in the experience of victimisation over the period of the crime drop in Scotland.  Key research questions are:

·         To what extent has the crime drop resulted in a widening gap in risk of exposure to victimisation (based on frequency and type of crime)?

·         What factors explain this widening gap in the risk of exposure to victimisation?

·         To what extent could any widening inequality be a result of economic stress (potentially as a result of the financial crash) as opposed to other social characteristics of the Scottish population?

Type(s) of inequality and how inequality is defined

We focus principally on the issue of inequality in exposure to crime victimisation.  In doing so, we take account of differences according to age, sex, socio-economic status, economic stress, educational level and health conditions.

The impact of early inequalities and adverse experiences on offending and criminal conviction over the life-course

McAra and McVie

Poverty and early justice system intervention are known to be key contributors to offending behaviour amongst young people and, even more so, to contribute to inequality in exposure to justice system contact.  In recent years, attention has started to focus on adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and the extent to which people who come to the attention of criminal justice organisations are impacted by these.  In Scotland, for example, policing and prisons policies have started to develop ‘trauma informed practice’ in order to engage more compassionately with individuals who may have experienced ACEs. However, the full extent of the relationship between ACEs and offending or criminal justice system contact is not entirely clear; and there are some concerns that a narrow focus on ACEs deflects attention away from the impact of other known risk factors, including structural poverty and negative system effects. 

The research questions guiding this paper are:

·         To what extent do ACEs impact on offending behaviour in adolescence?

Hidden inequalities in the exposure to crime in Glasgow and Manchester

It is well evidenced that exposure to crime varies across urban space, with crime concentrating within a small proportion of locations (Weisburd, 2015; Rey et al, 2012; Braga et al, 2010). Further evidence suggests the spatial pattering of crime is associated with deprivation (Livingston et al., 2014). Thus, certain types of communities bear a disproportionate burden of recorded crime and with that, disorder and vulnerability. Building on the work of Hope et al (2001), this research will seek to assess whether there are also hidden inequalities in the exposure to crime. In other words, are certain types of community less likely to report crime and, therefore, experience an even greater burden of crime than that manifest by recorded crime? Relatedly, if certain types of community are more likely to report crime, do they capture a disproportionate amount of police resource?

The spatial reordering of poverty and its association with property and violent crime in Glasgow and Birmingham 2001-2016

There is growing evidence of the spatial reordering or suburbanisation of poverty (Kavanagh et al., 2016; Bailey and Minton, 2017) and its detrimental impact on the life chances of poorer people (Zhang and Pryce, forthcoming) in UK cities.  This paper extends this body of research through exploring the potential association between the spatial re-ordering of poverty and crime. The strength of the association between poverty and crime, once a bedrock conclusion of international research, has increasingly been challenged (Dhiri et al., 1999; Hipp and Yates, 2011; Tilley et al., 2011; Metz and Burdina, 2018). However, existing research typically deploys a single poverty measure, does not take account of different crime types, adopts a large spatial scale of analysis and does not contrast findings across different settings.

The crime drop and neighbourhood inequalities in the exposure to crime: A longitudinal study of violent and property crime in Glasgow and Birmingham (2001-2016)

Since the 1990s, a dramatic decline in recorded crime has been observed across many developed polities (Aebi and Linde, 2010; Tseloni et al., 2010). Set against this finding, there has been limited attention paid to the crime drop at the neighbourhood level, an exception being Bannister et al (2017) who found marked distinction in the crime drop trajectories of different neighbourhood groupings in Glasgow. Building upon this finding, this paper seeks to explore whether the crime drop has resulted in an increase in inequalities in the exposure to crime. The analysis utilises police recorded property and violent crime in Glasgow and Birmingham, enabling assessment of whether any observed shifting inequalities in the exposure to crime can be considered place specific or part of wider area trends.

Crime cascade networks and their relationship to administrative boundaries and social frontiers

Bannister et al. (2015) found growing inequalities in exposure to crime due to crime rates falling more in some areas than others. This raises a number of questions. How do crime fads and trends emerge? How do they spread to other neighbourhoods? Why are some neighbourhoods impervious to particular fads and trends, but susceptible to others? Where do particular fads and trends start and finish? To what extent is the crime linkage non-spatial? Are neighbourhoods linked through movements in crime linked in other ways?  And how fragile or robust is the network of crime links? To understand inequalities in exposure to crime and why they shift over time, we need to understand the wider mechanism for crime transmission.

Have ethnic minorities decentralised in Scottish cities, and what is the impact on access to employment, schooling and health services?

We have seen significant changes to the centralisation and spatial ordering of poverty in Scottish cities, but we know little about how these effects or their consequences differ for ethnic minorities.
In this research paper we are interested in addressing two key questions:

(1) has there been significant changes to the spatial distribution of different ethnic minorities (particularly in terms of decentralisation and spatial ordering)?

(2) what have been the impacts in terms of their access to employment, education and health services (GP surgeries), and their exposure to pollution, and crime?

We plan to investigate this using similar methodology to that used by Zhang & Pryce (2018) and to focus on inter-ethnic differences.

This research is in development. If you have any questions about this work, please contact Professor Gwilym Pryce.

A crime drop for whom? Changing inequality in the profile of victims in Scotland from 2008-09 to 2017-18

Crime has fallen substantially over the last 30 or so year, in Scotland and elsewhere. One of the main questions raised by the ‘crime drop’ is whether all groups in society have benefited, or whether some groups have seen larger reductions in crime than others. We make explicit the distinction between two different types of victimization inequality measure which have previously been used to study changing victimization inequality over the course of the crime drop - what we term adjusted and unadjusted measures. We argue that these two measures relate to conceptually distinct quantities of interest which can inform different types of policy response to changing victimization inequality, informing victimization prevention and victim support services respectively. We empirically analyse the change in victimization inequality in Scotland between 2008 and 2017 using these two types of victimization inequality measure, considering a range of socio-demographic factors.

The impact of structural, systemic and social inequalities in childhood on adolescent offending and early adult criminal conviction


The factors that determine young people’s involvement in offending and youth justice are multiple and complex, which makes it difficult to know what type of policy response is likely to be most effective.  Scotland has prioritised policies aimed at reducing child poverty, improving trauma informed practice and minimising the impact of formal system contact amongst those who get involved in offending.  But which is most likely to be effective and for what?  This paper examines data from the Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime to explore the relationship between early childhood experiences, offending in adolescence and criminal conviction in early adulthood.

Types of inequalities

Poverty, Adverse Childhood Experiences, Formal System Contact, Gender


This research involves the use of latent class growth analysis (LCGA) and multinomial regression modelling.

Our other areas of research

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