A cartoon cat is helping the police in London

8 August 2017

Copcat London Underground Advert
Copcat images appeared on the London Underground

A cartoon cat has been helping the police to warn of thieves on bikes stealing mobile phones in London.

Created by the Universities’ Police Science Institute (UPSI) at Cardiff University, #Copcat has been used to make police warning messages more memorable, using humour and puns.

#Copcat reminded the public to ‘purr-text your phone’ and ‘go hands fur-ee’, in a bid to keep phones out of the hands of thieves.

Copcat London Underground
Copcat messages were also displayed on staircases in underground stations.

Professor Martin Innes, Director of UPSI, said “Most crime prevention images are designed to frighten people into changing their behaviour. We designed an experiment where we ran two campaigns – a very traditional campaign designed to change people’s crime prevention behaviour versus our more experimental campaign and saw what the results were and how they were different.”

“We tried to use humour and cartons to change how memorable the messages were for members of the public.”

Traditional police crime warning image
Traditional police warning signs ran alongside the Copcat campaign

Traditional warning images and the cartoon #Copcat images were on display in underground stations around Camden and Islington boroughs in 2016. People were exposed to the campaigns when they stepped on and off the trains, and officers handed out leaflets at stations, along with a social media campaign.

Professor Innes said “What we saw was people were far more likely to remember the cartoon cat and the advice he gave than they were for a far more traditional police campaign.”

“The work was done in conjunction with the College of Policing so once we’ve understood the nuances in our data and our findings, we’re hoping that this has got the potential to roll out and go nationwide.”

The #Copcat trial was inspired by recent research at the UPSI which found that messages from empathetic, sympathetic messengers are more likely to be remembered than traditional fear-framed messages which try to frighten people into changing their behaviour.

The UPSI is part of the Crime & Security Research Institute at Cardiff University.

For more information visit the School webpages.