Improving community policing

Pioneering research by the Universities' Police Science Institute (UPSI) has made police more effective at understanding and responding to crime and disorder.

Policewoman in the community
Policewoman in the community, photo from West Midlands Police, Flickr account.

Crime and disorder problems drive insecurity within and across communities. In 2007 the Universities' Police Science Institute was established in partnership with South Wales Police to help neighbourhood police teams respond more effectively to local needs.

UPSI's work has provided evidence in how to engage effectively with communities so that policing interventions target the issues that influence how people think, feel and act about their safety.

The research led to a shift in policy across the whole of England and Wales. We’ve seen definite impact and the University were involved in delivering that message to basic command units across the UK.

Peter Vaughan South Wales Police Chief Constable

Providing insights

Professor Martin Innes led a research team which embarked on a rolling programme of face-to-face interviews with key members of communities. The work led to new insights into public perceptions and experiences of crime and disorder, and enabled police to become more effective at understanding and responding to neighbourhood needs.

The methodology enables police to identify precisely what problems, in which locations, are having most influence upon community safety.

For example, they might identify social disorder as the key issue for residents in one street, whilst graffiti is the focus of concern two streets away. By targeting action on those issues and places where most collective harm is occurring, police can deliver a 'smarter' response that is more directly focused upon public priorities.

About UPSI

Since its inception UPSI has secured £2 million external funding from various policing and governmental agencies. Combining academic rigour with a strong focus upon policy and practice, it has achieved international renown for its innovations in designing, developing and assessing new solutions to policing problems.

Changing policing

In 2010 the methodology was adopted by South Wales Police and the Safer Sutton Partnership as integral to their delivery of neighbourhood policing. It has also been used by Victoria Police in Australia, The Police Academy of the Netherlands, Lancashire Constabulary and ten other UK police agencies. 

Key impacts of this research have been: 

  • changing Home Office policy for the policing of antisocial behaviour across England and Wales
  • informing the Prevent counter-terrorism strategy for the UK and overseas
  • improving the outcomes of South Wales Police's Neighbourhood Policing Teams.

Selected publications


This research was made possible through our close partnership with and support from: