BLOG - An Inside Job: Using Criminology, Police Data and a Lot of Nouse

On 14th February 2020, the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research welcomed Professor Betsy Stanko OBE to Edinburgh to deliver a seminar based on her unusual career of working in different academic, practitioner and policy environments. In this blog, we highlight some of her key messages about unlocking the value of crime data.

Betsy began her career in academia in the US before relocating to the UK in the 1990s. Since that time, Betsy has directed a major ESRC-funded programme of research on violence, worked for the Cabinet Office, held various senior advisory roles within the Metropolitan Police and, most recently, served as the Head of Evidence and Insight at the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (or MOPAC) in London. During her time at the Metropolitan Police and MOPAC, Betsy worked on a wide range of research projects, many of them highly sensitive and all of them underpinned by robust evidence and strong data-led intelligence. 

During the seminar, Betsy discussed several exciting examples of projects that have involved working with crime data. Importantly, she stressed that one of her key successes was to ensure that, where possible, data were made available for everyone.  An excellent example of this is the MOPAC website, which includes details of data and statistics across a range of topics (from high harm crimes to public confidence and satisfaction) and enables everyone to monitor the performance of MOPAC against key policing priorities. MOPAC also publish a set of dashboards for different types of crime data (including weapon-enabled crime, hate crimes and domestic and sexual violence). The type of data available is illustrated below using maps of London and various trend data.


Explore the weapon-enabled crime dashboard on Mayor of London website.

Although now retired from MOPAC, Betsy continues to be very active in her drive to ensure that the justice world makes the most of its data. Amongst many other roles, she is External Advisor and Champion for the Data First programme, funded by ADR UK, which aims to connect up justice data from across the family, civil and criminal courts, and with data from other government departments.

Her talk on using criminology, police data and a lot of nouse provided a thought-provoking call to action on the value of policing data: how it shows our social world, patterns, histories and journeys. By infusing social science methods into police work, we can look at data systematically and think about it differently, offering new insights that support both new policies and effective practice. What does the data and evidence say? How can we learn more about outcomes? Reflective practice is crucial to see what works and develop our learning, as well as ensuring that we maintain the highest of ethical standards, as showcased by the emerging work from the Centre for Data Ethics and Innovation.

We at the Scottish Centre for Administrative Data Research are undertaking research in this area, under our Safer Communities programme, and look forward to developing further research projects to inform policy and practice, and for the public good.

This article was published on 26 Mar 2020

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Susan McVie