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Violence Research Centre

 

 

The Violence Research Centre (VRC) hosted an Institute of Criminology’s Thursday Public Seminar on 7 November 2019. Entitled The Past, the Present and the Future of Violence Research, the event was also an opportunity to celebrate our fifth birthday with our Criminology colleagues, students and the general public. Before the talks started, a slideshow shared pictures from past VRC events and our research networks.

Prof Manuel Eisner recalled the origins of the VRC and focused on three topics:

  1. From neurons and (epi)genes to societies – integrating research from the microlevel of how things work and function to the macrolevel of the entire society. He shared this research question: "At what age, say between age 0-19 do we start to see differences in children from different cultures and countries, from less violent cities like Singapore to more violent societies like Caracas?" He explained that this is an important question for prevention science. It is crucial to know when to establish violence prevention interventions, whether in early childhood, in adolescence or in adulthood (unemployment, welfare, etc).

  2. From milliseconds to centuries - this topic addressed the timeframe. By observing people's development, criminologists can understand the mechanisms of violence. This happens in longitudinal studies, where the same individuals are followed for a number of years.

  3. From morality to atrocity. We could ask ourselves if violent people are bad people. Violence could be a short-term reaction to provocation (milliseconds) or a longer process if frustration builds during weeks if not years. This can be captured in longitudinal studies but they do not guarantee the whole story; it is possible to miss a piece of the puzzle because monitoring an individual for years is a lot of work and effort. Also a lot of violence is motivated by morality, like terrorism, where the terrorist is trying to put something right and punish people who did something wrong.

Dr Justice Tankebe's talk was entitled Policing Violence and covered police impact on reducing violence. He explained that violence is not randomly distributed but concentrates in hotspots, which can be very small areas. Hotposts of crime are known to police forces, who focus their efforts on particular areas in a city through patrols and stop-and-search interventions. Deterrence is not a successful strategy, it has been proved that the severety of judicial sentences does not affect violent crime. Police legitimacy matters, the way the police is perceived by the general public might encourage or discourage reporting of crimes. Retaliatory violence also depends on legitimacy - if there is no trust in the police to address an issue, citizens will take the law in their hands.

Dr Paolo Campana talked about gang violence. He used the very realistic TV series Top Boy to explain how violence is crucial for gangs. He focused on violence originating from illegal market interactions, including trafficking and drug smuggling. Drug users themselves resort to violence because of the effects of the drugs and to procure the next fix. Violence linked to drug distribution has been studied in the US and in Mexico but there are not many studies, especially research focusing on systemic violence associated to drug markets. Dr Campana is looking at this kind of violence with Dr Peter Reuter, Professor in the School of Public Policy and the Department of Criminology at the University of Maryland. 

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