POLICYMAKERS tasked with tackling crime and re-offending in the North East should rely on academic research to mould their vision as they face increasing budget cuts, a leading academic said last night.
Prof Michael Rowe claims criminal justice agencies are facing a difficult challenge as they bid to create rehabilitation programmes and cut crime levels “against a backdrop of restricted resources”.
Now Prof Rowe, a leading criminologist at Northumbria University, is spearheading a new research hub which is vying to shape policies across the North East.
The centre – based at Northumbria University – has been set up to analyse how and why crime occurs at regional, national and global level. Their research involves examining crime reduction, community safety and ways of reducing re-offending.
Last night Prof Rowe, co-director of the Centre for Offenders and Offending, said: “The centre for offending brings together academic researchers From across the university and different faculties who are doing different pieces of work.
“Criminal justice agencies are dealing with increasingly limited resources and we are hoping to make sure their policies are based upon solid research evidence to improve the work they do.
“There’s increasing pressure to deliver better programmes and better interventions to tackle crime against a backdrop of restricted resources. The phrase is doing more for less.”
Already academics have carried out research on the Safe Newcastle programme, an inter-agency group set up to work with persistent offenders on release from prison.
It showed that while offenders received support, it contributed significantly to crime reduction. However, once the support came to an end – typically after four to six months – offenders may be more likely to lapse back into a life of crime.
As a result of the research, a mentoring programme is currently being developed whereby former offenders will continue to offer support on a more long-term basis.
Prof Rowe said: “Issues of repeat offending are more of a problem in the North East. It might be due to issues of social disadvantages and issues to do with the demography of the area, including the age profile of the region. There’s a lot of expertise in the agencies but we can help them develop evidence-based policies and address serious issues.”
He added: “We recognise that certain types of offending – in particular, white collar crime such as fraud, piracy, and domestic violence – are barely addressed by the criminal justice system. We’re interested in shaping social understanding of actually what is criminal and harmful behaviour. The vast majority of people in prison will be released and we want to try to identify ways of ensuring they don’t re-offend.”
Academics have set up a blog at collab.northumbria.ac.uk/coo/