Experts’ Open Letter in Response to a Recent Policy Exchange Report

49 Criminologists, social scientists and professional organisations respond to a recent Policy Exchange report on knife crime, gangs, youth violence and drill music, dismissing it as factually inaccurate, misleading and politically dangerous.

We note the publication of a recent Policy Exchange report, Knife Crime in the Capital, and write to register our concern for the danger it poses to public opinion, due to its lack of rigour and the baseless nature of what it argues. Dismissing concerns about the disproportionate use of stop and search on Black Britons as ‘misleading’, the report argues that the ‘real injustice’ is the disproportionate number of young Black men killed. Furthermore, drill music, gangs (a term that is very vaguely defined) and social media are all blamed for knife crime in London, committing grave causation-correlation errors. Ignoring decades of criminological research that consistently proves that stop and search is both discriminatory and ineffective, this Policy Exchange report also disregards similar research that disproves facile links between gangs and knife crime, knife crime and drill music and argues for a more nuanced understanding of the use of social media by gangs and drill rappers alike.

Presented as a research report, it actually relies on shaky evidence, uses contested terminology carelessly, and risks wild assumptions that are based on falsehoods and misinterpretations. As such, the report reveals an alarming inability to meet even basic standards of research procedure in ways that mislead rather than inform popular opinion.

In the aftermath of the recent wave of #BlackLivesMatter protests which attuned many to the realities of police racism and criminal injustice, the publication of such an unreliable report couldn’t be more worrying. We therefore write to openly challenge the claims it makes, as experts in the very topics that this Policy Exchange report does violence to, honouring our commitment to upholding high standards of evidence and integrity in the production and public dissemination of our work.

Signatories’ names

Dr Lambros Fatsis, Senior Lecturer in Criminology (University of Brighton) 

Dr Abenaa Owusu-Bempah, Associate Professor of Law (London School of Economics and Political Science) 

British Society of Criminology Race Matters Network 

Dr Jonathan Ilan, Senior Lecturer in Criminology (City, University of London)

Professor Eithne Quinn, Arts, Languages and Cultures (University of Manchester)

Professor Peter Squires [Emeritus Professor of Criminology & Public Policy], University of Brighton.

Dr Michael Shiner,Associate Professor (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Dr Jason Warr, Senior Lecturer in Criminology & Criminal Justice (De Montfort University)

Dr Elaine Williams, Lecturer in Criminology (University of Greenwich)

Lucy Bryant, StopWatch and PhD student (London School of Economics and Political Science)

Alex Stevens, Professor in Criminal Justice (University of Kent)

Dr Bailey-Noblett, Criminologist (University of Strathclyde and The Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research)

Dr Monish Bhatia, Criminologist (Birkbeck, University of London)

Habib Kadiri, Research and Policy Manager, StopWatch

Dr Patrick Williams, Senior Lecturer in Criminology, Manchester Metropolitan University. 

Dr Rod Earle, Senior Lecturer in Youth Justice, The Open University.

Dr Giulia F Zampini, Senior Lecturer in Criminology (University of Greenwich)

Dr Megan McElhone, Lecturer in Criminology (Birkbeck, University of London)

Dr  Fergus McNeill, Professor of Criminology & Social Work at the University of Glasgow

Dr Steve Tombs, Professor of Criminology, The Open University

Dr Rachel Seoighe, Lecturer in Criminology, University of Kent

Dr Tara Young, Senior Lecturer in Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of Kent

Dr Suzella Palmer, Senior Lecturer in Criminology (University of Bedfordshire)

Dr Ben Hunter, Associate Professor in Criminology (University of Greenwich)

Dr Marias D’Avolio, Lecturer in Criminology (University of Brighton)

Dr Kate Herrity, JRF in Punishment (King’s College, University of Cambridge)

Dr Tilman Schwarze, Lecturer in Criminology (University of Glasgow) 

Dr Becky Clarke, Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology (Manchester Metropolitan University) 

Dr Monique Charles, Independent Scholar

Dr. Daniel Newman, Senior Lecturer in Law (University of Cardiff) 

Dr. Joy White, Lecturer in Applied Social Studies (University of Bedfordshire) 

Dr Les Back, Professor of Sociology (Goldsmiths, University of London)

Dr Naaz Rashid, Lecturer in Media and Cultural Studies (University of Sussex) 

Dr. Lisa Tilley (SOAS, University of London)  

Dr Waqas Tufail, Senior Lecturer in Criminology (Leeds Beckett University) 

Dr Erik Nielson, Professor of Liberal Arts (University of Richmond)

Dr Eleanor Peters, Senior Lecturer in Criminology (Edge Hill University)

Dr Aaron Winter, Associate Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice (University of East London) 

Dr Jade Levell, Lecturer in Criminology and Gender Violence (University of Bristol)

Dr. Shadd Maruna, Professor of Criminology (Queen’s University Belfast)

Dr. Murray Lee, Professor of Criminology (University of Sydney)

Dr. Victoria Canning, Senior Lecturer in Criminology (University of Bristol) 

Dr. Remi Joseph-Salisbury, Presidential Fellow in Ethnicity and Inequalities (University of Manchester)

Dr Laura Connelly, Lecturer in Criminology (University of Salford) 

Northern Police Monitoring Project 

Dr Malcolm James (University of Sussex)

Dr Camille Stengel (University of Greenwich)

Dr Nikhaela Wicks (University of Kent)

Craig Kelly, Lecturer in Criminology (Birmingham City University)

Experts’ Open Letter in Response to a Recent Policy Exchange Report

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