Social contagion of violence

This research explores how violence can spread across social networks.

Key details

Lead institution
Principal researcher(s)
Police region
London
Collaboration and partnership

Thames Valley Police; Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit

Level of research
Professional/work based
Project start date
Date due for completion

Research context

This project’s focus is the prevention of serious violence, and in particular interrupting the spread of violence across social networks.

Evidence from the US shows that violence exhibits contagion-like properties, whereby violent incidents trigger follow-up violent victimisations amongst the social contacts of the original victim.

This project will:

  • establish whether violence in the UK displays similar patterns of contagion
  • examine whether the understanding of such contagion can be improved by exploiting data resources developed within Thames Valley Police
  • produce operationally relevant, computational tools, which will allow individuals at risk of violence to be identified prospectively

Research methodology

This project has three phases.

In phase one, data will be integrated to build social networks within Thames Valley.

In phase two, a statistical model will be applied to quantify the presence and extent of risk communicability across these networks, and assess its predictive potential.

In phase three, tools that take account of the social contagion of violence will be developed to inform violence prevention strategies and the effective targeting of preventive resources. These tools will be developed in such a way that they could be straightforwardly implemented in other forces.

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