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Police practitioner views on the challenges of analysing and responding to knife crime

Bullock, Karen; Agar, Iain; Ashby, Matt; Brennan, Iain; Hales, Gavin; Sidebottom, Aiden; Tilley, Nick


Karen Bullock

Iain Agar

Matt Ashby

Gavin Hales

Aiden Sidebottom

Nick Tilley


Knife crime remains a major concern in England and Wales. Problem-oriented and public health approaches to tackling knife crime have been widely advocated, but little is known about how these approaches are understood and implemented by police practitioners. To address this knowledge gap, this article draws on semi-structured interviews and focus groups with 44 police personnel to consider the processes and challenges of applying problem-oriented and public health approaches to knife crime. Findings show that knife crime was seen as a complex social problem which would not be solved by ‘silver bullets’; prevention was prioritised and the limitations of enforcement were widely acknowledged; there was an emphasis on understanding and responding to vulnerability and risk; discussion of ‘holistic’ and ‘whole systems’ approaches was evident (but these concepts were rarely defined); and the problem of serious violence was viewed as a shared, multi-agency issue that the police could not tackle alone. Various challenges were also evident, most notably around analysis of the drivers and patterns of knife crime and the evaluation of knife crime interventions. The article concludes by discussing the implications of the findings for knife crime prevention and the implementation and advancement of problem-oriented and public health approaches to policing.


Bullock, K., Agar, I., Ashby, M., Brennan, I., Hales, G., Sidebottom, A., & Tilley, N. (2023). Police practitioner views on the challenges of analysing and responding to knife crime. Crime Science, 12(1), Article 2.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 12, 2022
Online Publication Date Feb 2, 2023
Publication Date Dec 1, 2023
Deposit Date Feb 6, 2023
Publicly Available Date Feb 8, 2023
Journal Crime Science
Print ISSN 2193-7680
Electronic ISSN 2193-7680
Publisher SpringerOpen
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 12
Issue 1
Article Number 2
Keywords Knife crime; Policing; Problem-oriented policing; Public health
Public URL
Additional Information Received: 11 July 2022; Accepted: 12 December 2022; First Online: 2 February 2023; : ; : Favourable ethical approval was granted by the University of Hull. All consented to participate.; : Consent for publication was agreed by all participants. All authors read and agreed the manuscript.; : None.


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© The Author(s) 2023. Open Access This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the
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