Policing young adults

Policing young adults


There is considerable evidence from neurology, psychology and criminology to show that young adults (aged 18-25) vary enormously in their maturity. The parts of the brain responsible for planning and impulse control are some of the last to develop, leading to variations in psycho-social maturity. Alongside this is the ‘drop off’ in statutory services for a child as soon they turn 18. The over-representation of young adults in the criminal justice system points to the need for a tailored approach to help them turn away from crime which recognises that some have suffered serious trauma affecting their development and behaviour.

Knowledge Exchange Network

Together with Revolving Doors Agency, the Police Foundation has launched a Knowledge Exchange Network that brings together police Inspectors and Chief Inspectors from across England and Wales to co-create new and better ways of policing young adults aged 18-25.

The Network was born out of a growing evidence that the policing of 18-25-year olds needs a distinct policing approach. Young adults constitute less than 10 per cent of the UK population but make up to 30-40 per cent of all police cases.

This Network will provide police with peer-to-peer learning and support, recognising the wealth of knowledge and expertise among police officers. Inspectors and Chief Inspectors across police services across England Wales will be able to share evidence and tackle difficult issues. The focus will be on upscaling innovation and practices that are evidence-based, that can become mainstream.

The Network will focus on upscaling and mainstreaming evidence-based practice in areas such as:

  • Procedural fairness
  • Diversion schemes
  • Police’s role in responding to trauma and inequalities
  • Improving community engagement mechanisms

The Police Foundation and Revolving Doors Agency will:

  • Oversee coordination and facilitation of the Network.
  • Share research and international best practice.
  • Involve young adults with lived experience of the criminal justice system to support discussions and learning.
  • Disseminate evidence and learning on a national scale.

The Network welcomes Inspectors and Chief Inspectors from police services across England and Wales. The meetings will be held online every 6 weeks from 15th December 2020.

For further information please contact Stephen Walcott

Policing young adults: practice development

Thames Valley Police

The Police Foundation has started a research project with Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit (VRU) to understand what a whole-systems, trauma-informed approach to preventing the criminalisation of young adults would look like in Oxford City. The work is taking an evidence-based, data-driven methodology, complemented with stakeholder interviews, to explore how trauma-informed practice can become embedded across a whole system to take account of Adverse Childhood Experiences  (ACEs). This includes policing, social care, healthcare, education, housing and employment and covers the public, private and third sectors. We are looking at a number of serious case reviews to assess at which points in the young person’s life there could have been a trauma-informed intervention.

A concluding report will include policy recommendations on training, governance, supporting projects and the role of the police and will be followed by an implementation phase. The Police Foundation and Thames Valley will then submit evidence of the effectiveness of public health approaches to policing to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Sussex Police

The Police Foundation is also working in depth with Sussex Police to understand how the force can promote desistance from crime, reduce reoffending and support young adults in avoiding the cycle of the criminal justice system. We are seeking to understand the steps required to extend the current youth diversion arrangements to young adults. This includes an assessment of current policies, interviews with key police and non-police stakeholders and data analysis to understand the effectiveness of and challenges with current youth diversion practices, as well as what arrangements for young adults should look like. This will result in a bespoke report with recommendations and a suggested implementation plan for the force to consider.