Monday 31 October 2011

On Veracity and the MRA

I was required last week to prove the impact of my research on policy making. What I found was quite remarkable. My Market Reduction Approach to theft is recommended by government websites for the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the USA. What makes this fact remarkable is the the MRA has never been shown to be effective. Clearly the MRA presents a plausible and compelling method for seeking to tackle crime. But surely we need to evaluate such schemes before so boldly recommending them as effective, good practice or otherwise promoting them as promising.

Evidence of Policy Impact of my research.

I am the originator of the Market Reduction Approach to theft (MRA), and my research in this area has, for more than a decade, influenced government policy advice and policy making in Britain and elsewhere. Several British police forces have sought to reduce theft with the MRA.

In 1999, the MRA was implemented for the first time when Kent Constabulary sought to use it in its Operation Radium to reduce high levels of burglary and other theft in the Medway Towns of Rochester, Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham and Strood, which were given the collective pseudonym South Town (Home Office 2004). This initiative led to the passing of several local Acts of Parliament throughout England to regulate trade in second hand goods, with an aim to reduce Supply by Theft (Sutton 1995) including the Kent Acts (2001) and the Nottingham City Council Act (2003).

The MRA was mentioned at National Government level, along with my work in Parliamentary debate (Hansard 2000) and the Kent Acts later in Parliamentary Business (Hansard 2004). In 1999, the British Home Office funded the implementation of the MRA in three police forces: Kent, West Mercia and Stockport in Greater Manchester (Home Office 2006), followed by a Government funded evaluation by the University of Kent of the implementation and impact of the MRA in Kent and Greater Manchester (Harris, Hale and Uglow 2003; Hale et al (2004).

Other MRA schemes have been implemented in Britain in Nottinghamshire and Derby City constabularies. In 2011, the MRA was defined as a core policing practice and as a performance indicator by both Nottinghamshire Constabulary and the City’s Crime Reduction Partnership. I continue to publish in the area of tackling stolen goods markets (e.g. Sutton 2010) and advise police at local, national and international levels. I occasionally act as an unpaid ad-hoc informal ‘sceptical friend’ (academic advisor) for various police forces through meetings, email and telephone conversations. In 2011, I addressed a British audience of chief police officers through the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO National Burglary Reduction Working Group) on the subject of the MRA and the importance of veracity to inform policy in policing and crime reduction (7/9/2011).

Although the MRA has been promoted as ‘good practice’ by the British Government and has been used by several police forces, it has not proved possible to evaluate its impact in reducing crime due to a number of factors, not least the extent of confounding variables that impact upon crime rates at both the local and national level. Despite lack of evidence of its effectiveness in reducing crime, the UK Government, US Government, Australian Government and New Zealand Government (somewhat surprisingly) promote it as good ‘effective’ policing and general crime reduction practice:

UK Government website promoting my MRA See page 9

USA Government’s Department of Justice COPS programme international problem-oriented Practitioners policing guide for tackling stolen goods markets to reduce theft. The US Department of justice also added my Home Office MRA guide to its website and an influential briefing note.

My report on tackling stolen goods markets is also recommended reading in US Department of Justice “Mayors’ Guide to effective policing and crime prevention and the MRA is recommended as one of the 60 steps for crime problem solvers.

Australian Government’s Institute of CriminologyNew Zealand Ministry of Justice and also here .Wider Influence of my MRA on Criminology.

The MRA has been quite widely cited in the peer reviewed literature on crime reduction by criminologists. The MRA is also covered in many textbooks, e.g.:Felson and Boba (2010)Hagan ( 2010)Chamley (2003)Bullock and Tilley (2003)Hopkins Burke (2004)Sheptycki and Wardak (2005)

See Wikipedia 2011; 2011a; 2011b for a reasonably comprehensive list).

Here are just a few examples of how the MRA has influenced and/or been cited as important research in other areas beyond the theft of high volume consumer goods:

Wildlife crime and endangered species:

Schneider JL. (2008) ‘Reducing the Illicit Trade in Wildlife: The Market Reduction Approach’.

Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice 24:274–95: And here. Trafficking in Ivory: Lemieux, A.M. and Clarke, R.V. (2009) The International Ban on Ivory Sales and its Effects on Elephant Poaching in Africa. British Journal of Criminology. Vol. 49.

Trafficking in people/Reduce human trafficking:

Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe Report (e.g. see page 1) Combating Trafficking in Humans: Organisation of Security and Co-operation in Europe Report (e.g. see page 1).

Art and Cultural artifact crime

Theft and Trafficking of Art and Cultural Artifacts:

Manacorda, S. and Chappell, D. (eds.) (2011) Crime in the Art and Antiques World: Illegal Trafficking in Cultural Property. New York. Springer.

Some Examples of the Impact of My Other Work on Crime Reduction and Bias and Prejudice Reduction Policy Guidance and Policy Making

Within England

Publication of Sutton, M. Perry, B. Parke J. and John-Baptiste, C. (2007) Getting the Message Across: Using media to reduce ‘racial’ prejudice. Department of Communities and Local Government. London. (Peer reviewed national government research report). Led to keynote speaking engagement with National and local government representatives and members of anti-racism organisations: at a forum held in Scotland and funded by the Glasgow Anti-Racist Alliance (GARA). Subsequently, the Getting the Message Across report also used in a Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights submission to the Council of Europe Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities.

Newcastle City Council relied upon the Getting the Message Across report to shape its policy making .

Within Scotland

On 26 August 2011, The Coalition for Racial Equality and Rights (formerly known as the Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance) sent a written submission to the Scottish Parliament’s Justice Committee regarding the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland). Bill. The submission informed Parliament of the dangers of implementing uninformed racism reductions measures that are likely to backfire and make the problem worse. The submission cited the myth busting research contained within the ‘Getting the Message Across’ report (Sutton et al 2007). Policy making advice within the ‘Getting the Message Across’ report inspired the Glasgow Anti Racist Alliance (Now Coalition for Racial Equality and Human Rights - CREHR) to successfully apply for funding to test its recommendations. They wrote:"The project was funded by the Equality and Human Rights Commission and used recommendations from the Communities and Local Government report “Getting the message across: using media to reduce racial prejudice and discrimination” (Sutton et al., 2007) as impetus to undertake a local research project.”

US Government Office of Justice

Click on ‘evidence base’ and ‘additional references’ at the end of the section in the report link given below to see how work I conducted in 1996 is used to construct a current US Office of Justice effective solutions guide . These sources were used in the development of the program profile, which lists: (1) Ekblom, P., Law, H. and Sutton, M. with assistance from Paul Crisp and Richard Wiggins. (1996). Safer Cities and Domestic Burglary. Home Office Research Study 164. London, England: Home Office; and (2) Sutton, M. (1996). Implementing Crime Prevention Schemes in a Multi agency Setting: Aspects of Process in the Safer Cities Programme. London, England: Home Office.

The US Government Office of Justice currently publishes a series of abstracts on my work. E.g.:

1. Crime Surveys in the 21st Century

2. Internet Crime

Other Academic Roles

Founding General Editor of the Internet Journal of Criminology.

Member of the editorial board of the Security Journal.

Founding Director of the Nottingham Centre for the Study and Reduction of Hate Crimes, Bias and Prejudice.

External Examiner for BA (Hons.) Criminology – Birmingham City University

Within place of current employment (Nottingham Trent University):

Course Leader MA Criminology
Module leader for High Tech Crime
Module Leader for Crime Reduction and Community Safety
Member of Post Graduate Research Degrees Committee
Director of Studies for several PhD students


Notable Alumnus

Outside of the natural sciences, I was the first to be awarded a PhD at the University of Central Lancashire(UCL), where I am recognised as a notable alumnus due to my MRA concept. UCL use my notable work on the MRA as a prestige indicator in their promotions overseas. E.G: and here .

My Research Reports in the UK National Archive

Several of my policy oriented research reports have been placed in the UK Government’s National Archive Collection. These include:

1.The Unit Fines Experiments
2. Safer Cities Evaluation
3. Handling Stolen Goods and the MRA


Hansard (2000). 1803-2005. 17th May. Kent County Council Bill (Lords) Commons Sitting – orders of the day. Vol. 350 cc.388-418. See also an extended debate in the House of Commons.Hansard (2004) Written Answers. Bound Volume. Parliamentary Business. May 13, 2004. Column 573W—continued: Stolen Goods.

Harris, C. Hale, C and Uglow, S. (2003) Implementing a Market Reduction Approach to Property Crime. In: Tilley, N. and Bullock, K., (eds). Crime Reduction and Problem Oriented Policing. Devon, Willan.

Hale, C. Harris, C. Uglow, S. Gilling. L and Netten, A. (2004). Targeting the markets for stolen goods: two targeted policing initiative projects. Home Office Development and Practice Report 17.

Home Office (2004) Secure Design. Targeting the Markets for Stolen Goods: Two targeted policing initiative projects.

The National Archive: Home Office (2006) Tackling Burglary: Market Reduction Approach. Crime Reduction. The National Archive.

National Deviancy Conference (2011) Sutton, M, Hamilton, P., Long, M. and Hodgson, P. The Problem of Zombie Cops in Voodoo Criminology. National Deviancy Conference York. July/Aug.

Nottingham City Council Act (2003)

Sutton, M. (1995) Supply by Theft: does the market for second-hand goods play a role in keeping crime figures high? British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 38, No 3, Summer.

Sutton, M. (2010) Stolen Goods Markets. Problem Oriented Policing Guide No. 57. U.S.A. Department of Justice COPS Programme. (Peer reviewed international policing guide.

Sutton, M. Perry, B. Parke J. and John-Baptiste, C. (2007) Getting the Message Across: Using media to reduce ‘racial’ prejudice. Department of Communities and Local Government. London. (Peer reviewed national government research report).

The Kent Acts (2001). A Case for National Legislation: Report to the Secretary of State in compliance with section 20 (1) of the Kent County Council Act 2001 and section 20 (1) of the Medway Council Act 2001

Wikipedia (2011) The Market Reduction Approach.

Wikipedia (2011a) Criminology.

Wikipedia (2011b) Mike Sutton (criminologist)