A Behavioural Change Field Research Trial
Funders: What Works Centre for Crime Reduction, European Social Research Council, Metropolitan Police Service
Informed by empirical findings from the Social Experiment in Crime Purr-vention, a field research trial was conducted in partnership with the Metropolitan Police Service Communications team. The trial was purposively designed to apply and test a number of the Behavioural Crime Prevention principles from this research in a real-life setting.
Researchers at the Institute co-produced physical and social media assets that mirrored a pre-existing police campaign concerning the snatch theft of mobile phones by offenders using mopeds or bikes. The two campaigns: #Copcat and #Loveyourphone differed in terms of their message, messenger and tone.
- #Copcat developed from principles of Behavioural Crime Prevention. It used cartoon cat imagery and puns, shortened and simplified preventative and modelled the desired behavioural change sought among members of the public in a short animated film.
- #Loveyourphone was the police-based campaign and was more explicitly focused on ‘fear framing’, that is, warning members of the public about the problem and their risk and showing them the modus operandi of this crime.
Each campaign was launched over the same four week period in adjacent crime hotspot areas in the London boroughs of Camden (#Copcat) and Islington (#loveyourphone). A third site functioned as a control where no preventative messaging for this crime type took place. Activity in each research site over this period included posters at target London underground stations, leafleting by local police, street stenciling and geo-targeted Facebook and Twitter messaging.
The field trial sought to evaluate the impact of both campaigns in terms of public receptivity, awareness and ultimately behavioural change among the public. Multiple evaluation methods were used to do this: a staff survey of local employers; street questioning; observational methods and analysis of local crime data.
The implementation and outcome findings from the research trial show how the two campaigns differed in their reach and effects and demonstrate the challenges associated with attempts to ‘nudge’ phone use behavior in a real life setting.
The field trial phase was part of a wider project called ‘Nudges, Tugs and Teachable Moments,’ funded by the What Works Centre for Crime Reduction. The development of the trial with the Metropolitan Police Service was further supported by an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.