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SAVE (Smartness Against Violence in Environments) - Developing smart urban environments to fight violent knife crimes

   Faculty of Science & Engineering

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  Prof Maria Vogiatzaki, Dr L Babu Saheer, Dr Elisa Orofino  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Despite the alarmingly increasing number of knife-operated incidents reported to occur in urban public spaces globally, the knowledge gaps are identified in perceptions of knife crime as a different type of crime. Police have identified the main hotspots of violent crime in general, but there are limited studies on the specific urban design traits of the loci that characterise these hotspots. Although several agents that contribute to knife-crime activity are investigated, research for its prevention and reduction has not included a systematic and thorough analysis and understanding of the spatial conditions of the reported crime scenes. There is a knowledge gap in the potential of smart technologies to enhance knife-crime prevention. There are recent studies showcasing how frequent patrolling alone can reduce crime in specific localities. The above lead to the hypotheses that:  a. the (re)design of the crime loci is a critical factor, b. the full deployment of social media, Internet of Things (IoT) and data could drastically improve the situation.

HotSpot Policing is a well-established technique utilised by law enforcement organizations to identify high crime areas. Risk Terrain Modelling (RTM) added further context to Hotspots by identifying 'risky' areas based on the placement of various commercial enterprises - pawnbrokers, liquor stores, 24/7 shops, abandoned buildings, mixed vs pure commercial or residential planning systems, materiality, lighting qualities, escape routes. Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) is a long-established practice within the construction and architectural industries. At the intersection of RTM and CPTED there is an opportunity to identity a novel approach to reducing violent crime. Effectively managing or removing elements that contribute to the 'Place' from the Problem Analysis Triangle which built on the Routine Activity Theory.

This project will enhance knife-crime prevention in UK cities by gaining insights into the characteristics of public spaces where crime recurrently occurs, and by proposing guidelines for their redesign both physically but also immaterially by embedding smart technologies to both public space (cameras, warning devices, lighting, and sonic alerts to police, ambulances, and social media alerts, neighborhood watch, escape route clear signaling, apps) and its users (enabling citizen awareness through wearables and apps). Transforming public spaces will not only reduce the exponentially growing crime rate but improve communities’ quality of life and safety.

The aim of this Ph.D. project is to work with local area PCC in Cambridgeshire and London Metropolitan police to:

  1. Collect the existing details of the crimes and map the spatial qualities of knife-crime prone urban areas (hotspots as identified by the police),  
  2. Design, develop and evaluate statistical models to predict knife crime risk prone areas based on the data collected in O1, 
  3. Propose design guidelines for safe and resilient urban spaces (risk terrain modelling and escape route design) for safer urban neighbourhoods,  
  4. Understand and analyse the use of digital technology including social media, IoT based monitoring to map and alert potentially dangerous zones of interaction.

The research will provide important inputs to policing initiatives, local authorities to redesign public spaces, and instantiate interdisciplinary research on the subject. The PhD will develop urban design guidelines to reduce knife crime by mapping natural and human-made aspects of knife crime hotspots and integrating these into multiagency environmental modelling.

The applicant should have a Master or a Bachelors in Architecture and/or Urban Design, with a good understanding of data science and AI, an MSc in AI or Data Sciences, is desirable. 

The student will work with urban designers, forensic psychology, digital media, IoT monitoring, and police experts to study the multiagency of the place and space knife crime occurs, and with their urban design background will examine spatial characteristic -humanmade or natural, and their relationship to the broader urban context, and the nature of the broader area, system, and land-use- towards finally proposing updated urban design guidelines to discourage knife crime.

If you would like to discuss this research project please contact Prof Maria Vogiatzaki [Email Address Removed]

Candidate requirements

Applications are invited from UK Home fee status only. Applicants should have (or expect to achieve) a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in a cognate discipline. A Master’s degree in a relevant subject is desirable.

Applicants must be prepared to study on a full-time basis, attending at our Chelmsford campus.

Application Procedures

Applications for a Vice Chancellor’s PhD Scholarship are made through the application portal on our website:

We will review all applications after the submission deadline of 19th March. We will contact shortlisted applicants in the week commencing 3rd April. Interviews will be held between 17th April to 2nd May.

If you have any queries relating to the application process or the terms and conditions of the Scholarships, please email [Email Address Removed].

Documentation required

You will need the following documents available electronically to upload them to the application portal (we can accept files in pdf, jpeg or Word format):

  • Certificates and transcripts from your Bachelor and Masters degrees, (if applicable)
  • Your personal statement explaining your suitability for the project
  • Passport and visa, or evidence of EU Settlement Scheme (if applicable)
  • Curriculum Vitae

Please note the application form will ask you to upload a research proposal. You should upload your personal statement in this section, as proposals are not required for this scholarship.

Funding Notes

Applications are open to Home fee status students only. This successful applicant for this project will receive a Vice Chancellor’s Scholarship award which covers Home tuition fees and provides a UKRI equivalent minimum annual stipend for three years. The award is subject to the successful candidate meeting the studentship Terms and conditions which can be found on our website:


Ten charts on the rise of knife crime in England and Wales,, 14 March 2019 Danny Shaw Home affairs correspondent@DannyShawBBC
Total knife offences in England and Wales Offences involving a knife or sharp instrument Source: Home Office, year ending March. Figures exclude Greater Manchester.
Violence Reduction Unit Interim Guidance March 2020
Basford, L., Sims, C., Agar, I., Harinam, V., & Strang, H. (2021). Effects of One-a-Day Foot Patrols on Hot Spots of Serious Violence and Crime Harm: a Randomised Crossover Trial. Cambridge Journal of Evidence-Based Policing,5 (3-4), 119-133.
Caplan, Joel M., et al. “Risk Terrain Modeling for Spatial Risk Assessment.” Cityscape, vol. 17, no. 1, 2015, pp. 7–16. JSTOR, Accessed 18 Nov. 2022.
Eck, J.E., Clarke, R.V. (2019). Situational Crime Prevention: Theory, Practice and Evidence. In: Krohn, M., Hendrix, N., Penly Hall, G., Lizotte, A. (eds) Handbook on Crime and Deviance. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, Cham.
Cohen, L. E., & Felson, M. (1979). Social change and crime rate trends: A routine activity approach. American Sociological Review, 44, 588–608.
Metropolitan police public dashboard,
Crime in England and Wales
Cozens, Paul & Love, Terence. (2015). A Review and Current Status of Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED). Journal of Planning Literature. 30. 10.1177/0885412215595440.
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