ESRC Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre

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This research centre, jointly led by the University of Leeds and University of York, is dedicated to understanding how policing can better service the needs of vulnerable people.

The Centre is one of six Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) centres of excellence announced in late 2021, all of which tackle critical social and economic challenges. The Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre is the first of its kind to study how vulnerabilities – such as exploitation by county lines drug networks, online child sexual victimisation, domestic abuse, modern slavery, mental illness and homelessness – are produced, exacerbated and addressed by policing.

Through its research, the Centre aims to understand how the police and other organisations work together in order to reduce harm among vulnerable people in society. 

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Video transcript for the ESRC Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre. 


The Centre’s work combines insights from three research work strands:

  1. Place-based research 

Place is central in understanding the relationships between vulnerability and policing services. The Centre is conducting qualitative research in Bradford and Leeds and combining this with analysis of datasets from the public sector, including police, health, social services and education. This means the Centre can see how organisations respond to vulnerability and identify possible ways they can reduce levels of harm.

  1. Problem-oriented research

This programme of research focuses on particular problems that are prevalent in policing vulnerability. The projects explore issues such as exploitation by county lines drug networks, online child sexual victimisation, domestic abuse, modern slavery, and the policing of mental illness and homelessness.

  1. Public engagement

This research examines the public’s views and priorities of policing. It explores the issues people feel are most important and their appetite for change. These findings complement research evidence from across the Centre to help inform public debate, policy and practice.

Team and partnerships

The Centre brings together an interdisciplinary group of leading researchers from across the world.

Co-directed by Professor Adam Crawford (University of Leeds and University of York) and Professor Charlie Lloyd (University of York), and supported by deputy directors Dr Kate Brown (York) and Dr Dan Birks (Leeds), the Centre has a team of 23 co-investigators drawn from 10 other universities. The Centre is also supported by 38 regional, national and international project partners from across policing, government and non-governmental organisations.

Other Leeds colleagues involved as co-investigators include Dr Laura Bainbridge from the School of Law and Professor Mark Mon-Williams from the School of Psychology. 

Additionally, the Centre runs an Affiliates scheme for researchers who have a professional interest in work aligned with the Centre’s research agenda. Affiliates from the University of Leeds include Dr Anna Barker, Dr Sam Lewis, Professor Stuart Lister, Dr Rebecca Shaw, Dr Megan Wood and Professor Henry Yeomans.


The Vulnerability & Policing Futures Research Centre has regular funding programmes that provide excellent opportunities for collaboration. It also runs an international PhD Network for students whose research focuses on the intersection of vulnerability and policing.

Find out more

Read more about the Centre’s research on its website.

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Follow the Centre on X (@VP_Centre) and LinkedIn.

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