UCL Research Domains


Project Plan: The Social and Physical Settings of Ethnic Hate Crime

2018-19 Social Science Plus Pilot Project (£10,800)

Pilot project: overall research question
Ethnic hate crime has increased drastically in recent years. To explain, and prevent, these offences, previous research has concentrated largely on perpetrators - who commits hate crime and why?- as well as victims' experiences. Little is known, however, about the places where hate crime occurs. Advancing the literature, we seek to investigate social and physical settings of ethnic hate crime to conclude where crime prevention should be focused. In this pilot study, we assess specifically where bystanders are (least) likely to intervene in ethnic hate crime.  Doing so, we aim to examine (1) how the presence of other ethnic in- or outgroup members influences willingness to intervene and (2) whether intervention differs for offences in neighbourhoods that are 'typical' for the victim or perpetrator.

Focus, rationale and societal relevance
Research on the criminology of places and situational crime prevention has provided convincing evidence that crime is concentrated in specific neighbourhoods or street segments and that crime rates decrease following environmental changes. Crime is thought to be the result of a motivated perpetrator, a potential victim, and a setting that permits the offence. In our project we apply this rationale - the focus on the 'where' of crime - to the study of ethnic hate crime. Crime settings include social and physical characteristics, for instance, land use patterns, defensible architecture, and other people. The latter, bystanders, can serve as a deterrent or may encourage the perpetrator if they don't intervene. Notably, depending on the co-presence of other bystanders and the location of the offence, responsibility diffusion, group norm conformity, or victim blame can reduce the likelihood of intervention.

In the scope of this pilot study, we develop a model for where bystanders are least likely to intervene in ethnic hate crime, considering who else is present and in which neighbourhood the incident takes place. Results can inform guidance for law enforcement practices, such as hot spot policing, and community programmes that aim to tackle the steep increase of ethnic hate crime offences. Acknowledging, however, the data restrictions of this pilot, such guidance should only be finalised as a result of the follow-up project.

Research design and methodology
The project combines experiments and agent-based modelling in an iterative process.
Stage 1: Following Ethics Approval and piloting of the experimental stimulus, two experiments (N = 300) are conducted to examine bystander intervention in settings where a) members from the perpetrator's or victim's group are present and where b) the incident occurs in a neighbourhood where the perpetrator or victim constitutes the majority. All data collection will be conducted through Prolific, a company that provides access to online panels.

Stage 2: We use the results from the experiments to develop an understanding of how different factors-such as the relationship between the bystander and the victim or perpetrator and location-shape bystander intervention. This information can then be incorporated into an agent-based model that allows us to simulate a range of additional scenarios, and, using a monte-carlo approach, to explore how the probability of an intervention changes depending on specific details.

Stage 3: The modelling thus enables us to identify combinations of factors that could determine bystander intervention that had not been assessed in the initial experiments. Findings are translated into hypotheses that are tested in follow-up experiments. The design of these experiments can only be specified after the modelling. We seek to conduct two follow-up experiments with a sample size large enough to identify small effects (N = 1500).

Stage 4: Lastly, as described in Step 2, the results of the aforementioned experiments are used to further specify the final model of bystander intervention.