UCL Department of Security and Crime Science


The Strategic Integration of Security and Crime Science within the Faculty of Engineering Sciences

2 July 2024

Why Security and Crime Science Belongs in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences.

generic image for cyber crime

Here are eight reasons why Security and Crime Science is part of the Faculty of Engineering Sciences:

  1. Engineering is the application of science to problem solving. This is what we do.

Crime scientists use science to solve problems that are specifically focused on crime and security. This makes us crime and security engineers. We have tailored problem solving frameworks and methods in crime science and we advocate practices such as problem orientated policing.

  1. Crime science, like more traditional forms of engineering, takes a scientific approach.

This means that we focus on refining and adding to evidence bases that help us prevent and reduce crime problems, which also requires a better understanding of the nature of those problems. We test refutable hypotheses on the nature of problems and their possible solutions and contribute to theory development.

  1. As with all engineering approaches, we use all the tools and techniques that are available and necessary to solve our specific problems. Hence, we are inherently multi-disciplinary: a theme at the core of the UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences.

This is evidenced in two ways - first our staff have backgrounds in a wide range of disciplines including computer science, data science, electrical engineering, systems engineering, mathematics, psychology, political science, geographical information science, forensic science, criminology and sociology.  Second, we undertake research with many other departments - within our faculty and beyond. The list includes computer science, medical physics, biochemical engineering, civil, environmental and geomatic engineering, electronic and electrical engineering, science technology, engineering and public policy (STEaPP), the Bartlett School of Architecture, geography, maths, psychiatry, psychology, the Institute for Materials Discovery, archaeology, political science and the Institute of Education.

  1. We are interested in the development, use and evaluation of new technologies as applied to crime and security.

An example of our interest in technology is the research undertaken by the Dawes Centre for Future Crime that examines how shifts in technology lead to the emergence of new types of crime  - but also how new technologies can help in the fight against crime and security problems. The centre therefore studies developments in technologies such as AI, advanced materials and robotics, nanotechnology, internet enabled devices, smart cities and biomedical devices. Over half of all crime is now committed online and crime is more than ever a technology related issue.

We also develop new security technologies. For example, a member of our staff is currently developing a new surveillance system that can be used in hostage situations, counter-terrorism work and search & rescue applications. The technology uses WiFi signals in our everyday environments and has the ability to ‘see through walls’, classify different types of activity and detect signs-of-life.

  1. As part of our curriculum, we teach security engineering to our students and CPD stakeholders.

We offer a Minor in Crime & Security Engineering. In particular, the Security Technologies module brings together discipline-specific skills from students across UCL’s Integrated Engineering Programme (IEP) to ‘Horizon Scan’ future crime opportunities and security threats. The findings are then conveyed to practitioners during a poster presentation event at the Home Office. 

We have additional modules on:

  • Systems and Problem Solving (UG)
  • Cybercrime (UG and PG)
  • Introduction to cybersecurity (PG)
  • Applied data science (PG)
  • Risk and contingency planning (PG)
  • Horizon scanning and the changing nature of crime (PG)
  • Simulation for research (PG)

We have also collaborated with the Register of Security Engineers and Specialists (RSES), a body sponsored by the UK’s National Protective Security Agency (previous the CPNI) and administered by the Institution of Civil Engineers’ (ICE), to develop the learning objectives for Security and Crime Science programmes.

  1. Our research funding comes more substantially from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) than any other UKRI source.

    We have had substantial funding for three multi-disciplinary PhD programmes (CDT) from this source, and further support for studentships through the Dawes Centre for Future Crime, equating to around £20M in research student funding.
  2. We are developing a range of lab spaces to support our growing number of lab-based teaching and research activities.

    These spaces include the UCL Forensic Interpretation Lab, the Crime Science VR Projects Lab, the IoT lab (Internet of Things) and the JDI Research Lab (Secure Data Facility). This system of labs enables the experimentation and analysis necessary to progress many aspects of crime science including forensic interpretation, the use and misuse of technologies in security, and computational social science and machine learning. These spaces are a key part in our strategy to keep our teaching and research activities at the forefront of the field.
  3. We want to change the world which is at the heart of the UCL Faculty of Engineering Science mission.

    Our drive to do this is reflected through our excellent links with policing, government, the third sector and industry. These relationships go way beyond dissemination to significant collaborative relationships, research co-production and training. Our activities have had measurable impacts on policy and practice in the UK and beyond. Indeed, in both  the 2014 and 2021 Research Excellence Framework exercises (REF) 100% of our submissions were rated as world leading in terms of their impact on society.

Festival of Engineering at UCL - 15-20th July 2024

We are taking part in the Festival of Engineering at UCL on 15-20th July 2024. For future engineers, industry innovators and public enthusiasts, the Festival of Engineering is the must-see, summer, showcase event that explores cutting-edge innovation, explains how humanity is tackling its biggest challenges and inspires you to think differently about the world around you.

Find out about the Festival here


Case studies from the REF 2021 were as follows: