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The influence of criminology on policing and criminal law

Criminology is a fascinating area of study for those who wish to understand why people commit the crimes they do and discover how the field influences policing and shapes criminal law. Below, we look at some of the skills and knowledge you’ll nurture throughout a criminology degree and how work in the field can help with crime prevention, develop more effective policing strategies and improve the justice system.

By Grant Longstaff. Published 8 May 2024.

What do criminologists do?

Criminologists work to prevent crime and reduce reoffending. It involves researching the root causes of criminal behaviour, for instance, social and economic inequality, and how they can influence criminal behaviour. They ask questions of the justice system, if it’s working as effectively and as fairly as it should, and create strategies to help with crime prevention and criminal rehabilitation.

If you choose to study a criminology degree you’ll discover the key concepts and theories at the heart of this fascinating subject and equip yourself with the key disciplines you’ll need to develop a career in this diverse field.

Methods of criminology

Criminology is a scientific field, so you’ll need to use a variety of research methods to shape and inform your work and gain criminological insight.

Qualitative research is measurable, objective, and driven by numbers and statistics. You’ll use quantitative research to gain an insight into a large number of people at once. You’ll record data through several strategies, such as experiments or surveys, and identify potential trends and links in the information collected.

Alternatively, you can also use qualitative methods of research which can offer a more general understanding of the landscape of crime and criminal behaviour. This might involve detailed interviews, case studies or observation. This approach is certainly more interpretative than qualitative research, however, it can allow you a better insight into the complexities of criminal behaviour.

There are many research approaches used when studying criminology, which is why our criminology degrees include the Research Methods module. Not only does the module cover the kinds of research used, but it also covers how research and studies can be designed, and the ethical considerations you’ll need to think about as a criminologist. 

The role of criminology in shaping policing strategies

The research carried out by criminologists can help shape policing and crime prevention strategies. First of all, there is the research which could help inform policing on a practical, operational level. Consider, for example, if research can identify high crime areas then this could be used to inform officer deployment. An increased police presence could reduce criminal activity. You could also help reshape law enforcement practices or create new crime prevention strategies.

However, there are more challenging aspects of policing which could be improved through your research as a criminologist. You could work at the junction of theory and practice, helping identify potential precursors to criminal activity and creating strategies to address these. Alternatively, you could work to help improve the police service. For instance, the perception of the police service and its officers can differ from individual to individual, you could help identify potential ways to rebuild public trust.

Our BA (Hons) in Criminology and Policing could be the perfect course for you if you’re hoping for a career at the intersection of these disciplines and wish to make a difference to society.

Criminology’s impact on the development of criminal law

By evaluating the law as it currently stands and ensuring the legal system evolves along with society, the work of criminologists plays a significant role in criminal law. You could work to address inequality within the justice system, highlight prejudice or injustice, help reform the law, or give a voice to marginalised communities.

For example, Luke Hubbard, one of our Senior Criminology Lecturers explained, “As a queer criminologist, I seek to explore and challenge how the criminal justice system has been and continues to be, used to oppress and criminalise members of the LGBTQ community… I want to research and advocate for these people to ensure their voices and experiences are heard and acknowledged.”

Alternatively, you could work to make sure the law is more reflective of the times we live in. Consider crimes such as stalking, hate crimes, sexual abuse and blackmail. Technology has changed how many crimes are committed, and some laws are no longer reflective of our new digital world. Your research could help change laws and create new ones, which better address the crimes of today.

The influence of criminologists is felt throughout policing and criminal law. If you choose to study a criminology degree, you too could play a vital role in reshaping society, reforming the law, rehabilitating criminals and protecting victims.


Are you looking to explore the complexities of criminology? Our BA (Hons) in Criminology is the perfect launch pad for a career in this exciting field.