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Crime is a Wicked Problem

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Humanities in Public Inaugural Lecture with Professor Jon Bannister, Manchester Metropolitan University, Monday 20th January 2014
Crime is a ‘Wicked Problem’ – What should criminology do about it? That was the title of Professor Jon Bannister’s inaugural lecture held in front of a packed audience consisting of students, police officers and criminologists alike.

Professor Jon Bannister joined Manchester Metropolitan University’s Sociology department last March from the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow. He brings with him a wealth of experience and an ambition to establish the role criminology can play in the fight against crime.

Professor Bannister opened with “Crime is such a wicked problem, the definition, cause and solutions are multi-faceted and complex. Tackling crime demands institutional collaboration and the inter-medium of many forms of resource. More than this there is no correct solution to the problem of crime. And the solutions society pursues are often controversial and contested. What then should criminology do about crime?”

The lecture centred on the idea of ‘civic responsibility’ and the need for civic prospectus at the university. Professor Bannister stated that despite the fact that over the last twenty five years there has been a rapid expansion in Criminology degree programmes, the academy’s influence in policy making and the wider community has waned.

Essential to the points argued in the lecture, the need for a civic prospectus, making criminology more relevant and influential in a wider context, as well as tackling the ‘wicked problem’ of crime is, according to Professor Bannister, establishing a relationship based on the sharing of knowledge between criminology and other agencies, notably the police force. Professor Bannister concluded “The resolution of the wicked problem of crime demands collaboration and the inter-weaving of multiple forms of resource that are held by the academy, professional and practice bodies, and the community. The conditions of austerity heighten the necessity of such collaboration.”

Encouragingly there were a number of Police Officers in the audience. In fact, ex Assistant Chief Constable at the Greater Manchester Police Service and MMU alumnus Neil Wain acted as respondent to Bannister’s lecture. Mr Wain remarked “In a world of reducing budgets, greater competition and wicked problems, the need for real collaboration between academics and, in this case, Police Officers, is right now.”

Professor Bannister’s lecture is the first of a number of events held by the Humanities in Public (HiP) festival this year. Hosted by MMU’s Institute of Humanities and Social Science Research (IHSSR), Humanities in Public is an initiative that aims to re-engage Humanities with the wider community.

MMU’s Vice Chancellor, Professor John Brooks, opened the event and spoke of the importance of Humanities to the university in 2014, “We have seen a very strong improvement on applications in Humanities. The University’s need to keep Humanities alive is vitally important and the HiP is an interesting way of making sure we have that engagement.”

The Humanities in Public programme states ‘To discover the Humanities means finding out about people and how they live their lives, both as individuals and in communities. The Humanities ask questions about society, history, communication, relationships, thought, knowledge, belief, culture and creativity. It therefore makes little sense to keep what we do locked up in the University.’

George is a third year MMU student studying Criminology & Sociology who aspires to become a writer. Torn between two cities, George spends half his time in Leeds, and half his time in Manchester. He is as northern as killing your brothers kestrel. Follow him on Twitter.

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