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Anti-crime poster with cartoon cat ‘less frightening’

Cartoon cat campaign

Cartoon cats have been used to make police warning messages more memorable and less about trying to scare people into changing their behaviour.

The Universities’ Police Science Institute (Upsi) in Cardiff ran a trial in London to warn about thieves on bikes stealing mobile phones.

The #Copcat trial with Metropolitan Police took place in two areas.

Prof Martin Innes from Upsi said early results show the trial was successful and other forces are interested.

“Most crime prevention messages are designed to frighten people into changing their behaviour,” said Prof Innes.

“We designed an experiment where we ran two campaigns – a very traditional campaign designed to change people’s crime prevention behaviour versus our more experimental campaign and saw what results were and how they were different.

“We tried to use humour and cartoons to change how memorable the messages were for members of the public.

“The campaign was about mobile phone thefts by people on mopeds and bicycles which has become quite a problem at the current time.

“When we were looking at it, it was just an emerging problem that was starting to come through, so we thought this was a good thing to test this campaign on.”

Both the traditional and cartoon campaigns were on display in underground stations around Camden and Islington boroughs in 2016.

Prof Innes said people were exposed to them when they stepped on and off the trains, and officers handed out leaflets at stations while there was also a social media campaign.

He added: “What we saw was people were far more likely to remember the cartoon cat – who we called Copcat – and the advice he gave than they were for a far more traditional police campaign.

Media captionProf Martin Innes says early results show the trial was successful

The “complicated” findings of the campaign are being written up and a way forward is being explored.

“If we can get a campaign that’s just as effective in getting people to change their crime prevention behaviours, that doesn’t make people afraid, that to us is a good result,” Prof Innes said.

“The work was done in conjunction with the College of Policing so once we’ve understood the nuances in our data and our findings, we’re hoping that this has got the potential to roll out and go nationwide.

“There’s certainly a lot of early interest in it. We’ve already entered into conversations with some forces about it.

“I would hope over the next six months we’d be in a position to see these sort of techniques and approaches roll out.”