Exploration of a novel preventative policing approach in the United Kingdom to adverse childhood experiences

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Adverse childhood experiences ( ACEs) have been associated with negative mental and physical health consequences. Neighbourhood police officers (NPOs) are thought to be well placed to identify and support children experiencing ACEs. Within this paper, we describe a qualitative exploration of an initiative deployed by a large UK police force which aimed to aid early identification of young people with ACEs using police data and provide subsequent support given by NPOs. A thematic analysis was conducted using transcripts from three focus groups of NPOs, supplemented by questionnaires. Key themes identified in both sets of data offer reflections for policing and other public service provision seeking to target on the basis of ACEs, including: limitations in the usefulness of police data to identify childhood adversity; challenges using the ACEs framework as a means to target such ‘early intervention’; and debates regarding the appropriate role of the police in supporting young people in adversity. Prior to replication of this intervention elsewhere, there are several points to consider: whether police data alone are sufficient in identifying ACEs; ensuring clarity regarding the role of the public sector agencies in such intervention; and determining an apt measure of success for the scheme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)144–158
Number of pages15
JournalChild Abuse Review
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 22 Apr 2020


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • child malreatment
  • policing
  • prevention


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