Skip to main content

8.3.1 Empirical Research

Empirical research develops findings through the collection of data gathered through observation that is usually used to test research hypotheses. Across a number of security technologies evaluation research has been conducted to examine the effectiveness of programmes by applying scientific procedures to the research design. Evaluation is concerned with ascertaining the 'merit or worth or value' of an intervention and developing 'practical knowledge to aid the decision making process' used to inform the operation of interventions (Clarke and Dawson, 1999: 3). Evaluations will not just try and establish whether an intervention has worked but also looks at what factors account for the success or failure of the intervention, and this information can be fed back into the project to improve its operation and outcomes.

Researchers can be under pressure to find whether interventions are successful. Clarke and Dawson (1999: 16) highlight that any research takes place within a particular social context and there are often stakeholders who have a vested interest in the evaluation findings. In the context of security technologies they are often expensive to implement and stakeholders may want evidence of success to verify the benefits of their financial commitment.

When evaluating any intervention it is important to establish the aims and objectives of the project which are the desired outcomes. Part of an evaluation process will often entail collecting outputs and these are what are produced by the project. The outputs are things that need to be achieved before an intervention can meet its objectives (Home Office, 2002). For example, a CCTV project will need to install cameras and establish monitoring operations as outputs before any crime reductions can be realised. A process evaluation will often be undertaken to ascertain whether a project is working properly which seeks to establish whether a project has been fully implemented and how it operates (Home Office, 2002: 104). The outcomes from a project are the overall results from the project and often relate to reductions in crime or fear of crime levels. The actual form an evaluation takes varies depending on the objectives of the research and a number of models are considered below.