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News Firearms expert wins prestigious grant to tackle UK gun crime

It is the third time that a Staffordshire University Scientist has won the prize

Rachel Bolton-King, Associate Professor in Crime Science
Image: Rachel Bolton-King, Associate Professor in Crime Science

If you look at the national statistics, UK gun crime is still relatively low, but when we look at gun crime in major cities like London, Liverpool and Birmingham, the percentages are starting to rise significantly.

Rachel Bolton-King, Associate Professor in Forensic Science

A firearms expert from Staffordshire University has been awarded a prestigious grant to help tackle growing gun crime in the UK.

Rachel Bolton-King, Associate Professor in Forensic Science, specialises in forensic firearm identification and has received a Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust to conduct research overseas.

Fellowships are awarded to 150 UK citizens each year to travel the world in search of innovative solutions for today’s most pressing problems and Rachel was chosen from nearly 1,800 applicants. 

This summer, she will spend seven weeks travelling to countries with some of the highest rates of gun crime in the world.

Rachel will visit South Africa, the USA and France to meet professionals from police forces and other crime agencies and will use her findings to inform best practice in the UK.

“My project is based around how different technologies are used in gun crime investigations and how the police are integrating those technologies to work together.” Rachel explained.

“Technology can be used to detect a gunshot in a city or identify fired bullets and cartridge cases, and others may be using AI to link cases or utilising police databases to further investigations. What I’m trying to find out is what would enhance the work here in the UK.”

Figures released by the Metropolitan Police in 2018 revealed a 42% rise in gun crime in London and it is a growing issue in some cities across the UK.

Rachel said: “If you look at the national statistics, UK gun crime is still relatively low, but when we look at gun crime in major cities like London, Liverpool and Birmingham, the percentages are starting to rise significantly.”

“It is putting significant pressure on our resources and on our police forces to keep up with that. Hopefully we can use my findings to support business cases for new technology or to raise public awareness of how to work with forces to detect gun crime.”

Rachel’s award marks a hattrick of successes for female forensic scientists at Staffordshire University. She follows in the footsteps of colleagues Dr Laura-Walton-Williams, who won a fellowship in 2017 to research sexual assault investigations, and Dr Claire Gwinnett, who received a grant in 2018 to research microplastic pollution.

“Seeing Laura and Claire go through it gave me an invaluable insight into the benefits of travelling internationally and having that dedicated time to research. I could see the value of bringing that research back to use in teaching, share with external practitioners and help UK society.

“They gave me the confidence to apply and I’m so excited and privileged to have been successful!”

You can track Rachel’s travels and Fellowship experiences by following her on Twitter and reading her blog.

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