Ella Cockbain

Ella Cockbain
University College London | UCL · Department of Security and Crime Science

PhD, MRes, MA

About

30
Publications
10,876
Reads
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529
Citations
Introduction
I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Security and Crime Science at University College London (UCL) and a visiting research fellow at Leiden University in the Netherlands. My research focuses in particular on human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and labour exploitation. I am interested in rigorous, outcome-oriented research and nuanced, evidence-informed responses to complex issues. I have worked closely with organisations across the public, private and third sectors and contributed to counter-trafficking interventions at national and international levels, including co-chairing the UK’s national working group on the prevention of modern slavery. I have published widely on these topics, including the book Offender and Victim Networks in Human Trafficking.
Additional affiliations
October 2013 - present
University College London
Position
  • Research Associate
Description
  • I am an ESRC 'Future Research Leader' Fellow at UCL.
October 2013 - present
University College London
Position
  • Research Associate
Description
  • I currently hold a three-year ESRC 'Future Research Leaders' Fellowship.

Publications

Publications (30)
Article
Full-text available
There is relatively little empirical research into the geographies of human trafficking, despite its inherent spatiality and the clear benefits of geographical perspectives. An emerging but vibrant body of qualitative work explores different aspects of trafficking's spatiality and spatio-temporality in depth and nuance, but equivalent quantitative...
Article
Full-text available
To launder money is, by definition, to obfuscate and to hide, which makes it a notoriously difficult topic to study. Data access is another challenge contributing to the underdeveloped base. This paper presents an in-depth exploratory analysis of previously untapped data from the UK’s tax enforcement agency. We examine a sample of money laundering...
Article
While certainly not a new phenomenon, the exploitation of children and vulnerable adults in ‘county lines’ drug distribution and sales now attracts considerable attention and concern. In this study, we explored professionals' perspectives on understandings of and responses to this issue in the West Midlands, UK. We conducted in-depth interviews wit...
Article
Full-text available
Despite considerable concern about how human trafficking offenders may use the Internet to recruit their victims, arrange logistics or advertise services, the Internet-trafficking nexus remains unclear. This study explored the prevalence and correlates of a set of commonly-used indicators of labour trafficking in online job advertisements. Taking a...
Article
Full-text available
‘Muslim grooming gangs’ have become a defining feature of media, political and public debate around child sexual exploitation in the UK. The dominant narrative that has emerged to explain a series of horrific cases is misleading, sensationalist and has in itself promoted a number of harms. This article examines how racist framings of ‘Muslim groomi...
Article
Investigating reports of missing children is a major source of demand for the police in the UK. Repeat disappearances are common, can indicate underlying vulnerabilities and have been linked with various forms of exploitation and abuse. Inspired by research on repeat victimisation, this paper examines the prevalence and temporal patterns of repeat...
Article
Full-text available
Combatting trafficking in human beings is a well-established social policy and crime prevention priority for the twenty-first Century. Human trafficking, as defined in international law, can occur for diverse exploitative purposes. Yet, different forms of trafficking are routinely conflated in research, policy and interventions. Most of the attenti...
Article
Full-text available
When it comes to human trafficking, hype often outweighs evidence. All too often, the discourse on trafficking – increasingly absorbed under discussions of so-called ‘modern slavery’ too – is dominated by simplistic treatments of a complex problem, sweeping claims and dubious statistics [1, 2, 3]. Such an approach might help to win attention, inves...
Chapter
Law enforcement data are a promising and largely untapped resource for academic research into human trafficking, it is argued in this chapter. Better use of such data can help inform and expand an evidence-based approach to counter-trafficking policy and practice. Written by authors from both sides of the academia-law enforcement divide, this chapt...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Our objectives were (1) to systematically map the contours of the European evidence base on labour trafficking, identifying its key characteristics, coverage, gaps, strengths and weaknesses and (2) to synthesise key scientific research. Methods We took a two-phase approach: a systematic map followed by a detailed synthesis of key scient...
Article
Full-text available
Objectives Our objectives were (1) to systematically map the contours of the European evidence base on labour trafficking, identifying its key characteristics, coverage, gaps, strengths and weaknesses and (2) to synthesise key scientific research. Methods We took a two-phase approach: a systematic map followed by a detailed synthesis of key scienti...
Article
Human trafficking and modern slavery are routinely framed as key threats facing society. Despite increased media, policy, and practitioner attention the evidence base remains underdeveloped. The numerous knowledge gaps include a lack of empirical studies and research into labour trafficking. Since labour trafficking is a complex and varied phenomen...
Chapter
Summary and Keywords Crime science (or more accurately crime and security science) has three core tenets: • the application of scientific methods • the study of crime and security problems • the aim of reducing harm. Beyond the unifying principles of scientific research (including a clear problem definition, transparency, rigor, and reliabilit...
Article
In this case study, we focus on our recent large-scale quantitative analysis of 9,042 children who accessed sexual exploitation support services provided by a major UK charity. In doing so, our aim is to discuss the practicalities of one important but often neglected source of data for research into child sexual exploitation: data that are routinel...
Article
Child sexual exploitation is increasingly recognized nationally and internationally as a pressing child protection, crime prevention, and public health issue. In the United Kingdom, for example, a recent series of high-profile cases has fueled pressure on policy makers and practitioners to improve responses. Yet, prevailing discourse, research, and...
Article
Full-text available
In this study we examine the internal (domestic) sex trafficking of British children using unique data from six major police investigations. This particular type of internal sex trafficking (sometimes known as ‘street grooming’) has been popularly conceptualised as a highly sophisticated, skilled and well-organised phenomenon. This study shows that...
Article
Full-text available
Following a mainstream British newspaper’s claim to have uncovered a new crime threat of ‘on-street grooming’, extensive and emotive debate continues around the so-called ‘Asian sex gang’ problem in the UK. This article examines the construction of a new racial crime threat, assessing the validity of its foundations and exploring its possible cause...
Article
Full-text available
Extensive social psychological research emphasises the importance of groups in shaping individuals' thoughts and actions. Within the child sexual abuse (CSA) literature criminal organisation has been largely overlooked, with some key exceptions. This research was a novel collaboration between academia and the UK's Child Exploitation and Online Prot...
Article
In research, policy and practice, internal trafficking has been long overshadowed by its international counterpart. Despite the introduction of specific legislation against internal sex trafficking, confusion remains in Britain around how this crime is distinguished from other forms of sexual exploitation. In particular, there have been growing ten...
Book
Remarkably little has been written about the theory and practice of applied police research, despite growing demand for evidence in crime prevention. Designed to fill this gap, this book offers a valuable new resource. It contains a carefully curated selection of contributions from some of the world's leading applied police researchers. Together, t...
Thesis
The trafficking of British children within the United Kingdom for the purposes of sexual exploitation has been recognised as a crime threat for over a decade. Yet, the issue has been subject to little research and remains poorly-understood. The aim of this doctoral research was to provide an in-depth empirical assessment of this crime that could in...
Article
Full-text available
Links between child sexual exploitation (CSE) and youth offending should be better recognised, according to these preliminary research findings from the UK. Data from a leading CSE service provider and Youth Offending Team were analysed for the period 2001–2010 inclusive. Of CSE victims, 40 percent had offending records and recidivism rates were hi...
Article
Full-text available
This article demonstrates how Crime Scripting is a viable and cost-effective tool in supporting strategic policing without requiring additional data, software, or training. This study shows how a script can deconstruct a complex crime into its component parts and create a set of outcome-focused recommendations informed by the principles of Situatio...
Article
Full-text available
This article explores the potential of social network analysis as a tool in supporting the investigation of internal child sex trafficking in the UK. In doing so, it uses only data, software, and training already available to UK police. Data from two major operations are analysed using in-built centrality metrics, designed to measure a network's ov...

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