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Priority Research Themes & Projects

Research Priorities


The Centre of Criminology is a niche research and teaching organisation within the Faculty of Law at the University of Cape Town, committed to advancing research and policy analysis on current challenges and debates within the fields of public safety, criminal justice and evolving forms of crime.

In the past two years, research topics have ranged from the local to the global, including detailed qualitative research on illicit trafficking and organised crime in Africa and West Africa; Cape Town's illicit substance market  and the experiences of poly-substance users; alternative forms of policing in contemporary Africa and South Africa; and the network of extortion markets in the cities of Cape Town and Johannesburg.

Other developing themes have included environmental risk and security; developments and challenges to policing - whether public, private or community driven; organised crime and illicit trafficking in South Africa and Africa, with a focus on the evolution of criminal networks in fragile states and their impact on governance, democracy, livelihoods and the environment; criminal justice policy challenges, with an emphasis on developing country contexts; and violent crime - with particular attention to its impact on youth and women.

The Centre has hosted high-profile conferences on gangs, organised crime and wildlife trafficking, drawing international audiences and achieving high impact contributions to the debates at hand. Through associations with policymakers and practitioners at national level and in major multi-lateral institutions, our research and policy work is able to inform national, regional and global responses to security challenges. 

The Centre of Criminology seeks to address safety issues on all fronts as the core challenge to social development. At all times, our programmes, publications, partnerships and courses aim to successfully extend the boundaries of criminology as an academic discipline. Criminal justice and criminology operate as multidisciplinary fields, enabling recognition and response to an ever-changing international, regional and local landscape of risk. 

The Centre of Criminology seeks to push the boundaries of the discipline, and encourages its students to actively engage with and  respond to the challenges obstructing public safety and human security at large with consistent, innovative and rigorous research.



Although not limited to, there are five clusters of research priorities within the Centre:

1. Urban Security

2. Environmental Security Observatory (ESO)

3. State and Non-State Security and Policing

4. Organised Crime and Illicit Markets

5. Drugs and Gangs in Cape Town