Trust in the criminal justice system gets 1.5 million from Nationale Wetenschaps Agenda

Towards effective interventions to monitor and reduce socio-economic and ethnic differences in the sanctioning of crime.

Science, police, public prosecutors, local government, and various civil society organisations will jointly investigate how to strengthen mutual trust between agencies in the criminal justice system and youth with a migration background and/or weaker socio-economic position in particular. The consortium will also develop interventions to monitor and reduce problematic inequalities in the sanctioning of criminal behaviour. Prof Arjen Leerkes Erasmus University Rotterdam leads the consortium. The Netherlands Science Agenda has awarded 1.5 million euros to the project In search of trust (IST): Towards effective interventions to monitor and reduce ethno-racial and socio-economic sanctioning disparities.

People with a migrant background and/or weaker socio-economic position are relatively likely to come into contact with the criminal justice system and are more strongly represented among crime convicts than among crime suspects.

An important starting point of the study is that social differences in mutual trust between juveniles and the criminal justice system are both a cause and consequence of social differences in sanctioning, patterns of overrepresentation, and recidivism: when young people and agencies distrust each other, there is a risk that young people will be disadvantaged during the detection and sanctioning of criminal behaviour. These disadvantages then reinforce mutual distrust between youth and criminal justice agencies. The research aims to better understand, monitor and weaken these feedback loops.

Monitoring and interventions

The project will work on a national judicial equality monitor that can be used to observe and monitor problematic social inequalities in crime detection and sanctioning. The researchers will also work with juveniles, police officers, and other professionals from the criminal justice chain to jointly develop interventions that strengthen trust between youth and the police and reduce problematic inequalities in the sanctioning of crime. These include video-supported teaching materials for new officers, young people in secondary education, and young people coming into contact with the police for the first time as crime suspects. Together with (former) delinquent youth and professionals, the researchers will also identify points of departure for additional interventions, for example, concerning prosecuting suspects by the Public Prosecution Service.

Arjen Leerkes, project leader "We are thrilled with this funding, and this is great news for Dutch youth as well. Society is becoming more ethnically diverse and economically unequal. With this, the Netherlands invests in a just, safe future for everyone."

Unique consortium

The consortium is a partnership of Erasmus University Rotterdam (sociology, educational sciences, criminology, criminal law), Leiden University (criminology), the Police Academy, Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences (social work), the Scientific Research and Documentation Centre (WODC), Rotterdam Police, Halt Netherlands, the Public Prosecutor’s Office, Rotterdam municipality, the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, RADAR, and Durdu lawyers Rotterdam. The consortium will collaborate with Amnesty International, the Inspectorate of the Ministry of Justice and Security, the National Police, Statistics Netherlands, and the Dutch Association of Social Studies Teachers.

Arjen Leerkes

  • Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences


Annemiek Harder

  • Erasmus School of Social and Behavioural Sciences


Jolande uit Beijerse

  • Law, Society & Crime


Project leader Arjen Leerkes, email:  leerkes@essb.eur.nl 

or via press@eur.nl