Crime and Justice Research Lab aids law officers

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Bowling Green State University's Crime and Justice Research Lab, now in its second year, is enabling law enforcement agencies to become more effective by providing them expert training, research and crime analysis.

“We want police departments to come here when they need either training or for us to actually conduct a project for them,” said Dr. William King, an associate professor in the University's Criminal Justice Program. He and program Director Dr. Steven Lab, a professor of criminal justice, are co-directors of the lab.

A common need for police departments is crime mapping, King said. Aided by special software in the research lab, King and Lab are able to discover “hot spots” and patterns of crime by analyzing such factors as the point of origin of calls for service, crime type, traffic stops and arrests. This can help police identify and document problem areas and better allocate resources to address them. It can also reveal underlying problems.

“Local police forces are often so busy they ‘can't see the forest for the trees,'” King said. “We can help them by either conducting crime mapping and analysis for them or instructing them in how to use the mapping software and where to find the necessary data.” In addition, the lab faculty will conduct field research for law enforcement agencies.

The lab houses a computer bank with crime-analysis programs and database resources.

Lab teaches a crime-analysis class for graduates and undergraduates. “The graduate students have the opportunity to work on these projects to gain some hands-on experience,” said King, who is the graduate coordinator for the Criminal Justice Program.

Surveying community perception of and satisfaction with local agencies is another service offered by the lab. Not only is this required by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies, it also helps agencies learn what problems citizens feel should be addressed and builds community support, King said. Having an impartial external organization conduct the research lends credence to the findings, he added.

“We also assess the needs of agencies,” King said. “We can work with probation, parole and corrections offices and courts.”

King has presented at a Columbus “think tank” for chiefs of police and conducted projects for local governments, including one for Boardman Township, south of Youngstown. Criminal justice faculty have worked with the National Institute of Justice, the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Ohio Office of Criminal Justice Services.

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Media Contact: Bonnie Blankinship at 419-372-2618.

(Posted November 17, 2006 )