Campus News - February 11, 2002

Researchers aim to reduce gun violence

Researchers at the UNM Institute for Social Research (ISR) are members of a newly formed interagency workgroup focused on the gun violence problem in Bernalillo County.

The group, facilitated by the United States Attorney's Office and comprised of local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies, was convened under the National Institute of Justice's (NIJ) Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiative (SACSI).

SACSI is designed to foster collaborative problem solving and focused, research-driven interventions. The SACSI research team is led by Dr. Paul Steele and Dr. Lisa Broidy, criminologists and faculty in the UNM Sociology Department, in collaboration with sociology graduate student Jerry Daday and undergraduate Teresa Schellhamer, a statistics major.

The team received a $229, 000, two-year grant from NIJ to conduct research that the workgroup can use to develop strategic interventions in response to local gun violence.

The role of research in the SACSI model is unique. "Usually sociologists are only called in to do evaluation at the last minute. It is very unusual for us to be involved and give input from the start," Broidy said. "Our goal is to provide data that will help influence the direction interventions will take and to help monitor and fine tune those efforts." Dr. Steele agrees, "as criminologists, we have always wanted to get at the table from the beginning. This initiative has certainly given us the opportunity to do that."

During the last year, members of the research team have met with the various agencies from the SACSI workgroup to collect data on violent crime incidents, offenders and victims. Agencies include the Albuquerque Police Department, the Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department, the District Attorney's Office, the FBI, ATF, Pre-Trial Services, State and Federal Probation and Parole, DEA and the Department of Public Safety. "These data are vital to the efforts of the interagency workgroup as they collaborate to understand and target violent crime within the county," Broidy says.

The research team collected and analyzed data for crimes that occurred in Bernalillo County between 1996 and 2001. Using these data the research team has been able to identify offender and victim characteristics, crime patterns, and the geographic location of crime hotspots for serious crimes, such as homicide, aggravated assault, domestic violence, and drug/narcotic incidents.

SACSI was first deployed to tackle various crimes in 1998 in five communities -- New Haven, Ct., Winston-Salem, N.C., Memphis, Tenn., Indianapolis, In., and Portland, Ore. In 2000, along with Albuquerque, four additional cities were funded -- Rochester, N.Y., Detroit, Mi., Atlanta, Ga. and St. Louis, Mo. Cities funded in the first round saw significant crime reduction.

The ISR is under the umbrella of the UNM Department of Sociology within the College of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, the ISR had 35 active research projects funded with approximately $3 million from state and national sources.

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