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Conference targets problem solving in criminal justice


March 24, 2008

Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice will present an expert discussion of “Causes and Responses to Violence in America” on April 18 at the West campus.

The full-day event will examine issues such as violence, crime prevention, gangs, and strategic problem solving in criminal justice. It will feature four of the country’s leading experts in the field of criminal justice, including Scott Decker, director of the ASU school.

Leading presentations will be Richard Rosenfeld, Curators’ Professor of criminology at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; Nancy Guerra, professor of psychology at the University of California-Riverside; and Edmund McGarrell, director of the School of Criminal Justice at Michigan State University.

“This is a unique opportunity, and we’re fortunate to bring together such an impressive range of expertise on a number of violence-related topics,” says Decker, who was a Curators’ Professor at Missouri-St. Louis and directed the university’s criminology department before coming to ASU in 2006.

“There are a number of proven practices that work to reduce violence, and violence has been declining over the past 20 years in this country.Police partnerships with other groups, including the community, have proved successful in reducing gun violence, for instance.”

The conference is open to the public and gets underway at 7:30 a.m. with registration and a continental breakfast. Registration is $20 per person through April 11 and also includes lunch. The registration fee increases to $30 after April 11.

“This represents an opportunity to bring outside experts, with new ideas and empirical evidence, to Arizona’s on-going discussion of the most appropriate strategies for addressing these very important problems,” says John Hepburn, dean of ASU’s College of Human Services. “Our goal is to heighten public awareness of the issues and inform public policy discussions.”

The opening session features Rosenfeld, who will present “Fifty Years of Criminal Violence in America: 1960-2010.” The professor, whose research interests include the social sources of violent crime, crime statistics, and crime control policy, is currently focusing much of work on and examination of U.S. crime trends. He will present trends in major forms of criminal violence in the U.S. over the last half-century and also discuss changes in homicide and robbery rates since 2005 and whether those changes could have been anticipated.

“A safe and secure home and neighborhood are the foundation of a healthy community, one in which the residents have the opportunity for self-sufficiency, well-being, and an enhanced quality of life,” says Hepburn. “Crime, or even the threat of crime and violence, is disabling to a community’s efforts to empower its residents and to be responsive to the other needs of the community.”

The second session will be led by Guerra, who has served on the President’s Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and is an expert in the areas of youth development and violence prevention. Guerra will present “Best Practices in Prevention,” showcasing programs that have successfully addressed the prevention of youth violence over the past two decades. Included in her remarks will be a discussion of the adaptive value of violence, its multiple causes, early warning signs, and integrating prevention of risk with promotion of assets.

The final session addresses “Problem-Solving Approaches to Violence” and will be led by McGarrell, who has directed the Crime Control Policy Center at the Indianapolis-based Hudson Institute where he is currently an adjunct senior fellow. His research interests are in the areas of communities and crime and include a concentration on directed police patrol as a response to firearms violence; crime, fear and disorder in public housing; arrestee drug abuse monitoring and evaluation of court treatment programs; crime analysis; and attitudes toward crime and justice. He will cover initiatives since the mid-90s that have demonstrated promise in reducing levels of gang-, gun- and drug-related violence. The origins of these initiatives – featuring a combination of focused deterrence and problem-solving approaches – will be examined, as well as their key components and the evidence of impact on violent gun crime.

“This event focuses current research on policy and practice in an area of great importance,” says Decker, whose main research interests are documented in a dozen books he has authored on gangs, juvenile justice, and criminal justice policy. “The conference will focus on the nature of the problem and solutions to violence inside and outside of criminal justice.”

Registration information is available by calling Betty Sedillo at 602-543-6607 or by visiting http://chs.asu.edu/online_forms/ccj_event_1.php.