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Valley growth highlights safety needs

January 07, 2008

It’s no secret that the Valley is growing, but with the increase in population comes a need for those who provide basic safety in communities – namely, police officers.

“Maricopa County added 129,642 new residents from July of 2005 to July 2006,” says Scott Decker, director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Human Services at the West campus. “That means that 260 new officers were needed. There’s a huge demand for entry-level police officers.”

Population growth also fuels a concurrent need for probation, parole and juvenile corrections officers, he adds.

“There really is a ‘ripple effect,’ ” Decker says. “Criminal justice is one of the growth agencies.”

To meet that demand, and to take advantage of areas such as the Downtown Phoenix campus’ close proximity to law enforcement agencies, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is expanding operations to the Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses. Students will be able to take criminology courses starting this spring at both locations.

Primary components of criminal justice and criminology study include analysis of the theories, laws, policies and practices associated with the administration of justice. The curriculum focuses on the examination of social science research, critical examination of the manner in which the criminal justice system operates and diversity concerns pertaining to the administration of justice.

“The importance of crime, criminal justice and public safety in today’s society makes it important that teachers, nurses, social workers, students of government, and most professions have a better understanding of crime and criminal justice,” Decker says.

Applying academic knowledge learned in classrooms to real-world situations will be an option for students who take advantage of internships that Decker is looking forward to establishing downtown with city, county and state agencies.

“ASU has strong partnerships with each level,” Decker says. “The Phoenix Police Department is housed downtown.”

Interns can aid working officers in areas such as accident investigations, research and grant writing, says Kevin Robinson, assistant chief of the Phoenix Police Department.

“That is something that we would love to do,” Robinson says. “I see the opportunities for internships throughout the organization.’’

Students who participate in internships can work up to 20 hours per week at an agency, blending the academic side of criminology with practical, day-to-day work.

“It’s a real positive and vibrant learning atmosphere for our students,” Decker says. “From an agency perspective, getting to know students during an internship is one of the best ways to assess what kind of an employee they will become.”

Students soon will be able to take all of their classes downtown when additional courses are offered at the campus in about a year.

“We hope to be able to offer a full-time schedule for students who want to major in criminology and criminal justice downtown,” Decker says.

Initial course offerings at the Downtown Phoenix campus include courses on the justice system and police function, while classes on the justice system and gangs will be taught in Tempe.

Police, probation, corrections, parole officers and others already working in the field downtown can further their educations by taking classes nearby and working toward advanced degrees.

Taking online classes is another popular option.

“We offer most of the fourth year online,” Decker says. “The response to our online courses has been overwhelming.”

Many students view the expansion to downtown and Tempe as a positive development that will give them additional career opportunities. About 700 students are enrolled in criminology and criminal justice studies.

ASU launched the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice more than a year ago. It has since attracted more than $1 million in research grants, developed key partnerships with law enforcement agencies throughout the Valley and recently added a master’s program and a doctoral degree to its curriculum.

Decker is a nationally recognized criminologist who has written 13 books exploring his research expertise in the areas of gangs, juvenile justice and criminal justice policy.

For more information, go to

Stephen Des Georges, (602) 543-5220

Julie Newberg, (602) 496-1005