Criminology Faculty Awarded $1 Million in Partnership With Little Rock to Reduce Community Violence
Associate professors Grant Drawve, Casey Harris and Shaun Thomas of the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the U of A have been awarded $1 million from the Bureau of Justice Assistance to collaborate with the city of Little Rock on a project designed to reduce violence within a key community school zone.
The project, titled "Using Community Schools as a Hub for Promoting Personal Resilience and Neighborhood Empowerment," focuses on place-based strategies for violence reduction that target specific locations to deter future crime. Little Rock has consistently had higher rates of violence in recent years compared to other similarly sized communities throughout the United States. In 2020, the homicide and aggravated assault rates per 100,000 residents were 3.7 and 5.5 times higher, respectively, in Little Rock than in the United States as a whole.
The project will focus on youth attending Stephens Elementary and the broader community around the school, an area that has disproportionate levels of violence, police calls-for-service and poorer health indicators than the city of Little Rock as a whole. More specifically, the goals for the school and community are:
Goals within the school:
- Reduce in-school related disciplinary actions,
- Align resources with needs for parents and students,
- Develop a sustainable model within the community school for violence reduction and community involvement that can be used in other Little Rock schools.
Goals within the target community:
- Reduce violence and gun-involved crime without significantly increasing arrest rates;
- Increase community participation to problem-solve for local issues;
- Increase participation between the residents, police and stakeholders;
- Increase social service referrals;
- Increase targeted street outreach to at-risk population and high-violence streets.
In order to achieve these goals, two full-time community social workers will be hired as part of the project to accompany advanced trainings related to mental and behavioral health.
"Violence prevention in Little Rock has continued to be a priority. Following the increase in violence in 2020 that is similar to the broader nationwide increase, 2021 violent crime also increased — making this project even more important for the city and target community," said Drawve, associate director of the Crime and Security Data Analytics Lab, concerning the timeliness of the award.
Co-investigator Harris concurred: "We see this project as an important way to engage all of Little Rock's violence stakeholders — including police, service providers, parents, students, community leaders and school administrators — at once, rather than focusing on each separately."
Co-investigator Thomas, who is the director of the Center for Social Research, noted that "fostering these types of partnerships between researchers, practitioners and community residents for the betterment of Arkansans is central to the mission of the Center for Social Research."
Students who may be interested in opportunities for real-world research experiences are encouraged to contact the directors of the CASDAL or the CSR.
The Crime and Security Data Analytics Lab was recently established in the summer of 2020 as part of the U of A Terrorism Research Center. The lab provides students with crime analysis internship opportunities as well as research collaborations with public agencies and private corporations.
About the Center for Social Research: The Center for Social Research engages in interdisciplinary and collaborative social science research and evaluation. The mission of the CSR is to address complex social issues and contribute to informed decision-making for public good by stimulating interdisciplinary collaborations; outreaching with national, state and regional agencies and organizations; and pursuing, supporting and conducting sponsored research and evaluation services.
About the Department: The Department of Sociology and Criminology offers three degree programs and four student organizations; affiliation with three research units: the Center for Social Research, the Community and Family Institute and the Terrorism Research Center; and research emphases in community, crime, health and well-being, and social data analytics.
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