U of A Lab Collaborates With Virginia Tech Faculty and Upbring to Examine Child Maltreatment

Associate professors Grant Drawve and Shaun Thomas of the U of A and assistant professor Jyotishka Datta of Virginia Tech are partnering with the Upbring organization to develop spatial risk assessments for child maltreatment throughout Texas communities.

Drawve is an associate professor and the associate director of the Crime and Security Data Analytics Lab, and Thomas is an associate professor and director of the Center for Social Research in the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the U of A. Datta is an assistant professor in the Department of Statistics at Virginia Tech and formerly at the U of A. The research team brings together their expertise in crime analysis, communities and statistics to identify spatial patterns in child maltreatment that could then be used in service gap identification and evidence-based prevention efforts.

Broadly, Upbring seeks to increase child wellbeing, vitality and safety. The current research project encompasses this endeavor in an innovative approach that could assist in reaching vulnerable populations.

"This is an exciting project with real-world applications and the possibility to improve the lives of vulnerable populations throughout our region," Thomas said. "These efforts are aligned with the mission of the CSR to address complex social issues and contribute to informed decision-making for public good and the universities' land-grant and flagship responsibilities to engage, collaborate and provide outreach to citizens, businesses, governmental and civic entities throughout the region."

Drawve stated: "This work builds from a project we completed in Little Rock on child maltreatment risk and service gaps. We know place matters for crime occurrence, so this project takes that knowledge to a less studied outcome, child maltreatment."

For more information on the Little Rock project click here. Setting this research project apart from Little Rock is the richness of the data for child maltreatment incidents throughout Texas, allowing for greater depth and analyses.

Datta added, "A key objective of this project is to build an interpretable modeling framework that removes the tautological obscurity from crime prediction tools. We will apply multi-resolution spatio-temporal modeling approaches, traversing from coarser to finer granularity, to understand the dynamic nature of crime activities, while identifying the geographic and socio-demographic indicators." Overall, this project takes a place-based approach to guide person-based prevention efforts.

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. In 2020, the U of A's Fulbright College of Arts and Sciences also supported the creation of the TRC's Crime and Security Data Analytics Lab (CASDAL), to meet the analytic needs of students, faculty and external partners by providing space for research projects relating to crime and security issues.


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