Hamline Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science Chair Shelly Schaefer and professor Sarah Greenman are the primary investigators for a Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program Planning Grant through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). Their proposal, in collaboration with the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office and the Little Earth community was one of only 15 chosen across the United States to receive funds. The purpose of the Byrne grant is to bring together community representatives and multiple service providers to reduce crime and revitalize communities that are considered “hot spots” for crime over time.
The Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation Program was first launched in 2012 as a part of the National Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative. The program is community-centered and awarded to groups with the goal of improving safety with policies tailored to different neighborhoods.
“It is great for us to be out in the community,” Greenman said. “This grant is particularly social justice-focused and definitely aligned with Hamline’s mission.”
The Minneapolis project is aimed at understanding drivers of crime in the Little Earth community to inform crime prevention strategies. As primary investigators for the grant, Schaefer and Greenman will explore the drivers utilizing a quantitative methodology and will keep the community informed of findings throughout the process.
“We hope our work will validate a lot of the community’s strengths, but also identify some present risks and opportunities to move resources to those areas,” Schaefer said.
The research process involves identifying risk factors and protective factors in the Little Earth community. These can include variables from the number of street lights to access to community and social services. Schaefer and Greenman will also look into demographic characteristics of the neighborhood.
Schaefer explained that this real-world application is something that can be used as a case study in Hamline’s criminal justice classes from the intro course Crime and Justice in America to higher level classes like Crime Policy Evaluation.
“Being able to bring this back into our teaching, and I think this will apply to a lot of classes that we teach, is going to be very meaningful.”
Understanding of this real-world application through case studies and internships helps students majoring in criminology and criminal justice start careers in research and policy. Students have interned in crime labs, correctional agencies, and even branches of federal law enforcement. The grant helps Greenman and Schaefer connect students with even more internship opportunities.
“Part of what has been great about this, too, is learning about different organizations, and how many people are out in the community working with Little Earth in different ways. I keep thinking about places our students could get internships, and go back into the community, work in the community, and be effective practitioners when the get in the field,” Greenman said.
To learn more about the work professors and students are doing, visit either the Byrne Criminal Justice Innovation website or the Department of Criminal Justice and Forensic Science webpage.