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Criminology and Criminal Justice Research: Organization - Government-sponsored Research

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The interest in understanding the causes and consequences of crime can be traced back to the U.S. presidential campaign of 1964 and the consequential passage of the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act (Pub L. No. 90–351, 82 Stat. 197). Since that time, the focus on crime-related issues has emerged as an important matter for the federal government. As a result of the elevated importance of crime and its consequences, monetary allocations for researching and understanding this phenomenon have been elevated dramatically.

The organization of criminological and criminal justice research can best be described at four levels: international, federal, state, and local. International efforts have consisted of coordinated efforts by countries with an interest in understanding and preventing problems associated with crime both within and across country boundaries. For example, the United Nations has funded a number of criminological studies focusing on transnational and transatlantic crime, terrorism, espionage, and white collar offenses. In addition, the federal governments of many European countries, as well as Australia and New Zealand, have funded a number of longitudinal studies that have attempted to unravel the complexities associated with criminal behavior over an individual's life span.

In the United States, participation in criminological research has been most extensive at the federal level. The largest funding agencies within the federal government have been the National Institute of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the National Institutes of Health and Mental Health, the National Science Foundation (and the National Consortium on Violence Research), the Federal Justice Research Program, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Since 1980 funding at the state level has increased. For example, state planning agencies, state commissions on crime and delinquency, and state analysis centers (SACs) have proliferated across the United States. These agencies perform a number of functions, including statewide research activities, program development, and program evaluation. State-level police and correctional departments plan, support, conduct, and encourage the study of criminal justice issues, particularly as they relate to resources within the system. At the local level, planning agencies and police departments plan and carry out research activities. With the advent of geographic information systems (GIS), a mapping system designed to pinpoint the location of crimes, these agencies are now better equipped to understand the nature of the local crime problem(s), and develop strategies aimed at curbing the problem. An additional advancement in aiding state and local agencies inform the public on matters of crime is the Internet. The Internet allows researchers and citizens to access and review the collected information on criminal justice issues. In fact, some agencies like the Philadelphia Police Department allow users to explore the nature and distribution of homicides throughout the city. Many other big-city police departments such as Baltimore, Phoenix, New York City, Charlotte, and Edmonton, Canada, have followed suit. Although state and local agencies have developed research capabilities that far surpass what was available to them in the 1960s and 1970s, it is the federal government that possesses the resources to conduct and sponsor large-scale studies.

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