Federal Crime Research Due For Major Outside Review


The National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the U.S. Justice Department’s research arm, faces a 27-month-long review by a panel of outside experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences. University of Maryland criminologist Charles Wellford, chairman of the group, told the American Society of Criminology yesterday that the exhaustive check on how the federal government is spending its crime research dollars is the first major audit in 30 years, when a similar panel concluded that much of the spending had no impact on crime. The new study is being done with the Justice Department’s cooperation, said David Nagy, acting head of NIJ.

Most of the reviewers are academics, but the panel also includes former Attorney General Edwin Meese and former Chicago and Washington, D.C., police chief Charles Ramsey, who is due to take over as police commissioner in Philadelphia. Commenting on the state of current crime research, criminologist Margaret Zahn of North Carolina State University urged a focus on connecting technology and social science studies. “We need a research agenda for the 21st century,” Zahn said. She noted that identity theft costs victims eight times as much as auto theft, but it is not included in the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report. Zahn also called for better measures of crime internationally, including terrorism and other “violence in the name of political change.”

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