George Mason University

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Mason's Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy looks ahead to next 10 years

August 20, 2018   /   by John Hollis

Cynthia Lum, director of the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy, said the center's goal is to "provide the knowledge to help keep policymakers and citizens informed."

George Mason University’s Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy (CEBCP) seeks to make scientific research a key component in decisions about crime and justice policies.

For the past 10 years, the center has served as an informational bridge to practitioners and the policy community. Relying on rigorous studies in criminal justice and criminology through research-based collaborations, the center’s aim is to help prevent crime while improving citizen trust and confidence in the police.

“Our dual mission is to provide high-quality research and to figure out how that research can be translated into practice,” said Cynthia Lum, the center’s director and a professor in Mason’s Department of Criminology, Law and Society.

The center’s portfolio has grown from less than $100,000 in external grant funding when it started to more than $18 million today. For 2018, the center has been awarded $4 million in new grant research and translation funding to advance evidence-based crime policy.

“It’s gone by so quickly,” Lum said of the time that has passed since the center’s beginning. “The center began with just two professors and two graduate assistants. It was literally just the four of us.”

The center now consists of 21 core members, an additional 26 senior fellows and faculty affiliates and a 15-member advisory board. Visits to the center’s website have surpassed more than one million hits, and its YouTube videos have been viewed nearly 100,000 times.

CEBCP faculty continue to be recognized for their excellence as well. Charlotte Gill, an assistant professor of community-based crime prevention, place-based criminology, policing, youth and crime, won the prestigious Andrew Carnegie Fellowship in 2017. David Weisburd, a distinguished professor of police innovation, geography crime, experimental criminology, statistics and research methods, received the August Vollmer Award from the American Society of Criminology and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Israeli Society of Criminology. In 2017, Lum was one of two faculty members honored with Mason’s inaugural Earle C. Williams Presidential Medal for Excellence in Social Impact.

The CEBCP held its annual congressional briefing earlier this year and recently hosted its annual symposium, which welcomed more than 300 registered guests in Arlington.

Lum said that she was pleased with the CEBCP’s first 10 years, but she already has an eye on future challenges that include an expanded focus into changing policy realms such as firearms violence, mental health and the justice system, and technology such as the use of artificial intelligence in crime prevention.

“Our goal is to provide the knowledge to help keep policymakers and citizens informed,” Lum said, “and provide better policy solutions. We also want to train the next generation of criminologists to value practice-relevant research.”