Peace Fellows Tour University of Chicago Crime Lab

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Coordinator, Chicago Peace Fellows

On Friday, August 30, the Chicago Peace Fellows toured the University of Chicago Urban Labs to learn more about the work of the Crime Lab, hosted by Kimberly Smith, associate director of criminal justice initiatives.

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Kim talked about how the Crime Lab started with the idea to leverage the intellectual capital of the University of Chicago to address violence in Chicago. In 2007, the University was reeling from the shooting death on their campus of an international student during an attempted robbery. Their solution was to ask what the University’s faculty members were good at and how could they use their talents to serve their surrounding community.

The University of Chicago is the home of more Nobel Prize winners than any other institution in the world, and the school is a hub for research of many kinds, scientific to historical. Could they use those techniques to encourage research on the causes and solutions to violence in the communities that surround the university?

They began to work with community organizations to add value by providing research and evaluation support. They identified one organization that was producing tremendous results and helped them grow their programming, and they are working with several other groups across the city that are tackling issues of violence in the city to identify effective strategies.

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Much of the meeting was spent fielding questions from the Chicago Peace Fellows about how the Crime Lab does its work. They asked about the Crime Lab’s work with the Chicago Police Department, particularly how the Crime Lab is working to support officers and their relationship to the community. Robert Biekman wanted to know about the Crime Lab’s analysis of the federal consent decree that is designed to change the policies and procedures of the Chicago Police Department.

Dr. Sokoni Karanja asked about accessing data on community policing programs, which began a conversation about data sharing and how the Crime Lab provides data to grassroots organizations to measure impact. Many of the Chicago Peace Fellows have been doing tremendous work in their respective communities for years and were open to utilizing the support of the University's researchers to document their efforts and learn more about what’s most effective.

The meeting was a great demonstration of how communities can work with institutions to solidify best practices and identify promising solutions to the myriad of issues that communities across Chicago face.

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