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Portland’s broken window epidemic: Who’s behind the vandalism and what is going to stop it?

Every 42 minutes there is a report of vandalism in Portland — often involving broken windows. Some storefronts have been hit repeatedly.

There were more reports of broken windows and vandalism in Portland last year than during the violent protests of 2020.

Laurie Drapela.

“It is a complex problem that really requires a complex solution,” said Laurie Drapela, a criminal justice professor at Washington State University Vancouver. Drapela explained that because there are fewer people living and working in downtown Portland, there aren’t as many eyes and ears around to help prevent crime.

 “You have a lot of office complex space now where people are working from home, so they’re not downtown taking lunch breaks, going to and from the MAX or TriMet,” said Drapela. “They provide natural surveillance. What we call in the field — guardianship.”

Drapela says the community should focus on bringing people back downtown, especially on nights and weekends — when much of the vandalism occurs.

Increased police presence and social services will help, Drapela explained — but at the end of the day, it’s less likely that criminals will break windows if people are around and watching.

“You could see some turnaround here that is not short lived. It is more into the future and gets us back to the downtown Portland we know and love,” said Drapela.

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Research: The operationalization of bodycam data

Washington State University researchers are working with police departments to objectively review videos to benchmark officer performance and inform training

David Makin.

An agency’s body-worn camera video contains multiple data points that can be operationalized to benchmark officer performance and inform training. Tapping into that wealth of knowledge is the mission of David A. Makin, Ph.D., an associate professor in criminal justice and criminology at Washington State University and director of WSU’s Complex Social Interactions Lab.

Through data analytics and machine learning, Makin and his team code and catalog key variables in bodycam videos associated with a range of outcomes as specified by the agencies participating in the research. Importantly, the work undertaken in the lab captures situational and environmental factors such as the geographic location, ambient noise level, time of day, and the presence and actions taken by bystanders to better contextualize and therefore better understand interactions between police and the community.

Recently, WSU’s research team passed a significant milestone of 20,000 hours (nearly 120 weeks’ worth) of analyzed footage. I sat down with Dr. Makin to discuss how this research can contribute toward improving police-community interactions and create data-driven solutions for enhancing situational awareness, officer safety and de-escalation.

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SURCA presents undergraduate research awards

Several students from across the College of Arts and Sciences were among WSU scholars who presented posters at the Showcase for Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (SURCA) 2022 on March 28.

SURCA is the unique WSU-wide venue for students from all majors, years in college, and all WSU campuses to share their mentored research, scholarship, and creative activities, and have judges evaluate their work shown on a poster. At this year’s event, around 140 students from four campuses were among those accepted to present 112 posters to 90 judges. Faculty, postdoctoral students, and community experts used a common rubric to evaluate and score presentations across nine SURCA categories.

At the awards ceremony, 43 students from WSU Pullman and Vancouver and the Global Campus were announced as recipients of 33 awards. In total, nearly $8,000 will be given to support their efforts.

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WSU Insider

Criminal justice professor honored for contributions to study of corrections

Mary Stohr

A nationally recognized scholar of prison reform, WSU professor Mary Stohr has been selected to receive the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences’ prestigious John Howard Award for her significant and sustained contributions to the practice of corrections.

“John Howard literally gave his life in the pursuit of improving European jails and promoting humane treatment of prisoners—he died of typhus, also known as ‘jail fever.’ I am very humbled to be recognized among the ranks of those working diligently to improve correctional facilities for inmates and staff,” said Stohr.

Stohr served five years as ACJS executive director, co-founded the Corrections Section and the Minorities and Women Section, and previously received both the Founders Award and the Fellows Award.

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WSU Insider


The trouble with staying awake: BCOPS study addresses shift work hazards

Chronic fatigue and other ills brought about by irregular work schedules have always been a concern for law enforcement officers. Only relatively recently has there been any scientific analysis of the problem.

The webinar featured several presenters who each broke down data gathered during a longitudinal study of police officers in Buffalo, NY. The Buffalo Cardio-Metabolic Occupational Police Stress (BCOPS) study followed hundreds of public safety officers between 2004 and 2020, tracking their work schedules and health over the course of the project.

Bryan Vila.

The seminal work in this area was an unrelated research effort published over 20 years ago. Tired Cops by Bryan Vila (now a Ph.D. and retired professor of criminal justice at Washington State University) detailed some of the health hazards suffered by cops who worked irregular schedules. Some of the situations he studied were brought about by the cops themselves, who insisted on working second jobs or engaged in other pursuits when they should have been sleeping.

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