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Director’s Message - NIJ Journal Issue No. 282

Date Published
December 15, 2020
David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D.

At NIJ, we have a long-standing and ongoing focus on reducing violent crime. We advance this priority through multiple interrelated research portfolios that address topics like firearms violence, intimate partner violence, terrorism, and gangs. Each portfolio is built on rigorous scientific studies that are designed to help us better understand several types of violent crime and how we can work to deter these crimes and reduce violence. The latest NIJ Journal highlights this important work.

As a science organization, we seek to discover the underlying causes and consequences of crime and violence. Two articles in this issue examine particularly insidious forms of violence: school shootings and mass shootings. Who is committing these crimes? Are our perceptions of these violent crimes different from what the data show? Are we collecting the data we need to see crime prevention through a multidisciplinary lens? Our goal is to equip the criminal justice field with the best knowledge to effectively do its job of keeping our students and nation safe.

NIJ also plays a vital role in funding research related to domestic radicalization and terrorism in the United States. Understanding why and how people radicalize, as well as what can be done to prevent radicalization or intervene during the process, are key to countering violent extremism and remain a top research priority for us. One article in this issue details our specific efforts to work with organizations around the world to better understand these crimes and advance evidence-based interventions.

This raises a critical point: At NIJ, we aim to fund relevant research that informs policies and practices centered on evidence about what works to reduce the occurrence and impact of violent crimes. Ultimately, this comes down to rigorous evaluation of program effectiveness. We want to know what works in combating violent crime. We want to know what doesn’t work. And we want to know what shows promise and begs further study.

Two articles in this issue reflect our commitment to evaluation. One looks at whether an evidence-based delinquency prevention program can be modified to prevent gang involvement and reduce the criminal activities of gang members. Another explores efforts to expand the evidence base for practices used by law enforcement to prevent and intervene in cases of intimate partner violence. Both articles highlight how rigorous evaluation and evidence can help law enforcement address violent crime.

NIJ also supports a robust body of research on investigative and forensic practices that enhance the capabilities of law enforcement and other criminal justice professionals to deter and respond to violent crime. One article in this issue explores how a forensic intelligence approach to law enforcement has the potential for advancing the detection, investigation, and prosecution of serial and organized violent crimes in jurisdictions across the United States. Another examines how prioritizing cold case investigations can assist in apprehending persons who chronically offend, resolving crimes, and preventing future ones.

Our criminal justice system faces many challenges, including persistent violent crime. The value of research in helping law enforcement officers and prosecutors tackle these formidable obstacles cannot be overstated. Scientific findings serve as a potent tool in developing policies and improving community safety. We are steadfast in our commitment to using science to inform and advance evidence-based policies and practices across the country. Because when it comes to the criminal justice system — and especially violent crime — the stakes couldn’t be higher.

David B. Muhlhausen, Ph.D.
Director, National Institute of Justice

About This Article

This article was published as part of NIJ Journal issue number 282, December 2020.

Date Published: December 15, 2020