Criminal justice researchers at the University of Toledo will join a national network studying misdemeanor crimes from arrest to conviction.
UT received a $169,000 grant to be paid over three years and was chosen to participate in the Research Network on Misdemeanor Justice, run by New York City’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice.
Local researchers will dive into at least a decade of Toledo Police Department misdemeanor crime data, tracking the outcome of cases from arrest to dismissal or conviction and any incarceration or fines.
Misdemeanors make up the bulk of arrests by the department — about 90 percent in 2015 and 2014. In 2015, Toledo police made 22,463 misdemeanor arrests versus 2,296 felony arrests.
Researchers expect the results will be used to guide policy decisions and criminal justice reform — such as diversionary programs that reduce jail time for low-level offenders.
“This is really huge because the goal is to help our community to collect information to study misdemeanors, because that’s the majority of what officers deal with and the majority of what bogs down the criminal justice system,” said Kasey Tucker-Gail, associate professor of criminal justice and chief of the Urban Policing and Crime Analysis Initiative at UT.
Thirty-nine sites sought to be part of the research project, which began in New York about four years ago. UT was selected along with the University of California in Los Angeles, North Carolina Central University, Seattle University, University of Maryland, and the University of Missouri in St. Louis.
UT stood out because of its access to data through the Northwest Ohio Regional Information Systems, or NORIS, said Preeti Chauhan, assistant professor of psychology at John Jay College and the project’s co-principal investigator.
The system allows area law enforcement, courts, and jails to access and share case information, criminal histories, and police records.
“The data infrastructure that Toledo has is quite remarkable,” Ms. Chauhan said. “It’s really amazing.”
UT researchers already work with Toledo police on data analysis and community relations efforts, Ms. Tucker-Gail said.
The results of this larger study can be used by researchers across the network to compare to other sites and come up with general criminal justice trends, she said.
The project presents an opportunity to use local data collected over many years, said Holly Matthews, executive director of the Toledo-based Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which governs NORIS.
Among the useful applications for the research could be diversion options for low-level crimes that help reduce the jail population.
The data also could inform discussion about and plans for a new Lucas County Jail, officials said.
“We are really looking at making sure the right individuals are in jail for the right reasons,” Ms. Matthews said.
Most scholarly research in the criminal justice field is focused on violent offenses and felonies, so academics are enthused about this project to examine lower-level but high-volume crimes.
The work is funded by a grant from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation.
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