November 21, 2005

Proposed research center will focus on rural crime

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Legislation approved earlier this month by the U.S. House includes funding for a new research center at Southern Illinois University Carbondale aimed at studying and preventing small-town and rural crime.

A $100,000 federal grant to establish the Center for Rural Violence and Prevention is part of the final U.S. House Science-State-Commerce bill. Approval is pending in the Senate.

U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, helped secure the funding for the project, which involves several departments in the College of Liberal Arts and the School of Law.

Research conducted at the new center will improve community justice systems in rural and small-town settings. In particular, researchers will focus on crimes involving violence against women, the processes involved in the criminal justice system and the public perception of crime-related issues.

"We're looking at rural and small town settings as very unique and different than metropolitan centers, and having unique crime problems," said John S. Haller, vice president for academic affairs at SIU. "Not the least of the problems is methamphetamine. But there are also immigration issues, keeping up with sex offender registries, and others.

"We're looking at how these rural areas are different and what makes them different and ways to look at the problems and deal with them," Haller said.

The center will use an interdisciplinary approach, melding researchers from the departments of Sociology, Psychology, Women's Studies, Administration of Justice and the School of Law.

Researchers hope to discover ways to improve services for special needs populations, develop crime prevention strategies and decrease the costs incurred by crime and violence to the community.

Haller said the center also might provide opportunities for internships and graduate research for SIUC students.

Promoting the University as a research institution of high quality are among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint the University is following at it approaches its 150th anniversary in 2019.