College gets tough on crime
With an ongoing gang problem and a host of other crime-related issues being confronted on Calgary streets everyday, Mount Royal’s criminal justice studies program has unveiled Alberta’s first independent crime research lab to provide students with practical education skills and also lend a hand to the community.
John Winterdyk, chair of the justice studies program, explained that the launch of the highly secure $40,000 facility Tuesday has been been roughly six years in the making and could not have been achieved without support from partners like Calgary Youth Justice Society and Correctional Services Canada.
“The justice studies program and other colleagues will use the lab to research a host of criminal and social justice themes,” he said.
“We wanted to move to a new level of service to the criminal justice community — NGOs, provincial, federal and even international — where we can deal with information that is highly sensitive.”
Because of this, the lab has fitted with security cameras to record all activity in the lab, located in the justice studies department. A secure phone line has also been provided as well as an alarmed door that will notify Mount Royal security if it is open for an extended period of time.
For second year justice studies student Steven Pridgen, this lab represents an opportunity to take what he has learned in the classroom and apply it to real-life scenarios and trends.
“It’s one thing to learn about research in the class but it’s another thing to learn how to actually use it and apply it to situations where you can solve things and prevent crime by giving police information on how to better protect the communities,” Pridgen said.
Alberta Justice Minister Alison Redford said she is excited about potential partnership opportunities that could come in the future as a result of the facility. She noted that Mount Royal will host 200 delegates from across the province for a summit on gangs at the end of June.
“The fact that we’re able to talk to police and to prosecutors, to community organizations and academic institutions about what safe communities mean is a very important part of what we can do to build this province into something that people will feel comfortable and safe in in the future,” Redford said.
One close liaison of the lab once it reaches its full capacity will be the Calgary Police Service, said Insp. Gerry Francois.
“Criminals are so sophisticated now that you really have to be on top of your game when trying to suppress them,” Francois said, noting that there are only roughly 1,700 officers to police Calgary’s more than one million citizens. “There are a lot of special projects where we don’t have the ability to do the research, we don’t have the facilities or the resources, and there is going to be tremendous assistance to us from this.
“They are going to be looking to us to identify areas that need work and we’re going to have the ability now to have some people that have the background and resources to do that type of research for us.”
Winterdyk explained that support from CPS and other organizations provides a major building block for his program, one of the first at Mount Royal to transition to the full baccalaureate degree.
“We have already seen the BA attracting more and more students,” he said. “We want to be the leading undergraduate program in the country and one of the ways you do that is you demonstrate that you have a department that is active and engaged,
“We have been fortunate to be earmarked, so to speak, with support maybe because of our uniqueness in the province being the only official criminal justice program and being able to move forward in that capacity.