CBCS News

USF Criminology Professor Awarded for Offender Profiling Research

Assistant professor in USF's Department of Criminology, Dr. Bryanna Hahn Fox, will be recognized at this year's International Association of Chiefs of Police Conference for her collaboration with the Daytona Beach Police Department. They will receive the IACP Excellence in Law Enforcement Research Award for their findings in an experimental study showcasing the accuracy and utility of burglary profiling.

To receive this award, individuals contribute innovative research related to the field of law enforcement. The uniqueness and quality of the research are taken into consideration for this award, as well as the demonstration of the individual's leadership, academic/practitioner partnerships, and the influence of the research findings.

As a graduate student at the University of Florida, Dr. Fox wanted to pursue research in profiling criminals based on psychological and developmental traits that would lead them to commit certain crimes.

"I was always interested in why people were bad. So, I was more into the criminal psychology area, trying to figure out what would make somebody do this and how can we prevent people from doing this," said Fox.

Though this idea sparked her interest as a master's student, the research did not begin until she was a doctoral student under the supervision of Professor David Farrington at the University of Cambridge. After meeting by chance with the chief of police at Ponce Inlet, she was able to get in contact with Chief Mike Chitwood at the Daytona Beach Police Department and begin working with them.

"He brought me on, and it started out very formal and cordial. I would apply for record requests and go through all the motions, but I've worked with them for 5 years now so we have a really, really close relationship. It helps because they are even more comfortable with giving me even more data and then I can get even more results to give back to them. It's a really symbiotic relationship I have with them," said Dr. Fox

For this project, Dr. Fox created profiles with the Daytona Beach Police Department for burglary offenders. An experiment was then conducted in which the profiles were used by one police department to solve burglary cases. A one-year follow-up compared the success rate of these cases with three other departments in Florida that did not use the profiles. In the five years prior to this experiment, these departments all held similar success rates with burglary cases. After the creation and implementation of the profiles, the department was able to triple its burglary clearance rate and solve 400 percent more burglaries.

To put these findings into perspective, burglary is the most common of the type-1 uniform crime reporting (UCR) crimes. Though this is true, only 12 percent of burglaries are solved across the nation.

"That means over 80 percent of burglaries will never be solved. If we can triple that number [of solved cases], that's huge," said Dr. Fox, "So that's the idea; we're going to make a real impact and have real results. These victims of burglary can get their property back or they can at least see justice and the offenders will hopefully get put away."

This is the 120th annual conference and exposition of its kind and will be held from Oct. 19-23 in Philadelphia. Chiefs of police from around the globe, professors studying policing, and George Mason University representatives will be attendance. Once Dr. Fox and Chief Mike Chitwood receive their award, they are free to attend the other seminars and sessions at the conference.

"I've heard only wonderful things about this conference. It's the top brass for police departments all over the world, all in one place. Everywhere you look it's going to be someone who has the power to say ‘yes, you can do whatever research you want to do'," said Dr. Fox.

As for her future research plans, Dr. Fox has a few things up her sleeve. She will soon be working with the Department of Juvenile Justice in Tallahassee to identify risk factors for children who are now in the DJJ system. She also welcomes the idea of working with Chief Mike Chitwood and the Daytona Beach Police Department again.

"He's amazing, and the department's amazing. He shows such leadership and is forward-thinking. And there's the fact that he let a 22-year-old grad student with big ideas pursue those ideas and run with them. He took those ideas, and he could have said no at any point in time, but he always understood. And so as long as he's willing to work with me, I hope I can always work with him," said Dr. Fox.

- by Molly Alexander