Alumni Dissertations

 

Alumni Dissertations

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  • Examining the Criminal Histories of Homicide Offenders: A Comparison of Single-Victim and Serial Homicide and the Link between Prior Offending and Homicide Crime Scene Behaviors

    Author:
    Carrie Trojan
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Gabrielle Salfati
    Abstract:

    This study was undertaken to test the assumptions of early behavioral typologies of homicide and serial homicide, which proposed that individuals committing similar homicides would have committed similar prior offenses. Additionally, due to the lack of empirical studies directly comparing single-victim and serial homicide offenders, these offenders were directly compared in the current study in terms of their criminal histories and homicide crime scene behaviors. The broad aim of this was not only to refine any true differences and similarities between single and serial homicide offenders' criminal histories, but also to explore whether an empirical link between prior offending and current crime scene actions could be established. If there is an underlying psychology to offender characteristics and crime scene actions as assumed in offender profiling, offenders should demonstrate thematic consistency between their prior crimes and current homicide behaviors and, therefore, investigators would be able to use such information to refine suspect lists in investigations. Four theoretical frameworks of potential patterns in offender criminal history were proposed and tested on a sample of 122 single-victim offenders and 9 serial offenders using Smallest Space Analysis. Using an approach that focuses on the co-occurrence of offenses across the sample of offenders, the results demonstrated that both single and serial offenders' criminal histories could be best conceptualized according to a framework of criminal specialization. Although single and serial offenders' criminal histories did not differ in terms of the degree of specialization as originally proposed, they did differ in terms of the type of offending specialization they demonstrated. Once this framework was developed, the crime scene behaviors of both groups of offenders were examined and a thematic division was evident between behaviors that were hostile versus cognitive. Moreover, within this framework, offenders fell along a continuum of behaviors from highly impulsive (single-victim) to more controlled (serial) actions. However, only a small proportion of serial offenders demonstrated thematic consistency between criminal history and current homicide behaviors in the manner assumed by early profiling research. Overall, the results caution against using criminal history to profile single-victim and serial homicide offenders.

  • ASSESSING FRONTAL LOBE FUNCTIONING IN THE CONTEXT OF VIOLENT AND AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR: A NEW MULTIMODAL APPROACH

    Author:
    Brigitte Vallabhajosula
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Patricia Zapf
    Abstract:

    Numerous neuropsychological and neuroimaging studies have suggested that there is a strong relationship between frontal lobe impairment and aggressive behavior. Most of the studies undertaken to date, however, have failed to use valid and reliable tests and techniques to assess this relationship, which calls into question the findings of these results. Furthermore, due to the inherent limitations of all currently available tests of frontal lobe functioning and neuroimaging techniques, such as CT and SPECT, basing a conclusion of frontal lobe dysfunction on a single test or technique, is inappropriate. In addition, Daubert requires that scientific evidence proffered in a court of law must have scientific validity and evidentiary reliability. Although Daubert does not specify at what point the error rate of a test or technique exceeds the reliability requirement, given the dramatic increase of defendants who assert various defenses due to frontal lobe impairment it is imperative that the diagnoses is based on a sound methodology and valid, and reliable tests, and techniques. At present, the methodologies employed for the assessment of frontal lobe functioning vary widely; however employing a consistent assessment approach is crucial since doing so will assist in establishing the true strength of the relationship between frontal lobe impairment and aggression. It is hoped that the multimodal approach that has been developed here will further our understanding of the relationship between aggression and the frontal lobes, as well as provide a methodology that is likely to withstand a Daubert challenge, and sophisticated cross-examination.

  • IDENTITY AND BEHAVIOR: EXPLORING AN UNDERSTANDING OF "BEING" AND "DOING" FOR CATHOLIC PRIESTS ACCUSED OF THE SEXUAL ABUSE OF MINORS IN THE UNITED STATES

    Author:
    Brenda Vollman
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Jock Young
    Abstract:

    The problem of the sexual abuse of minors by Catholic priests in the United States has been problematized as a phenomenon that is, in part, a distinction of the priesthood. Although it is known that there are sex offenders in the world who are not, nor were they ever, priests, this study sets forth to uncover whether or not the priests in the sample are, in fact, different on typical psychological risk factors than the at-large sex offender. More importantly, in the absence of notable differences on risk factor characteristics, this study explores the ways in which narrative structures are used to tell difficult stories. It also supplements an understanding of the specificity of the problem of abuse in the Church, and the ways in which priests use both classic vocabularies of motive as well as vocabularies that are culturally rooted. The narratives paint a picture of the ways accused priests make sense of their identity as men, as moral leaders, and as men accused of sexual abuse, particularly as these are understood within the Catholic subculture of sin, repentance, and redemption. The specific risk factors described are deviant relationships to sexuality, social interaction deficiencies, and low esteem. In general, priests are no different on most of the measures, and when they are the comparative sample sizes are small, requiring a cautious use of the findings to make universal claims regarding priests. What is unique to the priesthood is the trajectory of the story of coming to this peculiar master status, and the mechanisms for managing the allegations made against them which, whether true or not, interrupt the priest's narrative. Priests use similar stigma management techniques as other sex offenders with victims who are minors and/or adults. Some priests in this sample denied allegations outright or, when they admitted to them, engaged in the process of disavowal from the "sick self", often after they had received some sort of treatment. Admitters also used typical techniques of neutralization, the content of which, at times, were illustrative of an understanding of self as fallible and forgivable.

  • Social and Legal Determinants on the Enforcement of Domestic Violence Laws by the Police: A Study of New Jersey Police Officers

    Author:
    John Waldron
    Year of Dissertation:
    2010
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Maria (Maki) Haberfeld
    Abstract:

    A survey study of 425 police officers operating within fourteen police departments over a two countywide area of New Jersey examines police officer's attitudes and opinions concerning the enforcement of domestic violence laws. New Jersey is a jurisdiction with strict statewide mandatory arrest policies and procedures that apply to all police agencies. Extensive mandatory training is a key component to the New Jersey model of domestic violence enforcement. The first phase of the research examines similarities and differences by the setting in which officer's work: Urban, urban suburb, large suburban, and small suburban police agencies. The second phase examines six scenarios in which officers responded to questions as to how they would handle domestic situations. A follow-up question to each scenario explored the motivation and justification for the officer's action. The majority of police officers cited as their primary motivation in handling mandatory arrest situations of domestic violence that their actions were mandated under law. Yet, only about one-half of officers in the study had received all mandatory required training over the past four years. Police officers in a mandatory arrest jurisdiction for the enforcement of domestic violence laws rely heavily on their perception of the law to justify their enforcement activities. Significant correlations were found between a police officer's personal and professional positive opinions toward the enforcement of domestic violence legislation and his actions in mandatory arrest domestic violence situations. Police officers are more likely to make an arrest for a domestic violence offense in a mandatory arrest situation when they observe the offense as opposed to when they must rely on victim statements or physical evidence to establish probable cause.

  • Characterization of Motor Oils and Other Lubricants by High Performance Liquid Chromatography, Three-Dimensional Excitation Emission Matrices and Two-Dimensional Low Temperature Fluorescence Spectroscopy

    Author:
    Kelly Walsh
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Thomas Kubic
    Abstract:

    Criminals often use automobiles during the commission of crimes. Criminalists routinely analyze automotive transfer evidence, including paint, rubber and glass in order to establish an association between a suspect car and a person or object that may have come in contact with that car. Currently, there is no routine forensic method to analyze transferred automotive undercarriage residue. This feasibility study will use fluorescence spectroscopy, both room-temperature and low-temperature (77K), and HPLC, to analyze this material and will investigate the use of compiled spectral libraries to assist in determining the evidentiary value of this process for this sample set. Automobile undercarriage residues are a complex mixture of compounds from many sources including automotive fluids, asphalt residues, exhaust particulates and tire particulates. Each of these sources may contain compounds that fluoresce when excited with light in the ultraviolet or visible region of the electromagnetic spectrum. Given the many sources of fluorescing compounds and the effect of environmental conditions on these compounds, it is hypothesized that the two-dimensional and three-dimensional fluorescence spectrum of automobile undercarriage residues along with HPLC analysis can be used to differentiate among automobiles. Five undercarriage locations were swabbed from ten motor vehicles. Extraction via sonication in different solvents separated each residue into fractions. These fractions were analyzed by fluorescence spectroscopy and HPLC with UV detection. The types of fluorescence spectroscopy used were emission scans, synchronous scans, excitation-emission matrices, and low-temperature fluorescence spectroscopy. Previous studies with fluorescence characterization of lubricants relied on visual examination of the spectral data to determine differences or similarities (Purcell 2002). This study will use visual examination, peak number and position, chromatographic data and spectral libraries to show similarities and differences among the samples. The research contributes to the body of knowledge about analytical methods that may characterize a long-observed transferable material, automotive undercarriage residue, to create associations between automobiles and persons or objects. These associations can be used to help the trier-of-fact decide upon the likelihood that an automobile came into contact with a person or object. Additionally, this research makes contributions to the field of environmental science which seeks to characterize petroleum-derived organic contaminants.

  • Dynamics of retail methamphetamine markets In New York City

    Author:
    Travis Wendel
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Ric Curtis
    Abstract:

    Using Respondent Driven Sampling, this study piloted an innovative research design mixing qualitative and quantitative data collection methods, and social network analysis, that addresses a gap in information on retail methamphetamine markets and the role of illicit drug markets in consumption. Based on a sample of 132 methamphetamine users, buyers and sellers in New York City (NYC), findings describe a bifurcated market defined by differences in sexual identity, drug use behaviors, social network characteristics, and drug market behaviors. The larger sub-market is a closed market related to a sexual network of men who have sex with men (MSM) where methamphetamine (referred to as "tina") is used as a sex drug. The smaller submarket is a less-closed market not denominated by sexual identity where methamphetamine (referred to as "crank," "speed," or "crystal meth") overlaps with powder and crack cocaine markets. Participants in the MSM submarket viewed "tina" as very different from cocaine, due to what they characterized as the drug's intense sexual effects, whereas participants in the smaller non-sexual-identity-denominated submarket saw "crystal meth" as a cost-effective alternative to cocaine. While majorities of participants in all subpopulations studied reported that their use of methamphetamine primarily centered on sex, almost all (91%) MSM reported this. Many MSM reported that their sexuality had become indistinguishable from their drug use. Participants were more willing to discuss accessing or purchasing methamphetamine than they were to discuss providing or selling the drug, although all indications are that most market participants do both. Findings from the study indicate that the most striking characteristic of the methamphetamine market in New York City is the extent of the secondary market. Participants reported essentially no violence in connection with methamphetamine markets in NYC. Participants have a lifetime total of 13 methamphetamine possession arrests for the sample of 132; none has ever been arrested for methamphetamine distribution. Study findings may be useful to practitioners, policy-makers and researchers in fields including law enforcement, criminal justice, and public health and substance abuse treatment.

  • Building a Model for Policing Communities with Competing and Converging Interests

    Author:
    Kideste Wilder
    Year of Dissertation:
    2011
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Todd Clear
    Abstract:

    The present study utilizes grounded theoretical methods to explore the distribution of police services across various public and semi-public spaces, local perceptions of police and policing, and the impact of police practices on diverse segments of the community. Using survey and focus group interviews, in conjunction with structured observation and content analysis, this work considers the function of race/ethnicity in the policing of commercial public and semi-public space. The study adds a new dimension to past research by examining the policing of African Americans across ethnically diverse shared public spaces within a tourism-driven resort area in a Southern metropolis. A multimethod approach has revealed variability in police practices across time and within places, allowing comparisons between varied public and semi-public spaces and among stakeholders of diverse backgrounds. Innovations in police policy and procedures within the target area have led to more stringent policing practices directed at select publics in efforts to create a "family friendly resort community". These findings contribute to the understanding of how competing group interests influence the allocation of police services in different environments, illuminating the process of negotiation that the police and the public pursue in the development of acceptable and effective policing.

  • Measuring the Impact of New York City's Specially Targeted Offenders Project on Sex Offender Recidivism

    Author:
    Lisa Williams-Taylor
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Karen Terry
    Abstract:

    Abstract MEASURING THE IMPACT OF NEW YORK CITY'S SPECIALLY TARGETED OFFENDERS PROJECT ON SEX OFFENDER RECIDIVISM By Lisa A. Williams-Taylor Advisor: Dr. Karen J. Terry This dissertation used a quasi-experimental design to analyze recidivism rates of sex offenders monitored by an intensive supervision program in New York City. The Specially Targeted Offenders Project (S.T.O.P.) began in July 2003 as an effort between numerous criminal justice agencies to increase communication, information sharing and tracking of high-risk sex offenders. Ultimately, the intention of this public safety project was to reduce recidivism using rigorous enforcement efforts to monitor sex offenders more closely. The first goal of this study was to assess whether the program monitored all offenders according to the inclusion criteria set forth. The second goal was to compare the short-term recidivism rates of sex offenders who were and were not monitored by S.T.O.P., considering variables such as criminal history and type of sexual offender. Various types of recidivism were explored, including general, non-compliance with Megan's Law requirements, violent, and sexual recidivism. Lastly, analyses of the risk factors associated with recidivism were performed in an effort to create prediction models for those who reoffended versus those who did not. Results indicate that not all offenders who should have been monitored were included in the program. In addition, there were no significant differences in rates of general recidivism, non-compliance recidivism, or violent or sexual recidivism between comparison groups. Lastly, when examining S.T.O.P. offenders, analyses indicated that there were specific offender characteristics that significantly relate to and predict recidivism. These results contribute to the body of literature concerning risk factors and recidivism for individuals involved in supervision programs. There is limited peer-reviewed research on compliance with Megan's Law or factors associated with various types of recidivism for those under supervision. Differentiating between high-risk and low-risk to reoffend or abscond from registration is of great value to all criminal justice agencies, including law enforcement, court systems, supervisory units and an important aspect to understanding these types of public safety initiatives.

  • EXPLORING GENDER DIFFERENCES IN DEVELOPMENTAL AND LIFE-COURSE CRIMINOLOGY: AN EXAMINATION OF THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN STIGMATIZATION AND SOCIAL BONDS IN THE DESISTANCE PROCESS

    Author:
    Tasha Youstin
    Year of Dissertation:
    2012
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Karen Terry
    Abstract:

    Developmental and Life-Course (DLC) criminology is one of the leading theoretical paradigms for understanding why people stop committing crime. One of the more prominent theories within DLC, Sampson and Laub's (1993) age graded theory of informal social control, states that the formation of quality social bonds leads prior offenders towards desistance. Using this theoretical framework, the current study aims to explain inconsistencies in prior research on the relationship between social bonds and desistance, specifically the inconsistencies found between men and women. Taking into account the theory posited by Li and MacKenzie (2003) that the desistance process may be different for men and women due to increased stigmatization placed on female offenders, a new casual model is created which examines the relationships between adolescent delinquency, stigmatization, the development of high quality social bonds, and desistance. Using data from the National Youth Survey, results show that the desistance process varies for men and women, as well as for offenders split into low rate, mid rate, and high rate offender groups. Additionally, this study finds that the measurement of delinquency used in the analysis (frequency and severity) yields different results, adding another possible explanation for inconsistencies in prior research.

  • State Control, Social Ties, Social Control: Examining the Roles of Residents' Perception of the Police on Social Interactions, Social Cohesion, and Informal Social Control

    Author:
    Woosuk Yun
    Year of Dissertation:
    2009
    Program:
    Criminal Justice
    Advisor:
    Larry Sullivan
    Abstract:

    The main purpose of this dissertation is to extend the scope of ecological research, by investigating the effects of police social control on social ties, social cohesion, and informal social control. To accomplish this goal, the author proposes a new comprehensive measure of police social control, independent from the effects of demographic characteristics and experiences of individuals, structural components of community, and neighborhood social problems - including crime, victimization, disorder, and police deviance. The data used in this dissertation are collected by secondary sources including the 2000 Census, 2000 Household Survey in Lexington and Louisville, Kentucky, and Crime Data provided by two Kentucky police departments. Two main analytical techniques - HLM and M-plus 5.0 are utilized to examine the multilevel regression models and to draw the multilevel pathway models. The results found in this dissertation show the positive associations between formal social control and informal social control. In addition, police social control has a positive influence on social cohesion. Compared to the effects of community processes (e.g. neighboring, participation in community organization, social cohesion), demographic characteristics of respondents, structural components of communities, and community crime problems (e.g. crime rates, victimization, police harassment, disorder) are inferior to explain informal social control. The findings also reveal that residents' social interactions can activate informal social control directly or indirectly by enhancing social cohesion. However, the prediction of social interactions is more complex than expected. This dissertation suggests the importance of citizens' perception of the police, which can be a new measure of police social control since this measure reflect the community's ability to solicit external resources and the police agency's ability to control community social problems. This new measure of police social control has, this dissertation finds, associations with the community's ability to share common values and the community's ability to maintain social order. In addition, the results show the undermining effects of community disorder in determining community solidarity and informal social control. Policy implications and theoretical lessons are discussed. Finally, several recommendations for future research are made.