The CA-REU will include both academic enrichment activities and social and cultural enrichment activities.
Academic Enrichment Activities – Research Projects: Each project will take a team-based approach where students will be working with another student as well as being mentored by the research mentors. Team members will meet weekly to discuss the ongoing activities of the research project.
Team Project 1: The Potential Impact of Legislative Initiatives on Gun Violence in the United States
Research Mentors: Beth Bjerregaard (CJUS)
Goal: The goal of this project will be to assess whether or not legislative initiatives impact gun violence across the United States. We will examine both the direct impact of various state legislation as well as examine the influence of other important factors such as lobbying monies, gun ownership and various cultural factors.
Description: In the past several years, there has been renewed interest in identifying factors that could reduce the amount of gun violence in the United States. One of the methods proposed is to both toughen existing gun laws as well as to introduce new legislative initiatives. However, little research has been conducted to examine the effectiveness of these legislative strategies in reducing various forms of gun violence including both criminal violence (e.g., homicides, robberies with a firearm, etc.) as well as suicides and accidental deaths. This project will address this issue as well as attempt to determine if lobbying monies, indirectly influence rates of firearm violence. Data will be collected from a variety of publically available data sources. Students will be trained on how to collect information from these sites, create a database and statistically analyze these relationships while control for other relevant potential influences. In addition, these relationships will be spatially mapped to determine if geographical patterns exist.
CA-REU Student’s Role: Students will be responsible for helping to identify factors that might influence gun violence, collecting the necessary data, compiling a database, and statistically testing these relationships. Finally, the data will be imported into Geographic Information Systems (GIS) mapping software and students will generate the appropriate data visualizations to test whether spatial relationships exist in the data. The summer experience will conclude with a presentation of the students’ findings as well as a draft manuscript to be submitted to a peer-review journal.
Team Project 2: Homicide Hotspots in Charlotte, NC: An Examination of Geographic, Situational and Environmental Factors
Research Mentors: M. Lyn Exum (CJUS), Michael G. Turner (CJUS), Wenwu Tang (GEOG)
Goal: The goal of this project is to collect and analyze data related to the 85 homicides and non-negligent manslaughters occurring in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2017. Data from divergent sources will be collected and merged to gain a deeper understanding of the spatial locations of these crimes. Statistical models will then be estimated to explore the impact of environmental and situational factors that may have been associated with these crimes.
Description: Over the past two decades, the city of Charlotte, NC has experienced significant declines in rates of violent offending. Since 2014, however, the city has experienced a 102% increase in the number of homicides and non-negligent manslaughters. Scholars, politicians, law enforcement personnel, and other community leaders are unable to explain why the frequency of these crimes has significantly changed in such a short period of time. This project will attempt to provide insight about these crimes that was previously unknown. Collecting original data and merging them with existing information from different sources will provide a more vivid understanding of the nature and spatial distribution of these crimes. Emphasis will be placed on developing innovative visualization tools to communicate findings to the community and community officials.
CA-REU Student’s Role: Students will engage with each other and faculty in a team-oriented manner to: (1) collect environmental and situational data, (2) merge several sources of data at different units of analysis, (3) clean and analyze the data, (4) engage in statistical analyses, and (5) develop a poster and manuscript for peer-reviewed publication that documents the findings of their work.
Team Project 3: A Natural Experiment: Causal Influence of Public Transportation on Geospatial Crime Trends
Research Mentors: Sam DeWitt (CJUS), Shannon Reid (CJUS), and Matthew Phillips (CJUS)
Goal: Assess the impact of the local Blue Line light rail expansion on nearby geospatial crime trends, conditioning on ecological characteristics of the areas surrounding each expansion site, such as nearby businesses, residences, street lights, and cameras.
Description: The LYNX Blue Line is the Charlotte region’s first light rail service. It is 9.6 miles long and operates from I-485 at South Boulevard to Uptown Charlotte. The Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) will open an extension of the Blue Line portion of the light rail in March 2018. New light rail stations at Ninth Street (beside UNC Charlotte Center City), J.W. Clay/UNC Charlotte at North Tryon Street, and the UNC Charlotte Main Station along Cameron Boulevard at Wallis Hall (near North Deck) will bring the convenience of light rail to the University doorstep. Part of the intention of the light rail system in Charlotte is to reduce the prevalence of DUI arrests. It is possible that the extension of this mass-transit system can influence other crime rates as well. This project will compare crime trends in the months following the light rail extension opening to the trends that existed previously to find what affect light rail has on local crime.
CA-REU Students’ Role: Gather data from secondary sources on the characteristics of areas surrounding each expansion site and pre-existing sites and combine into a single database. Participate in fieldwork which will involve visits to each physical expansion site to code the surrounding environment for physical and social signs of disorder and relevant environmental features (e.g. number of working street lamps, intersections, CCTV cameras). Students will be involved in the development of statistical models to test whether the light rail expansion had the intended reduction on prevalence of DUI arrests but also whether different crime trends emerge compared to pre-expansion time periods. Students should expect to develop a poster presentation and to assist in the development of a manuscript to be submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.