Collaboration sheds light on homicide victims and offenders

May 23, 2014


When Dr. Sandy Jung presented the findings of her research into 124 cleared homicide cases for the Edmonton Police Commission in April 2014, it marked the end of one part of her data analysis and the beginning of another.

The long list of statistics generated from homicide cases that occurred in Edmonton between 2007 and 2012 gave the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) descriptive information about the victims and offenders, but Sandy, associate professor of psychology at MacEwan University, had her own research questions to answer. Today, she’s busy looking at the data she collected for the EPS in a different way, using the results of her analysis to answer those questions and writing and submitting papers about her findings to peer-reviewed academic journals.

Studying homicide victim and offender statistics

One of the papers Sandy is writing looks at similarities and differences between offenders and victims of the same homicide cases. She says there is a lot of literature that looks at either homicide victims or offenders, but very little that looks at victims and offenders in the same cases. The distinction is an important one.

“You can’t compare victims from one part of the country and offenders from another,” says Sandy. “There are regional differences and contrasting cases – one case may have primarily involved domestic violence while another may have been a stranger homicide. It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”

Sandy also plans to use the data to look at the use of weapons and the demographics of the people that use them. These two questions are just the beginning, she says, with the possibilities for this type of research extending to police agencies everywhere and even reaching beyond policing to help communities and governments with prevention.

Knowledge creates possibilities for prevention

“One of the things that really stood out in the data is the use of edged weapons. People are always concerned about firearms, but 57 per cent of the cases I reviewed involved edged weapons and 25 per cent involved firearms. That’s higher than the national average where there are an equal number of stabbings and shootings. Knowing this makes it possible to do things that are more preventative.”

Publishing and presenting her findings also opens the door for other researchers. “Once these papers are published, the information can be easily accessed and it only expands from there. It would be wonderful if other stakeholders want to get involved and use the data to look at answering other questions for the government or for police.”

Research that benefits the EPS and academia

“This has been a really good collaboration and a great marriage of public service with academia,” says Sandy. “Our questions aligned so that the EPS was able to get answers with very minimal resources – a desk, office space and some administrative assistance.”

In return, Sandy had access to “the vault” where the private files for homicide cases, including the evidence, are held. She spent three months during the summer of 2013 practically living in the robbery division and reviewing those files.

While there is still much work to do with the data she has collected, Sandy is already looking forward to continuing her work with the EPS. “There are other potential projects that could look at domestic violence and sexual assaults to try to provide information about risk factors and things that might predict severe violent acts.”

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