The Criminology of Major Crimes

The night of my ride along with CSI – shift starting at midnight.

Why I created my own class at Drake

In fall of 2020, I began working with my adviser, Professor William Garriott, on creating an independent study geared towards criminology. As a Law, Politics & Society major, this field has always interested me. This first peaked when I was actually still in high school. My senior year, I signed up for, what they called, the Criminal Justice Academy Course through DMACC. Essentially, half of my school day was spent at my high school and the other half I would spend at the Southridge DMACC campus. While there, I took classes like Criminal Investigation, Criminology and Crime Scene Investigation. I loved these classes! They were my favorite part of my senior year and what has pushed me to pursue a career in law enforcement some day.

Practice fingerprinting in my Criminal Justice Academy Course.

One of the coolest things I got to do from this, was go on a ride along with my lab professor, Cody Brigman. Cody is a Crime Scene Investigator for the Des Moines Police Department, and he taught my Crime Scene Investigation class. His shift is typically from midnight to 8am, when all the crazy stuff goes down. I was able to tag along with him for a night and was able to see all kinds of super cool police work, as well as apply applicable skills that I learned in class. I was able to help find bullets in the walls of a house, help Cody take pictures of crime scenes, and so much more. We had a pretty intense night when I went too, having about 6 or 7 calls if I remember correctly. These ranged from a drive by shooting (no one was injured), two domestics, an assault, a stabbing and more. One of the coolest nights of my life!

Mock crime scene – the final for our CSI lab.

Going into college, I knew I wanted to major in something relating to criminal justice or law. I first started at Wartburg College, where I was pursuing a degree in Sociology with a criminal justice concentration. I ended up transferring to Drake University at semester freshman year, applying first for a majoring in Law, Politics & Society (later on adding a Digital Media Production major as well). My LPS major is definitely more far reaching than that of a Criminal Justice degree, and I’m happy for it.

In Fall 2019, I took a class called Crime & Film with Professor Garriott. Here, we essentially analyzed crime movies and how certain criminogenic theories can explain the behaviors in them. Theories such as social disorganization (Broken Windows theory), psychological, differential association, rational choice and life-course theory were all concepts we learned about in this class. Towards the end of the fall semester, I knew I wanted to continue with this learning and look into specific types of crime instead of specific circumstances (like we did in class).

Independent Study – Spring 2020

I began working with Professor Garriott on creating an independent study that I would conduct over the course of the spring semester. Since I arrived at Drake, I had been looking for similar classes to the ones I had taken at DMACC, while in high school. There just aren’t any available, Drake doesn’t really have a program or any classes specifically geared towards criminal justice or criminology. Since I found this topic super interesting and wanted to learn more, I made my own class. Over the course of the semester, I spent time on 4 primary units: Homicide, Drugs, Juvenile Crime & Sexual Abuse. I also completed a case study towards the end of the semester.

Each unit involved an in-depth research analysis of why people commit these types of crimes, i.e. why do people kill other people? do drugs? why do minors commit crimes? etc.

Learning the mentality, environment and circumstances about folk’s lives was really at the core of this research. One can’t predict why some crimes happen, sometimes they just do. But my goal was to gain an understanding of why some people commit crimes and others don’t. What circumstances point towards criminal behavior? Psychological barriers? Pressures from outside sources (peers, friends, family)? All of these and more can account for these questions.

If you’re interested in reading my work, click the link below to download:

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