Tigers sleuthing for crime trends across New York

A. Sue Weisler

Criminal justice graduates Mark Gorthy ’90, Danielle DiGaspari ’12 and Nick Petitti ’03 work to spot crime trends in Rochester and across the state.

It’s not a coincidence that a third of the 30 analysts at the Monroe Crime Analysis Center (MCAC) in downtown Rochester over the center’s eight-year history have been graduates of RIT.

Most of them, criminal justice or applied statistics majors, have previously worked at RIT’s Center for Public Safety Initiatives (CPSI), a self-funded group that monitors crime data for various local and state agencies, including MCAC. CPSI consists of 40 people on campus who determine trends in crime and evaluate prevention programs to see if they actually reduce crime.

“When students work in the CPSI, it gives us the chance to evaluate their fits and talents,” said Nick Petitti ’03 (criminal justice), director of business intelligence for the Rochester Police Department at MCAC, a joint venture among local, state and federal agencies and operated by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. “They get their foot in the door of law enforcement and we get to evaluate their potential. We can see how they work—more than what we’d get in an hour interview.”

But it’s not a job that has them always sitting at desks and crunching numbers. Police officers on the street may ask if they know the identity of someone with a particular nickname, or with a specific tattoo or a history of police calls to a location.

Danielle DiGaspari ’12 (criminal justice) is a crime research specialist at MCAC who was offered the job even before she finished her work as a student in the CPSI. She is dispatched with investigators to homicide scenes and watches on camera the questioning of murder suspects with investigators.

“It’s very fast-paced, pretty exciting work,” she said.

On a typical day, analysts at MCAC examine crime data that occurred the day before and try to determine if incidents are related. They also look for any ongoing patterns in crime and share their information with area police agencies several times a day.

And with the help of an RIT CPSI student three days a week, a giant database is being made to track each instance when someone is shot in Rochester. They look at whether the parties knew one another, what their education is, the time of day it happened and even the weather.

“I think it will give us the most detailed view of the context and nature of the shooting incidents,” said Mark Gorthy ’90 (criminal justice), managing analyst at MCAC.

Although many other colleges offer criminal justice degrees, the research focus of RIT’s program and the connection with CPSI founder and Director John Klofas, a criminal justice professor who has worked closely in crime analysis with the Rochester Police Department and other agencies for decades, give graduates an edge.

“RIT’s program is very strong in research and statistics,” Gorthy said. “John Klofas is providing a rich learning environment for the students who graduate to have experience with direct research in the field.”

Klofas said the admiration is mutual.

“From our perspective, MCAC really represents the cutting edge of crime analysis.It’s a great place for our students to have an understanding of the work they do and gives them the exposure to decide if that’s the work they want to do.”

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