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UCF Professor Introduces Crime Analysis Mapping Techniques to Russia's Future Police Force

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By Zenaida Gonzalez Kotala

Russian's next generation of police officers may be able to track down criminals by neighborhood and perhaps even anticipate where they will hit next, thanks to a University of Central Florida professor.

UCF Criminal Justice Professor Kenneth Mike Reynolds is working with the Volograd Law Academy. The Academy is one of the country's five executive police training academies in Russia and the first to introduce data-drive crime analysis mapping techniques These are tools and techniques that police in the United States routinely use, but new to the former Soviet Union.

"This is a critical step because these men and women of the Academy are the future leaders of the Russian police system in the areas of investigation, forensic evidence,  prosecution, and senior management policy makers" Reynolds said from his apartment in Volograd. "Some of these students will be members of the Russian judiciary."

Reynolds is teaching senior students and faculty members at the academy about the techniques thanks to a long-standing partnership with the academy and being awarded a  Fulbright Scholarship. The partnership also brings Russian cadets and faculty to Orlando and UCF students participate in classes at the Volgograd Law Academy every year.

The Academy is located in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad). It's a five-year residential university with 4,000 students and 400 faculty members. It educates the future workforce of the national police system. Think of it as a West Point for law enforcement personnel that include the future judges, prosecutors, detectives, and forensic scientists.

Reynolds described the crime analysis and mapping work as "the connect-the-dots techniques that allows for the visualization of crime data, associated patterns, and trends that are used to focus on high crime areas and develop strategies to combat crime."

He is also doing his own research about Russian policing issues that include unreported crime and public satisfaction with the police. This research is conducted in collaboration with Nikolai Demidov of the Volgograd Law Academy and Olga Semoukhina, a navite of Russia, and recent UCF doctoral graduate. 

Twenty-one of the Russian cadets along with the Russian institutions president and provost have also studied at UCF. For the past four years, more than 80 students and several faculty members from UCF have attended classes at the Volgograd Law Academy in the summer. When the Russian students and faculty were in Florida, Reynolds arranged visits to several law enforcement agencies. These agencies hosted the Russian students and faculty and provided programs designed to introduce the state-of-the-art policing and training practices used in the U.S. These programs were extensive and included the Orange County Sheriffs Office, the Ocoee Police Department, the UCF Police Department, St. Martin County Sheriffs Office, and the St. Lucie Law Enforcement Training Center. Representatives the Public Defender's Office, State Attorneys Office, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also provided in-class instruction pertaining to their roles and practices in the U.S. criminal justice system.

It's been a life changing experience for most UCF participants as they experience first-hand a country in transition to democracy. Volgograd is modern in many respects, but it has many features of life as it was in the 1950 era of the U.S. The heritage of the Soviet Union period is still very obvious and persistent in daily life. UCF students visited their new Russian friends in their one and two bedroom flats shared by several family members. The cultural emersion and exchanges between Russian and American students have created lasting friendships and new understandings previously unattainable.

The international partnership has produced significant dividends for U.S. and Russian participants and is part of the integral UCF effort to promote the internationalization of programs that recognize the significance of globalization.

"By going to Russia and learning about their criminal justice system, I have gained a broader perspective on how things may and may not work and different ways of combating particular issues," said Andrew Butts, a UCF student who will graduate this month. He plans on becoming a crime analyst with a local law enforcement agency.

At least a dozen working police officers in the Central Florida area, who graduated from UCF's criminal justice program, have participated in the program.

Reynolds, who has taught at UCF since 1997, says the program is important not just because it exposes UCF students to a different system, but because the Russia students get to see a democratic system at work.

Mike Flint, another UCF professor who has traveled to Russia as part of the program, put it simply.

"You don't really know your criminal justice system until you examine another," Flint said.

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