Criminologist Lum Wins Prestigious Attorney General Award

by Rashad Mulla

Criminologist Lum Wins Prestigious Attorney General Award
Cynthia Lum, first from right

For her part in the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy's collaborative research approach, Cynthia Lum, deputy director of the center and a faculty member in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society at George Mason University, received the 2011 Attorney General's Citizen Volunteer Service Award. The Bureau of Justice Assistance, housed in the Department of Justice's Office of Justice Programs, nominated Lum for the honor, and the Office of the Attorney General selected Lum as one of two award winners nationwide.

According to the award press release, Lum won the award for her work through the center collaborating and sharing data and information with police departments nationwide.

“Often providing pro bono services to law enforcement agencies across the country, Dr. Lum has helped strengthen the connection between knowledge and action,” the press release read. “Dr. Lum, a former Baltimore City Police Officer and now a highly regarded criminal justice researcher and professor, has dedicated years of voluntary service to law enforcement agencies throughout the United States to assist them in understanding and implementing evidence-based practices within law enforcement.”

For her part, Lum deflected praise from herself and credited the center's work for her recognition – her first professional award as an academic. She said the award was indicative of the center and the opportunities it presents, including the chance to engage in great volunteer partnerships. The award, she said, was a pat on the back to the center's faculty and staff.

“This award makes me feel like I need to work even harder now,” she said. “It really makes me feel proud of the center. I'm humbled by the recognition.”

One example of Lum's work is the Evidence-Based Policing Matrix, a tool she developed with the Bureau of Justice Assistance in order to translate results of hundreds of police activity studies in an easily readable table format. The Matrix is now available to numerous police departments nationwide interested in the Bureau's Smart Policing Initiative. In February, the Sacramento Police Department began experimenting with “hot spot policing,” which concentrates brief police presence on select areas.

The center's main mission is to get more science into practice.

“Criminal justice agencies should make decisions and plan strategies based on what we know works from research and evaluation, not what we guess may work based on our hunches,” Lum said. “Therefore, we have to be concerned about whether programs, tactics and interventions actually lead to measurable outcomes such as the reduction of crime or greater police legitimacy.”

She added: “The Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy conducts these extracurricular outreach activities to get some of this knowledge into the field, and also to learn from the field itself.”

The award-winning former cop enjoys her current role at the center and sees more opportunities for professional success and satisfaction in the future.

“Right at this moment, I can make the strongest impact here,” Lum said. “Our job here is to think about how to make police officers' jobs more satisfying and also deliver high quality justice to citizens.” 

The center's big plans for the near future include August's joint symposium with the Campbell Collaboration, an international research network that studies the effects of social interventions, and an October congressional briefing on gun violence and gun crime policy.