National Institute of Justice Awards $1.2 Million For Criminal Justice Research at John Jay College

National Institute of Justice Awards $1.2 Million For Criminal Justice Research at John Jay College

National Institute of Justice Awards $1.2 Million For Criminal Justice Research at John Jay College

Dark web fentanyl networks, gunshot detectors, and mass shootings will be the subjects of new, groundbreaking research, thanks to three grants totaling more than $1.2 million from the National Institute of Justice awarded to John Jay College of Criminal Justice professors Marie-Helen Maras, Jana Arsovska, Adam Scott Wandt and Eric Piza as well as Ph.D. candidate Emily Greene-Colozzi ‘16.

 “The work of these professors will have a real-world impact that will inform everything from the best ways to use policing technology to capturing criminals in cyberspace to making public and private spaces safer,” said John Jay President Karol V. Mason.

The largest of the three grants, almost $600,000, will go to a group of John Jay professors who will work to map the structure of Darknet drug markets and interactions between buyers and sellers on Darknet sites. Darknet sites are hidden and can only be accessed using specialized software. The professors plan to assess the power and trustworthiness of sellers within these markets and develop a software tool that can scan the Darknet, assess patterns and proactively identify fentanyl drug networks.

The Principal Investigators of the project, “Detecting Fentanyl and Major Players in Darknet Drug Markets by Analyzing Drug Networks and Developing a Threat Assessment Tool”, are Dr. Marie-Helen Maras (Associate Professor, Security, Fire, and Emergency Management), Dr. Jana Arsovska (Associate Professor, Sociology), and Adam Scott Wandt (Assistant Professor, Public Management), along with research associates, Dr. Melanie Knieps (Adjunct Professor, Forensic Psychology; MA student, International Crime and Justice program) and Kenji Logie (Adjunct Lecturer, Computer Science and Public Management).

“This research will assist U.S. agencies in identifying Darknet fentanyl markets and networks that pose credible and serious threats to public health and safety,” said Dr. Maras.

The second grant, of more than $500,000, awarded to Eric Piza, an Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, will fund a study of whether gunshot detection technology impacts levels of gun violence in both Kansas City, Missouri and Chicago, Illinois.

“People have studied the technology that surrounds gunshot detectors, but the question of whether they are effective in reducing gun violence is still unanswered,” said Professor Piza.

For this project, Professor Piza is being given unprecedented access to an enormous amount of data from the police departments that will allow his team to track outcomes such as the collection of physical evidence, police officer responses to gunfire events, police officer time spent on gunfire scenes, and reports of gun shots over a 14-year period in both Kansas City and Chicago. He will also be comparing shots fired rates and investigation outcomes in areas covered by gunshot detection systems to statistically equivalent comparison areas that don’t have such systems in place.

Without the grant, Piza said it would have been impossible to conduct this study.

“There is a tremendous volume of data that has to be cleaned and coded,” said Piza. “And because it’s such a large project, it is also a great opportunity for two John Jay Ph.D. candidates to play an active role in the project and help author the final papers.”

Piza said it’s an incredibly important project because both cities want to make sure the money and resources allocated to these systems are helping to reduce violence. Piza also expects that the research will help other cities consider whether they want to install or expand gunshot detectors in their jurisdictions.

The third grant goes to Emily Greene-Colozzi, a Ph.D. student in the Criminal Justice Program who also earned her Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology from John Jay. She received a three-year grant totaling more than $140,000 to study how the physical environment and behaviors during a mass shooting impact the casualties.

“Situational Crime Prevention has been applied to terrorism before but it’s never been applied to mass shootings,” said Greene-Colozzi, who will be studying more than 400 mass shootings in the United States dating back to 1966. “This grant lets me greatly expand the project I initially planned to do for my dissertation.”

Money from the grant will allow Greene-Colozzi to hire graduate assistants to code and track each mass shooting.

The goal is to figure out if environmental differences like target hardening, surveillance, and access control can affect the number of casualties resulting from a mass shooting, and whether changes to the environment can impact the behavior of both the shooter and people caught up in a shooting incident.

Greene-Colozzi’s dissertation chair and research mentor is John Jay Professor Josh Freilich, who is the Creator and co-Director of the School Shooting Database (SSDB) and Creator and co-Director of the Extremist Crime Database (ECDB).

About John Jay College of Criminal Justice: 
An international leader in educating for justice, John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York is a Hispanic Serving Institution and Minority Serving Institution offering a rich liberal arts and professional studies curriculum to 15,000 undergraduate and graduate students from more than 135 nations. John Jay is home to faculty and research centers at the forefront of advancing criminal and social justice reform. In teaching, scholarship and research, the College engages the theme of justice and explores fundamental human desires for fairness, equality and the rule of law. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @JohnJayCollege.