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New Criminology Chair Aims High

February 4, 2013
Contacts: 

Laura Ours 301-405-5722

By Laura Ours

James P. LynchCOLLEGE PARK, Md. - James P. Lynch, a prominent expert on crime statistics and victimization is settling in as the new chair of the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice (CCJS) at the University of Maryland. In his new role, Lynch will build upon the remarkable work of the department's interim chair, Professor Charles Wellford, and its former chair, Professor Sally Simpson, to continue expanding the scope and raise the profile of the top-ranked criminology program in the nation.

"I am delighted to welcome Professor Lynch to the College," says Behavioral and Social Sciences Dean John Townshend. "We are extremely fortunate to have attracted such an outstanding scholar and academic leader."

Lynch - who has a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Chicago - previously served as director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) in the U.S. Department of Justice from June 2010 until his arrival at Maryland in early January.  Lynch says he was proud to help the bureau expand and update the major data collections it has built and oversees - statistical series that provide timely information on crime and the criminal justice response that ultimately can be used to inform national crime control policies.

Universities Helped BJS Efforts
At the BJS, Lynch witnessed the important role of universities in analyzing and utilizing information gathered by the federal government to better inform public policy.

"Universities work with the BJS to take data collected for statistical purposes and use it for research purposes—a lot can be learned from the supplemental analysis of that kind of data," the new CCJS chair says. "The information that comes from universities doing secondary analyses of statistical data can help bring these data to bear on key topics— victimization rates, crime, de-institutionalization and gun control."

The desire to do academic research that could influence policy debates was one of the reasons why he chose to leave government service and return to academia along with a desire for a change of pace.

"Being a civil servant is an honor but it can be an exhausting honor," he said. "While I loved the BJS and the people I worked with, I missed teaching and collaborating with academic colleagues."

Reputation of the CCJS Program a Major Draw
Lynch says he was drawn to BSOS and to CCJS because of the high caliber of the department's faculty and the unparalleled reputation of the program.

"There is a great faculty here, with a world-renowned senior faculty and a lot of 'muscle' coming from the associate and assistant professors," Lynch says. "You lead departments like that, you don't run them. I look forward to taking some time to get to know the department and find ways that I can help it move forward."

"In the past 20 years the department has focused on substantive areas at the heart of criminology and more recently faculty members are doing research on emerging issues, such as terrorism, cybercrime and white collar crime. I look forward to the discussions we're going to have about the new areas of research we're going to pursue," he said.

He also is eager to begin teaching in the fall semester—after he's had some time to get the lay of the land and discover where his teaching expertise is most needed. Dr. Lynch focuses on teaching and research in the areas of data collection methodologies, victimization, offender re-entry and the role of punishment in social control.

Distinguished Career
Lynch's academic career includes serving as a distinguished professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at John Jay College, City University of New York. He was a professor in the Department of Justice, Law and Society at American University from 1986 to 2005 and chair of that department from 2003 to 2005.

He was the vice president of the American Society of Criminology and served on its board as well as on the Committee on Law and Justice Statistics of the American Statistical Association. Dr. Lynch was co-editor of the Journal of Quantitative Criminology. From 2007 to 2009, he was a member of the National Academy of Science panel evaluating the programs of the BJS.

Lynch has published four books and numerous articles on crime statistics, victimization surveys, victimization risk, and the role of sanctions in social control.