Fall 2016
Preventing theft, preparing minds

Don’t be surprised if you find Dr. Kevin Whiteacre, chair of UIndy’s Sociology and Criminal Justice Department, out in the parking lots around the city. He’s just trying to make sure that personal property doesn’t become stolen property. His specialty is theft protection, and criminal justice students are reaping the benefits.

Dr. Whiteacre is studying parking lot design in Marion County, Ind., to see how it contributes to the theft of catalytic converters from automobiles, and he’s making his findings an integral part of the classroom experience.

“On average, one and a half catalytic converters are stolen from cars every day in Indianapolis,” he says. “In my crime prevention class, I send students out to parking lots around Indianapolis with observation instruments to determine which parking lots in the county are high crime.”

Students who major in criminal justice can choose a concentration in law enforcement, corrections, loss prevention or cybersecurity. Studying loss prevention means working on issues such as crime prevention, employee safety, data protection, supply chain integrity and crisis management. It introduces students to investigations and other facets of criminal justice, in addition to business fundamentals such as finance, management and information systems.

Creating an open classroom

When Dr. Whiteacre has a discussion in class, he tries to create an environment where students can have open debates based on facts and information.

“Almost every topic in criminal justice is highly controversial, and it doesn’t matter if you are liberal or conservative,” he says. “My primary goal is that by the end of the semester, you’re a little less sure of your opinions and a little more open to searching for what the evidence shows.”

Dr. Whiteacre hopes students understand that he, too, is seeking answers to complex questions requiring a variety of perspectives.

“I don’t claim to have all the answers myself,” he says. “I have more questions than answers, and that helps keep classrooms open and the discussion going.”