SFU criminologist analyses California organized crime

October 05, 2006, volume 37, no. 3
By Diane Luckow

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After studying criminology for almost nine years at SFU, Aili Malm was looking for an academic job in a location where she could apply the practical aspects of her research. She uses environmental crime analysis to explore the world of drugs and criminality.

She found the perfect location at California State University—Long Beach, where she now works as an assistant professor in the department of criminal justice.

"Although the crime issues here in L.A. are quite a bit different from Vancouver," she says, "the work I do is immediately applicable down here." She teaches policing courses and researches organized crime using the tools she learned at SFU.

Malm, who convocates this month with a PhD in criminology, examines policing and criminal activities using spatial analysis, or crime mapping and social network analysis, which study the links between individuals in organized crime.

For example, she used social network analysis to scrutinize the criminal network involved in marijuana grow operations in Vancouver. "I used it to identify key players," she says.

"We look at spatial characteristics—for example we discovered that the more important people in the network tend to live further away from incident locations. The lower the individual in the network, the closer they live." She used spatial analysis to establish statistics showing that the RCMP's green teams—officers involved in reducing marijuana grow ops—did reduce grow ops over a seven-year period in the urban areas in which they were used.

She has presented her PhD dissertation results to Canadian chiefs of police and the National Coordinating Committee on Organized Crime during a national workshop. Her results have also been published in two academic journals.

Malm's interest in criminology stems, she says, from the wonderful instructors and mentorship she encountered at SFU. "It's a world-renowned program," she says, "and the largest on the west coast of North America."

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