Matthew A. Valasik
I joined LSU’s Sociology Department in 2014 after completing my Ph.D. in Criminology, Law & Society from the University of California, Irvine. My interdisciplinary training has informed my interest in applied research at the intersection of geography, place, and theory to better understand the community context of crime, focusing particularly on gangs and problem oriented policing strategies. My research is primarily quantitative in nature routinely using social network analysis (e.g., UCINET) and spatial methods (e.g., ArcGIS, GeoDa) to analyze either primary or secondary data. That being said, I have recently been working on several more conceptual/theoretical research projects.
My current research agenda is two-fold. The first component of my research program, the socio-spatial dynamics of gang behavior (i.e., territoriality, group cohesion, and violence), builds on the observation that street gangs are a localized phenomenon emerging and adapting in a particular geography. Building on this notion, the second component of my research program examines effective strategies aimed at reducing neighborhood violence and discouraging gang activity, such as problem-oriented policing strategies (e.g., gang units, civil gang injunctions) or criminal justice policies (e.g., drug enforcement).
A few topics that highlight the diversity of my prior and current research include investigating the impact an abatement of a Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) gang unit has on an officer’s ability to gather gang intelligence and arrest gang members, exploring if predictive policing tactics lead to racially biased arrests, analyzing the temporal and spatial relationship between gang violence and the structural characteristics of a neighborhood, comparing and contrasting the attributes of ISIS with our vast knowledge of street gangs, assessing the role of intergenerational closure and collective efficacy on juvenile delinquency, and examining the changes in concentrated poverty in rural America. The unifying theme that remains throughout these projects is understanding the conditions in which various social processes take place, whether they are the behavior patterns of gang members or delinquent youth, strategies law enforcement use to reduce crime, or the spatial patterns of intense disadvantage among rural counties in the United States. My work has appeared in Rural Sociology, Theoretical Criminology, Homicide Studies, Deviant Behavior, Sex Roles, Journal of Criminology, Policy and Practice, The Oxford Handbook of Environmental Criminology, and The Routledge International Handbook of Human Aggression.
In addition to my research interests, I teach SOCL 2371: Aspects of Federal, State, & Local Law Enforcement, SOCL 3371: Sociology of the Criminal Justice System, SOCL 462: Sociology of Youth & Crime, and SOCL 4466: Crime Mapping, a geographical information systems (GIS) course. My courses are designed with the pedagogical goal of grounding theoretical material in everyday life allowing students to apply a criminological lens to critically evaluate social problems facing society. Lastly, I feel that mentoring is a vital component of academia and I am very committed to advising students at both the undergraduate and graduate level, encouraging them to develop their own research interests and aiding future career decisions.