Young people and crime

Photo provided by Dr. Christopher O'Connor

Dr. Christopher O'Connor is an assistant professor in the social science and humanities at UOIT

Dr. Christopher O’Connor is no stranger to the crime and the justice system. The University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) assistant professor in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities, has worked out west, worked at the University of Wisconsin and now he’s here in Oshawa.

What does an Assistant Professor do?

I do a lot of the method classes, as well as, a sort of data analysis, these sorts of things. So that tends to be where my teaching area is focused here. I also teach a class on risk in crime, which is an advance justice study one.

What type of research do you do?

I focus in a few areas; mostly I have done research on young people. I have done research on how young people steal cars, a bit on school towards transitions and how young people perceive deviance, in particular, in a boomtown setting. I have done some work in Fort McMurray. I did a research project on how young people transition from school to work in that boomtown context, where you can easily get a job driving a truck for example and make $100,000 rather than go on to further education… Recently I am doing research on policing. So how the police use social media to talk to the public. On current stuff, I’m moving some of my oil and gas research into fracking, I’m looking forward to that project. It will also include looking at some of the social aspects that goes along with fracking.

What makes this research relevant?

I think what I try to do is provide sort of a best practices in a lot of my research, or implications for policy. In terms of some of my more recent stuff on police and social media, I’m doing interviews with police officers across Canada and trying to gather some of the best practices for how to use it. What are some of the things that go well using social media as police agencies? What are some of the things that go bad? And what I do is turn that into recommendations with things not to do and write that up and send it.

When did you get interested in this topic?

I have always been interested ever since undergrad, in doing research with young people, and that’s sort of where it started my interest in research. And basically how young people are often ignored to a certain extent. We research them but we don’t actually talk to young people very often or as much as we should, I think, to get an understanding of how they understand the social world, some of the issues that they have and challenges they have. So what drew me to research is how little we knew about young people. It also goes with my interest in oil and gas. I was in Alberta doing my PhD and this opportunity developed because it was sort of the height of the boom around 2005 – 2006, and no one really had done that type of research in Fort McMurray on this topic, so it was an exciting time to do that.

Dr. O’Connor’s research is in depth and relevant to today’s young people and how location can affect the crime involvement.