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July 22, 1999

GSPIA program will help police to cope with new kind of criminal

GSPIA program will help police to cope with new kind of criminal

Hypercriminals and cyberwarriors who terrorize and kill with computers instead of guns …transnational criminal organizations such as the Russian mafia, with enough money and firepower to take over national governments…

New breeds of organized criminals (and plenty of traditional offenders) will confront law enforcement professionals in the 21st century. To help prepare police, corrections officers, public policymakers and others for the coming challenges, the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (GSPIA) is launching a master's level concentration in criminal justice this fall.

"What we're trying to do is to bring law enforcement professionals up to the moment in terms of the latest research on fighting and preventing crime, both the domestic and international variety, and to help them prepare for the new kinds of criminals we'll be seeing in the not-too-distant future," said GSPIA associate professor Jack Karns, director of the new concentration.

According to Karns, those new kinds of criminals will include:

* Hypercriminals. "In the coming century, we're going to have offenders with the ability and desire to really do massive, massive damage with computers," he said. "They'll be able to use the Internet to reprogram nuclear reactors to melt down, to cause power grids to self-destruct, to destroy or corrupt air traffic control systems and cause plane crashes, to screw up traffic lights and elevator systems in high rise buildings — the whole array.

"They will be people who are socially inept and alienated, and they'll do these things for two reasons: to show they're smarter than the security programmers, and because of their rage and frustration. All it's going to take is one incident like this, and the copycat effect will take over. It's virtually inevitable that this kind of thing will happen."

* Cyberwarriors, who use computers in fighting for their nations or ethnic groups. "This is already happening. Poor countries have already used the Internet in attacks on the Pentagon's computers, for example," Karns said.

* Transnational gangsters. Prohibition during the 1920s and early 1930s gave U.S. gangsters the motivation and means to organize, reap huge profits and buy off police and judges. Likewise, America's current prohibition against recreational drugs — a prohibition that the United States has imposed on other countries around the world — has spawned transnational syndicates such as the Russian mafia and Colombian drug cartels, Karns maintained.

"These are criminal organizations generating billions and billions of dollars. Often, they are better armed, better educated and better prepared than their legitimate opposition. They can corrupt and even take over governments of smaller, weaker nations, and they can spread violence and corruption in our own country. These people don't respect national borders and they aren't afraid of anyone," Karns said.

"Just as organized crime in this country didn't go away when we repealed our prohibition on alcohol, transnational organized crime isn't going to go away even if we eliminate our drug laws, which eventually we probably will."

GSPIA's criminal justice concentration will offer courses such as "Transnational Organized Crime" and "Computer Crime" as well as courses focusing on what Karns called "the old, everyday, garden variety of crime. We need to find better ways of dealing with that as well.

"Right now, everyone's pounding his chest and saying that crime in this country is going down. Well, there are two reasons for that. One is demographics: fewer people in the most crime-prone age group. The second factor is good economic times. But neither factor is going to last forever."

GSPIA expects to enroll 20-25 students in its criminal justice concentration this fall, with 30-50 students in future years, according to Karns. "We're recruiting nationally and internationally, but with a primary emphasis on the tri-state area."

Vinay Nair, an Ottawa native who is scheduled to begin basic training with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police next summer, said he chose to enroll in the GSPIA concentration — rather than the other U.S. and Canadian graduate programs he scouted through the Internet — because of what he called the Pitt concentration's "amazing flexibility."

"This is the only institution I found," Nair said, "that allows me to mix general courses in things like economics and politics with advanced courses in criminology and national security issues, plus I can do independent study in my own field of interest — forensics — and credit that toward my degree."

Nair said he hopes a GSPIA degree with the criminal justice concentration will boost his career with the Mounties, a law force with a glut of qualified recruits. "The RCMP requires an undergraduate degree, but most people don't have anything beyond that, so a master's should help me," he said. "The amount of education you get about computer crime in basic training, for example, is not as much as you'll get here [in GSPIA], where you can do a lot of research and learn in depth."

GSPIA degree candidates must take a minimum of 12 credits' worth of criminal justice courses to complete the concentration. Pitt graduate students outside GSPIA must complete 15 credits to earn the concentration certificate. Non-degree applicants who wish to complete the concentration must have already earned a master's degree in a relevant discipline or a baccalaureate degree plus a minimum of five years of relevant experience.

— Bruce Steele

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