BiographyMy research addresses several vital areas, including youth crime and justice, desistance from crime, fear of crime, policing and society, and most recently, youth and cyber-risk. My research, with a focus on both Canada and Hong Kong, has appeared in British Journal of Criminology, Theoretical Criminology, The Prison Journal, Sociological Quarterly, and Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, among others. Please see areas of research below for further information.
Areas of Research / Professional Expertise
My dissertation (September 2005 to September 2009) examined representations and responses to youth crime in Canada, revealing ambiguities and discord over the interpretation of the extent and severity of youth crime as well as appropriate responses (i.e. punishment vs. rehabilitation). Findings from my dissertation, which received funding from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, have been published in Journal of Contemporary Ethnography and Symbolic Interaction.
After completing my dissertation, I took a position as Assistant Professor in the department of sociology at the University of Hong Kong, starting January 2010. Through an internal seed grant, I began to explore the youth criminal justice system in Hong Kong, including interviews with youth in conflict with the law as well as police officers and various non-governmental organizations working to assist at-risk youth. This grant generated knowledge that was published in Theoretical Criminology and Youth Justice. The findings were also incorporated into a book, published by Routledge in 2014, examining reactions and policy responses to youth delinquency and crime in Hong Kong during its colonial and post-colonial periods (titled Responding to Youth Crime in Hong Kong: Penal Elitism, Legitimacy and Citizenship). The book illuminates the particular form of state governance through which youth crime and delinquency is perceived and responded to. Through an analysis of archival sources, official reports and interviews with key stakeholders in the juvenile justice system, the book tracks the emergence of a penal elitist mode of governance, highlighting concerns not only about young people’s behavior but the need for officials to establish state authority and promote citizen identification. The book examines the emergence of the ‘disciplinary welfare’ tariff during the 1970s, debates and policy changes related to the minimum age of criminal responsibility and youth sex crimes, and inaction regarding the introduction of restorative justice initiatives in the post-colonial era. It also addresses the power of ‘Post-80s’ youth to protest and challenge government policies, often organized through social media sites, and who directly combat contemporary fears regarding the ‘mainlandization’ of Hong Kong, i.e. the perceived political and ideological encroachment of mainland China.
Building on this work and seeking a wider focus for research in Hong Kong, I began a 3-year project (with co-investigator Maggy Lee), commencing in January 2012 and funded by the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong, exploring fear of crime and trust in police in Hong Kong. The project illuminates ‘crime talk’ regarding crime and policing in Hong Kong through 30 focus groups conducted (in Cantonese) with a wide sector of the population, including adolescents as well as the elderly, males and females, the working class to business elites. Preliminary results indicate the saliency of tensions related to the ‘mainlandization’ of Hong Kong. Our findings related to fear of crime (currently forthcoming in the 2nd edition of Understanding Criminal Justice in Hong Kong) reveal a general sense of safety among Hong Kong citizens but also concerns over social and physical ‘signals’ of crime, such as illegal goods smuggling along the Hong Kong-China border, disorderly youth, and signs of physical dilapidation such as discarded syringes. Another aspect of this research, on public perceptions of policing in Hong Kong, has been recently published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology. We highlight two overarching themes – a sense of confidence in police regarding instrumental concerns with responding efficiently to crime and combatting crime, and mixed views regarding public order policing.
Another area of active of research examines desistance from crime or ‘going straight’, i.e. the factors contributing to the cessation of criminal acts and the successful reintegration of ex-offenders back into their communities. Along with my collaborator Eric Chui, we have co-authored two publications, in British Journal of Criminology and The Prison Journal, which offer the first published analysis of ex-prisoner desistance in Hong Kong. The papers suggest greater comparative research on desistance is essential outside the occident in order to better understand the more generic aspects of desistance which may be universal, as well as those idiosyncratic elements salient in post-colonial regions.
Since joining the University of Calgary, my research continues to focus on crime desistance, police studies, youth justice and a new area – cyber-risk and youth. I am involved in several active projects with Dr. Rose Ricciardelli, Assistant Professor at Memorial University. I am a co-investigator on a SSHRC Insight Development Grant with Rose examining desistance among former federal prisoners. Correctional Service of Canada is well recognized for developing and implementing risk/need/responsivity tools in the assessment of prisoners and as a guide for the level of intervention while in custody alongside subsequent parole conditions. Preliminary results from this research advance knowledge of how responsivity is being guided by both static and dynamic risk/need factors, contributing to knowledge regarding Canadian penality under the present ‘law and order’ penal populist climate.
Also with Dr. Ricciardelli, I am co-investigator on a project examining ‘best practices’ policing youth among rural Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers (with funding from the RCMP). The project presents to our knowledge the first wide-scale survey of RCMP officers in Canada regarding their attitudes towards policing youth and the Youth Criminal Justice Act, and also involves interviews with both police and youth regarding experiences and perceptions of crime and policing.
In May 2015 one sole-authored article, published in 2012 in The American Sociologist, was awarded an Outstanding Article Award by the Society for the Study of Social Problems Theory Division. The article raises questions about the current debates about 'public sociology' and argues that a social constructionist lens may positively contribute to the debate and potential for sociologists to engage various public audiences.
I have recently received funding, as primary investigator through a SSHRC Insight Development Grant (with co-investigator Rose Ricciardelli), to examine cyber-risk among adolescent students in western and eastern Canada. The research examines youth experiences and perceptions with cyber-risk through focus group discussions, and explores how youth are responding to the messages they receive from society (e.g. parents, schools, police) about cyber-risk and self-responsibilization in relation to this risk.
My most recent book has just been published with Routledge, co-edited with Dr. Rose Ricciardelli, titled Engaging with Ethics in International Criminological Research. The book features internationally recognized criminologists writing about their experiences encountering ethical issues and dilemmas in the field. As such it seeks to go beyond 'pro forma' textbook summaries of ethics in criminology to explore the real politik of research. Please see associated links for further information.