First-Year Student Showcase 2021: Lianna Vasta ’25 Researches Crime Rates During the Pandemic

First-Year Student Showcase 2021: Lianna Vasta ’25 Researches Crime Rates During the Pandemic

First-Year Student Showcase 2021: Lianna Vasta ’25 Researches Crime Rates During the Pandemic

Every year, our First-Year Student Showcase is a highly anticipated event because it features the justice-focused research of our newest John Jay students. The variety of topics covered is wide, the methodology is intriguing, and in many cases, the outcomes are surprising and inspiring. Guided by faculty and staff mentors, along with the unwavering support of Associate Director of First Year Programs, Nancy Yang, this year’s first-year scholars did not disappoint with their recent research presentations. We connected with some of the presenters and dived a little deeper into their theories, methodologies, and findings.

As everyone else did in New York City during the pandemic, Lianna Vasta ’25, a Criminal Justice major from Garrison, New York, saw the headlines and news segments discussing crime rates climbing as the Covid-19 virus continued to impact New Yorkers. “Me and my partner, Camilia, wanted to research the impact the pandemic had on New York City, and we hypothesized that felonious crime rates significantly increased throughout the pandemic,” says Vasta. “We tried to come up with a catchy title to our research project and we ended up with ‘Covid-19 and Crime Rates: Is there a correlation?’”

How did you and your team come to this hypothesis?
My partner and I researched similar topics during an assignment earlier in the semester which led us to be grouped together. I was originally researching increased gun violence during the pandemic and my partner was researching the impact the pandemic had on murder rates. We combined both of our prior research because of gun violence and murder being classified as “felonious crimes,” and because there were reports of increased crime throughout the city, which allowed us to see how the pandemic impacted crime rates.

“I was originally researching increased gun violence during the pandemic and my partner was researching the impact the pandemic had on murder rates.” —Lianna Vasta

What specific methodology did you use to conduct your research?
We tried a lot of different research methods but eventually we used quantitative research to create concrete evidence and tie it to our hypothesis. We looked at crime rate graphs produced by the New York City Police Department and we used the numbers to draw conclusions. We studied different analytics over the past few years, 2018 – 2021, and we also used secondary sources like articles and general knowledge of the pandemic to create a greater understanding of crime and how pandemics or mass tragedies affect societies like New York City.

During your research, were there any specific obstacles or discoveries that were either challenging or rewarding?
One major obstacle we faced throughout the project—and it really put a strain on our research—was that there was barely any evidence or scholarly articles that identified the correlation between increased crime and the pandemic. We were faced with conclusions strictly from our own research. There were a few articles that briefly touched on why and how the increase was happening but otherwise, my partner and I had to conduct our own research and collect the analytics from years prior and the current one we’re living in now.

When the research concluded, or you reached an initial stopping point, what were some of your conclusions or takeaways? How did you reach those conclusions?
Our research had not fully concluded when we handed in the project. From what we could see throughout our research, there is a new Covid-19 strain and crime obviously has not stopped as this new variant continues to impact the city. When we halted our research, based on the calculations of the analytics we discovered, we were able to confidently say and prove that felonious crime rates in New York City had increased by around 3,000 cases from 2018 to 2019. The rates continue to show trends rising throughout the years of 2020 to 2021, but we are unable to compare them to any other research due to the limited supply of other data and the current duration of the pandemic.

What surprised you the most about this experience, both in the research process itself and the final results?
Having this unanswered question about crime floating around in the air during the pandemic really shocked us and our professor, Patricia Johnson-Coxx, Ph.D., too. She was unable to provide insight until she also conducted extensive research of her own. Having the ability to create a hypothesis that people are now able to prove or disprove was a pleasant experience and a surprising contribution to society that my partner and I were able to create.

“There are questions in this world still unanswered and your project may be the catalyst to the answers.” —Lianna Vasta

Knowing what you know now, what would you say to another student about to embark on a research project?
Definitely manage your time. We did not expect that it would take so long to conduct so much research over this one correlation. You never know what data or information you may come across and if you want to present a thorough collection of evidence, make sure you are ready to put in the time and effort. There are questions in this world still unanswered and your project may be the catalyst to the answers.