CHARLESTON, W.Va. — There’s a behind-the-scenes group of state workers that recently swept a number of national awards.
West Virginia’s Criminal Justice Statistical Analysis Center won all 3 awards from the Justice Research and Statistics Association.
“That’s actually quite remarkable,” West Virginia SAC Director Dr. Steve Haas said. “It’s the first time that I’m aware of that a statistical analysis center has been recognized to win all of the awards in a single year.”
The West Virginia SAC has fewer than a dozen workers but the information the group churns out is used prominently in crime fighting and public safety.
“We fill that gap between what data tells us and what science and what the field tells us is best practice and what we’re actually doing in making data driven decisions for policies in the state,” Haas said.
For example, the SAC will be heavily used as part of the new state law aimed at reducing prison overcrowding in West Virginia. Haas said the unit will be the “hub of the changes” assessing the quality of the programs.
One of the national awards the unit won had to do with a crime reporting study that Haas believes will help West Virginia and other states be more accurate in the reporting of crime.
“We compared our methods to the FBI’s methods and we found our methods showed more promise for being more accurate in helping us being able to stabilize our current crime trends,” Haas said.
Other awards came in the area of technical innovation and the SAC’s website. Dr. Haas was also chosen as the national organization’s new president. He said none of the honors would be possible without the state support and a quality staff.
“We’re thankful for the support we’re given by the Division of Justice and Community Service but also the staff,” Haas said that staff is made up by “good quality people who care about the work they do.”
Haas said statistic analysis centers in other states are based on university campuses or in larger cities with larger staffs.