Russell Sage College has launched a new Criminal Investigation Resource Center (CIRC), in which students work with law enforcement agencies and missing persons organizations on unresolved or “cold” cases. The CIRC was started by the founders of the first college-based cold case analysis center in New York state.

The CIRC – led by Director Christina Lane, a criminologist, and Associate Director Christopher Kunkle, a forensic and clinical psychologist – provides internship credit to students selected to work in the center. Lane and Kunkle had previously founded the Cold Case Analysis Center at The College of Saint Rose. Saint Rose has announced the college will close at the end of the academic year.

In January, Lane joined Russell Sage as an associate professor of criminal justice and created a new center on Russell Sage’s Albany campus, which includes five units: Unresolved Homicides, Unresolved Sex Crimes, Missing Persons Investigation and Resource, Crime Analysis, and Continuing Education and Professional Training.

“Students gain meaningful experience working on unresolved cases, and I’m excited to bring this opportunity to the students at Russell Sage, who already have a strong orientation toward serving their communities,” Lane said. “The sheer volume of unresolved cases in the United States is staggering, and law enforcement resources are stretched too thin to keep up with the need. The CIRC motto is ‘No victim is forgotten,’ and the students come to appreciate how much it means to victims’ families to know someone is still looking at their cases.”

There are more than 250,000 unresolved murder cases, over 20,000 unresolved missing person cases, and 14,000 unidentified person cases in the United States, according to expert estimates based on FBI Uniform Crime Report data. Meanwhile, the “clearance rate” on murder cases in the United States is an estimated 52.3%, meaning nearly half of cases are not solved within the year.

To date, the Criminal Investigation Resource Center is partnering with six law enforcement agencies, including the Albany City Police Department, as well as the Center for Hope, a nonprofit organization based in the Capital Region that supports the friends and families of the missing. So far, nearly two dozen Russell Sage students are working in the center.

Students assist by fulfilling research requests, organizing/reorganizing cases for more effective case detail access, promoting media coverage of cases to revive community assistance, and generating funds to advance investigations. They are held to a high standard of confidentiality as they are working with real case files.

The center is assisted by a team of expert advisors, including retired investigators from the police, FBI, and Attorney General’s Office; a librarian with archive research expertise, a forensic entomologist (insects/arthropods in criminal investigation), and a forensic anthropologist.

Students from all majors at Russell Sage can apply to be interns in the center providing they take a course in Criminal Behavior Analysis.

“Engaged Learning is an important part of the student experience at Russell Sage College, and the Criminal Investigation Resource Center allows students to understand the human toll of ‘cold cases,’ which have become a popular culture phenomenon fueled by podcasts and television shows,” said Russell Sage President Christopher Ames. 

“Students develop a high degree of professionalism working with law enforcement officials and victims’ families, and the center fits perfectly with our many undergraduate and graduate programs related to this work, including Criminal Justice, Law & Behavioral Science, Psychology, Sociology, Criminal Justice and Community Corrections, and Forensic Mental Health. We’re proud to offer this new opportunity at Russell Sage.”

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