R. B. Taylor, community criminologist
This page provides a little bit of information about me.
I grew up in Providence, RI in the 1960s. What can I say? As someone once said, I started out as a child. And that was where.
Providence later, in the 1970s and 1980s, became infamous for its corrupt mayor, Buddy Cianci. He brought the city back, but was convicted of assault, and later of felony racketeering charges in Federal Court. He was a popular talk radio personality in his later years after his release from prison. To learn more, read Mike Stanton's The Prince of Providence.
After undergraduate, I worked for a bit over a year at a residential treatment center for pre-delinquent youth in the middle of the woods in mid state New Hampshire, Spaulding Youth Center. Behavior modification, a token economy, and positive reinforcement were intended help with each youth's development.
I learned about the wrinkles of putting science to work, the pains, gains, and glitches.
I learned about individual differences and personality. I marveled at the range of different reactions to the program. It made me a believer in individual differences and personality.
Maybe most important, I learned that the relationship between the youth and a caring adult was maybe more important than anything else for helping these adolescents figure out how to live.
Thanks to funding from a federal NIMH training grant, I was able to attend graduate school in the Department of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in the mid 1970s. Mayor William Donald Schaeffer was trying to bring life back to the downtown through economic development, and to near downtown neighborhoods through "dollar houses" and intentional gentrification.
The city's structurally disadvantaged neighborhoods on the near west side and near east side, however, were not lifted by all these efforts. This I learned first hand assisting Sidney Brower on a research / demonstration project. The project sought to encourage residents' use of and management of pocket parks in the Harlem Park section of the city. Once again, trying to put science to work.
My first job with a Ph.D. was with Expressway Messenger Service in Baltimore, driving in Ford Pintos, and occasionally a van, in the summer heat. From DC to Hunt Valley, delivering and picking up papers and products. No putting science to work, just trying not to get lost. Seeing the city and the region close up revealed a variety and complexity of the metropolitan region that was heretofore unexpected.
A year in Blacksburg, Virginia at Virginia Tech followed where I was on the tenure track in the Department of Psychology and collaborating with colleagues in the School of Architecture. Numerous memorable and helpful department colleagues in psychology included Haller von Gilmer (won't tell you about the time we almost shot the favorite farm cat while hunting on his land), E. Scott Geller (check out his competence TED talk) Joe Sgro, Jerry Kehoe, and Jack Hamilton, among others. Lynda Schneekloth was in Architecture and pulled me into a project with the Roanoke Baptist Church. She has been at U Buffalo for years, heading up the Urban Design project. Check out her book "Placemaking."A dedicated group of scholars committed to applying scholarship.
A possibility of getting a grant on physical environment and community crime prevention in urban residential environments lured me back to the urban affairs center at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. Colleagues Steve Gottfredson and Dave Cwi, and professor Matt Crenson helped make that happen.
Spent six years on soft money getting research grants, working on other folks' research grants, buying and selling and doing some work on two houses, and trying to figure out how to raise two girls. Sidney Brower, Whit Drain and I completed the first map of Baltimore neighborhoods, and put 1970 and later 1980 census data into it. It was a bit more of a challenge then than now.
For a number of reasons it was time to go by the mid 1980s and I migrated up to Temple University in Philadelphia. Time outside the Department of Criminal Justice included a three year stint as an associate dean in the College of Arts and Sciences (1989-1992), and a year in DC as a visiting fellow at the National Institute of Justice (1997).
The Department of Criminal Justice at Temple has been a marvelous academic home base for the past thirty seven years. Fantastic collagues have taught me much about -- to mention just a few -- geography (George Rengert, Jerry Ratcliffe, Liz Groff), theory (Jeannette Covington, the alte Joan McCord), the history of crime here in Philadelphia (the late Mark Haller), and how criminal justice does and more often does not work (Steve Belenko, John Goldkamp, Steve Gottfredson, M. Kay Harris, Phil Harris).
Numerous graduate students with whom I have worked have similarly been a delight. I could tell a story about how on MA class discussion generated the entire framework used in a later research methods textbook. Or what I have learned from each of the dissertations I have directed, starting with Dr. Ellen Kurtz (2000) and finishing with Dr. Jill Eidson (2020).
But perhaps I have learned more from the thousands of undergraduates I have taught over the decades. Perhaps the most crucial takeaways were be clear, be concrete, be focused, be fair. Works outside the classroom too.
Effective July of 2021 I retired from full time teaching and research. I am still figuring out the professor emeritus gig.
Like Joe Walsh said some time ago, life's been good to me so far.