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ForensicsGeorge Mason’s new Center of Excellence for Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis

Published 2 August 2017

DHS S&T has selected George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia to lead a consortium of U.S. academic institutions and other partners for a new Center of Excellence (COE) in Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis (CINA). The Center’s research will focus on criminal network analysis, dynamic patterns of criminal activity, forensics, and criminal investigative processes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) has selected George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia to lead a consortium of U.S. academic institutions and other partners for a new Center of Excellence (COE) in Criminal Investigations and Network Analysis (CINA). S&T will provide CINA with a $3.85 million grant for its first operating year in a 10-year grant period.   

“We need to ensure that the nation’s law enforcement entities have the most sophisticated tools to counter transnational criminal networks, cross-border criminal activities, and criminal exploitation of the cyber domain,” said Acting Under Secretary for Science and Technology William N. Bryan. “This new Center’s objective is to provide law enforcement agents, officers and investigators with those tools in the form of novel technologies and strategies.

S&T says that as lead institution, George Mason University will spearhead a consortium of academic, industry, government, and laboratory partners throughout the country and will work closely with U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement and other law enforcement organizations to establish a long-term productive relationship

“This is the first time we’ve selected George Mason as a lead institution,” said Dr. Matthew Clark, director of S&T’s Office of University Programs, which manages the DHS Centers of Excellence system within S&T’s Research and Development Partnerships Group.

“Their experience working with the security and intelligence communities, coupled with strong criminology and sociology programs, make them a strong partner for the Department.”  

The Center’s research will focus on criminal network analysis, dynamic patterns of criminal activity, forensics, and criminal investigative processes.  CINA will work with DHS components and other federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to develop strategies and solutions for on-the-ground use by agents and officers to predict, thwart, and prosecute crimes.  CINA will also contribute to the education and development of both university students and professionals working in the realms of prevention, prediction, investigation and prosecution.

“By partnering with George Mason University and other institutions, our agents will be able to work with cutting-edge tools and research that will shape how we combat the growing threat of transnational crime,” said Derek N. Benner, acting executive associate director for Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

The DHS COEs were established by the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to be a “coordinated, university-based system to enhance the Nation’s homeland security.” S&T’s COEs are a well-integrated network of researchers and educators focused on specific high-priority DHS challenges. The COEs work directly with the Department’s operational agencies to solve complex and difficult problems across the homeland security enterprise.

Each COE is led by a U.S. college or university and involves multiple partners for varying lengths of time. COE partners include other academic institutions, industry, DHS Operational agencies, Department of Energy National Laboratories and other Federally-Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs), other federal agencies that have homeland security-relevant missions, state/local/tribal governments, non-profits, and first responder organizations.