As a social science that is profoundly humanistic, criminology can (and should) support public policy related to crime, crime management, and crime prevention, as well as manage impacts through science and evidence. However, criminology can be much more: a powerful tool that, through research, active listening, and the involvement of all players and agents, encourages and fosters community ties and helps raise the voices of the most silenced or simply those who aren’t being listened to. It is a critical field, one constantly questioning, never friendly to the needs or demands of power, multidisciplinary, humble. These are some of the characteristics that can make criminology an agent of change. Always with solid and robust methodologies, but also with a spirit guided by passion, curiosity, and an urgent need to build a better world where everyone is an asset in and of themselves.
At the First Criminology Conference that was held on November 29 and 30 at Universidad Europea, different theoretical and empirical approaches were used to show that criminology can indeed become an agent of change. The reason for this is that it can take on the global phenomena of contemporary advanced societies, focusing directly on the most vulnerable people and groups that in their everyday lives experience realities invisible to the majority.
The talk given by Teresa Coutinho, head of press for the European Parliament in Spain, served to identify the big challenges facing the European Union that are slated to become its priorities: migration, the growth of populism, and the existence of jihadist terrorism, which sees European young people as assets to be recruited for its fight. After these top priorities, further issues can be identified: an unequal distribution of wealth, disillusionment and lack of trust in institutions, austerity policies, and a host of individual community need to be addressed.
After this opening speech, each of the conference’s round tables opened and the presentations served to demonstrate some of the phenomena that criminology must respond to.
The first round table, Migrants: New Challenges, presented the different challenges related to migration in Spain. First, reference was made to the “myths” about migrants. As migration professor and researcher Mercedes Fernández  explained, there are three notable myths:
First, the idea that the number of migrants is constantly growing. This is not something corroborated by data, as, according to the UN, in 2017 only 248 million people (3% of the global population) lived in a country other than the one they were born in. Of those people, only 25% had headed toward developed countries (south-north migrations). A separate issue entirely is the fact that, at certain times, a greater concentration of migrants comes to a specific country or region, which can be perceived as an “invasion.” Relying on real data (information) and putting policies in place to manage these flows is the way to ensure that migrants are not rejected.
This leads to the second myth: migrants take away jobs and/or destabilize the economy. There is also no evidence to support this perception. There is, however, evidence to contradict it. Multiple studies peer-reviewed by international consulting firms, public agencies, and scientists support the claim that the economic profitability of migrations is a contributing factor to the GDP of both the receiving country and the home country (remittances). Again, the general situation must be differentiated from the “irregular” practices seen in the labor market with immigrants who are part of the shadow economy, deregulated work environments, and even human trafficking.
Finally, the last myth discussed was the one fed by populism on the relationship between migration and crime. This is the one that should be worked on most from the criminology standpoint so that research is able to find the real number of crimes. Also, to separate the image of migrants as “terrorists/jihadists,” this issue should also be approached both sociologically and criminologically.
To combat these myths, it has been proved that this phenomenon must be worked on not only globally (governmental policies, border control, and regulatory scope), but also locally, since local projects have been shown to create much more effective immigrant integration. Along this line full professor of Anthropology Carlos Giménez  reflected on how diversity management should be addressed, in this case ethnic diversity, from the cities and neighborhoods where immigrants and locals share space.
Beyond a more or less peaceful mutual tolerance entailed by the multiculturalist model, the goal should be to make headway on real coexistence that builds an inclusive global community out of the “other,” primarily seeking similarities, not differences. But this path is not tension-free. The professionalization of social partners working in this field, mediators, local agents, social workers, police officers, etc., is a challenge and a priority. “Working on the tension” is a must and this requires theoretical concepts being combined with their practical implementation. In this realm, criminology can help as it can provide real knowledge of the everyday problems of conflict that can arise and is also committed to managing them based on that proposed model of inclusive community.
With the second round table focused on “Vulnerable genders and groups” we learned about the need to work on inclusion at the social level, as the different minorities in our societies being able to fully take advantage of their rights depends on it. Currently, and despite living in diverse societies with multiple identities, the data show that we are living parallel lives. It is still difficult for these minority group to find jobs and housing, making it impossible for them to live independently.
As CERMI (Spanish Committee for Representatives of People with Disabilities) and the Kamira Federation stated, limits to access to education creates segregated lose-lose contexts, as invisibility of the other only allows greater society to assimilate it, not include it.
The round table on Inequality and poverty discussed research done in the field with a call from the Knowledge Group-Research on Social Issues researcher, Antonio Silva, to use criminological ultra-realism (a trend in the English-speaking world that calls for social change). Silva views it to be necessary to respond to phenomena related to structural violence and explained his innovative experiences in ethnography. Yannick Delgado, a volunteer with Acción Humanitatis, discussed the truth on homelessness and being a volunteer on the ground, as well as the need to connect universities and students to create research networks. Finally Miguel Alba, from Oxfam, discussed relevant issues on inequality from an economic perspective to provide an overview of this issue.
The closing talk, Daltonism of Human Rights, given by Antonio Rivas, coordinator of Project Hope, provided the attendees with a dose of reality, as we were shown how, in addition to being trafficked for prostitution, people affected by human trafficking for exploitative purposes are also used in the labor market: housekeeping, the restaurant industry, nannies, agricultural harvesting, industrial manufacturing in precarious conditions, and soccer teams, via the incorporation of young talent under suspect conditions.
In conclusion, we would like to underscore the importance of understanding criminology as a multidisciplinary science, far from bleak, methodological or epistemological belligerence, to take advantage of its multidisciplinary and inclusive capacity – its fundamental core. All debates must have room for criminology from different perspectives to guarantee a better understanding of the phenomenon. However, we should never forget that this science cannot be an instrument for use in the hands of power, politics, or ideology; it must be human and social. It must go beyond descriptions to become distributive and transformative, shaking things up and questioning structural violence, static cultural creations, and considering the economic and political forces that pervade institutions.
It must approach everyone’s voice sincerely and humbly, without making moral judgments. There are no fallen or lost individuals, just people. Every story, every story behind the story, every link forged in the tapestry of human relations must be carefully addressed. That’s why honest professionals must be trained in this field; they must have solid ethical commitments and be highly sensitive, relentless in their defense of human rights. Always forging and forming partnerships with social partners, agents, legal agents, and entrepreneurs; as well as bridging the gap between academia and the professional world.
In short, researchers should discuss phenomena out of proximity and symmetry, without abusing privilege. They should criticize the economic and political forces that favor these dynamics.
Professor of Sociology at Máster Universitario en Dirección y Gestión de Recursos Humanos and Máster Universitario en Dirección de Empresas MBA
Professor of Applied sociology at the Doble Grado en Criminología y Psicología
Jorge R. Pérez
Profesor adjunto en Criminology at the Doble Grado en Psicología y Criminología
Profesora adjunta en Lawyer at the Grado en Derecho
 Fernández, M. (2019): Leyendas urbanas sobre las migraciones [Urban Legends on Migration]. Consulted at https://blogs.comillas.edu/buildingbridges/2019/09/16/leyendas-urbanas-sobre-las-migraciones-por-mercedes-fernandez-garcia/