Where Shuhua Chen comes from, police aren't likely to get into big chases--except maybe on bicycles.
Police in Beijing only started wearing uniforms a few years ago, Chen said, and petty theft is usually the worst crime they have to investigate. So why is she here studying law enforcement to become a better cop in China?
"Our city is changing," said Chen, 29. "We have to learn new methods and new technology . . . as we get more modern and international crimes."
Chen has enrolled at August Vollmer University in Orange, a small school where law enforcement officials study criminal justice.
In her hometown, she works with crime statistics and computers for the Police Science Society of China, an elite group researching law enforcement. She also has worked as a patrol officer at Beijing's Guangwai police station.
Chen hopes to return to China with insight into the country's law enforcement future by learning about crime in Orange and Los Angeles counties.
What Southern Californians consider a plague, she sees as a sort of gold mine. She wants to explore the variety of crime that Southern California has to offer to students of criminology, from elaborate fraud to drug smuggling.
Her sponsor, Howard Earle, the dean of graduate studies at August Vollmer, met her in Beijing. Chen was a translator for Earle, a former Los Angeles assistant sheriff, at an international policing conference there in 1993.
Earle was intrigued by her research into community policing and the fear of crime, as well as her easy manner and penchant for American trivia. He began the long process of getting her a visa, paid for her enrollment at the university and lined up internships with local law enforcement agencies.
During her year in the United States, she and Earle will co-author a book on international policing and plan to examine the effects of different laws and policing policies around the world. For example, Earle said, they may analyze the effects of legalized drugs in Holland and how police deal with drug use.
Chen said many of her fellow Chinese are desperately poor, but she has seen China become more modern and move toward a freer economy in the past five to 10 years. Beijing is becoming a more international city, Chen said. Corporate crime and high-tech computer hacking are on the horizon, changing the nature of police work.
Just last week, the Clinton Administration announced that it would impose tariffs on China if it does not crack down on counterfeit American products.
Currently, most Beijing police officers focus on deterring crime, Chen said. They track movement of citizens into and out of districts, keeping information on their whereabouts. They can spot people who are strangers in certain areas, Chen said.
"There are family ties that are an informal control," said Chen. "People live so close together, everyone knows when someone's done a bad thing." That alone helps prevent crime, she said.
Chen hopes to return to police work when she goes back to China. Although she enjoys research, she wants to work in the field as well. She would like to go on patrol and investigate tougher cases, perhaps involving rape and prostitution.
"I want to handle some women's cases," said Chen, who has a 6-month-old son in China. "They need more women police to help other women."