Research Report Digest, Issue 2
In NIJ’s Research Report Digest, you will find brief descriptions of studies in various criminal justice disciplines, such as criminology and forensic sciences, and evaluations of technologies in the law enforcement and corrections fields.
This issue includes reports based on NIJ-funded research that were added to the NCJRS Abstracts Database from October-December 2010.
Find research reports related to:
Spreading the Wealth: The Effect of the Distribution of Income and Race/Ethnicity Across Households and Neighborhoods on City
Author: John R. Hipp
This research explores the trajectories of crime rates in 14 similar areas, mostly cities, that have seen dramatic population growth since World War II. It focuses on the composition and distribution of economic resources, race and ethnicity in each area. The areas are Atlanta, Denver, Houston, Las Vegas, Miami, Orange County (Calif.), Orlando, Phoenix, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Silicon Valley (Santa Clara), St. Petersburg, and Tampa. The data and discussion contribute to the understanding of the effect of race, ethnicity and economic resources on crime rates at the city and county level.
The Memphis Strategic Approaches to Community Safety Initiatives (SACSI) Project: A Case Study
Authors: James R. Coldren, Jr. and David R. Forde
The SACSI team collected data to pinpoint the nature and extent of the sexual assault problem before developing problem-solving initiatives. The team examined offense, arrest and victimization data covering the five years before SACSI started and also studied geographic (crime mapping) patterns. The team collaborated with various federal, state and local agencies and organizations to build local partnerships and explore the sexual assault problem through qualitative research methods. The team then developed a three-pronged approach to reducing sexual assaults, incorporating suppression (law enforcement), intervention and prevention approaches.
Contingencies in the Long-Term Impact of Work on Crime Among Youth
Author: Shun-Yung Kevin Wang
The study describes “ladder jobs,” which have significant potential to be the start of an attractive career with a realistic possibility of upward movement on the status ladder, especially when cumulative experiences are credited. The findings show that ladder jobs had a significant crime-decreasing effect compared to other types of employment. A job that pays little but improves the chances of a long-term career is more effective in preventing delinquency than a job that pays comparatively well in the short term. This suggests that discussions about employment and internships for youth should consider long-term features of occupations, not only the immediate monetary gains.
Read the complete report Contingencies in the Long-Term Impact of Work on Crime Among Youth (pdf, 225 pages).
Potential of Redemption in Criminal Background Checks
Authors: Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura
In 2007, law enforcement agencies in the United States made more than 14 million arrests. As of December 31, 2006, state criminal history repositories contained more than 81 million criminal history records. Because of the increase in automation, by the end of 2006 about 91 percent of these criminal history records were accessible electronically. This has increased the ability of employers and others to conduct criminal background checks on potential employees and other people. At the same time, increased access to criminal history records means that people who have led a “clean” life since their arrest may find it difficult to get a job. The goal of this research project is to provide guidance on the issues surrounding the increased use of criminal background checks. The report discusses recent trends in the use of criminal background checks. It also addresses the lack of guidelines for employers to help them understand how the age of the criminal record relates to the level of risk of a new crime.
Read the complete report Potential of Redemption in Criminal Background Checks (pdf, 58 pages).
Crime and Victimization Among Hispanic Adolescents: A Multilevel Longitudinal Study of Acculturation and Segmented Assimilation
Authors: Chris L. Gibson and Holly Ventura Miller
Second-generation and sometimes third-generation Hispanics are more likely to report both offending and victimization compared to first-generation Hispanics. Few neighborhood differences were found. However, several individual-level characteristics were associated with crime and victimization. Exposure to delinquent peers and low self-control were predictive. Linguistic assimilation did not predict outcomes other than the frequency of offending, while victimization and offending did not vary significantly across neighborhoods. The authors draw from segmented assimilation theory to explore variation in delinquency and victimization, suggesting that immigrant youth acculturate differently depending on where they live. Those who acculturate within disadvantaged, inner-city contexts are more likely to experience downward assimilation (i.e., more involvement in crime). Those in neighborhoods with a high concentration of immigrants are less likely to experience downward assimilation because of the protective factors associated with ethnic enclaves.
Anticipating the Future Based on Analysis of the Past: Intercity Variation in Youth Homicide, 1984-2006
Authors: Angela Browne, Kevin J. Strom, Kelle Barrick, Kirk R. Williams, and Robert Nash Parker
The findings show that trends in homicide, robbery and aggravated assault for both juveniles and young adults followed the same general trend between 1984 and 2006. Arrest rates for lethal and nonlethal violence increased in the early years, followed by a significant downturn after the early 1990s, and then a subsequent and significant upturn in the more recent years of the period. Although some factors were consistently associated with youth violence across offense type, time, and analytic techniques, others were significant in only certain situations. Gang presence, gang activity and drug market activity were consistently associated with the escalation in homicides among juveniles and young adults.
The Course of Domestic Abuse among Chicago’s Elderly: Risk Factors, Protective Behaviors, and Police Intervention
Authors: Karen L. Amendola, Meghan G. Slipka, Edwin E. Hamilton, and Julie L. Whitman
The study found that elderly victims who had been visited by trained victimization officers in the Chicago Police Department (the “police sample”) were more likely to have at least one incident of subsequent abuse compared to those who experienced no police intervention (the “community sample”). However, for those in the police sample, the number of forms of abuse that reoccurred decreased. In addition, people in the police sample were more likely to have engaged in protective behaviors or to have requested services than those in the community sample. These findings suggest that intervention by officers who are trained to help elder abuse victims can lead to increased engagement in protective behaviors and eventually to a decline in the number of frequently occurring forms of abuse.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Sex Offender Registration and Notification Policies for Reducing Sexual Violence against Women
Authors: Elizabeth J. Letourneau, Jill S. Levenson, Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Debajyoti Sinha, and Kevin S. Armstrong
The study found an 11-percent decrease in first-time sex-crime arrests after 1995, the year in which South Carolina set up its sex offender registration and notification (SORN) program. This decrease occurred during 1995-2005 compared to the pre-SORN period (1990-1994). There was significant decline in arrests in the six years after 1999 (the year in which South Carolina set up its online sex offender registry), suggesting that online notification did not create general deterrence for adult sex crimes. Across a mean follow-up of 8.4 years, 8 percent of registered sex offenders had new sex offense charges and 4 percent had new sex-crime convictions. Registered sex offenders did not reoffend more than nonregistered sex offenders. The study infers that SORN, as carried out in South Carolina, seemingly has had a positive impact on general deterrence in averting about three new first-time sex-crime cases each month. However, the state’s SORN policy has had no effect on deterring the risk of sexual recidivism.
Risks of Violence in Major Daily Activities: United States, 2003-2005
Author: Andrew Michael Lemieux
The purpose of this Ph.D. dissertation is to quantify the risk of violence Americans are exposed to when they visit different places and engage in different activities. To date, there is limited research about how dangerous one type of place is compared to another or how dangerous different activities are. This paper is an application of three closely related criminological theories linked to the ecology of crime: the routine activity approach; the lifestyle perspective and environmental criminology. Using victimization and time-use data from the years 2003-2005, the risk of violence in numerous types of places and activities is quantified. The risk of violence Americans face at home is substantially lower than in other locations. The data also show that an individual’s risk of violence in the home is dependent on the activity. Sleeping is the safest activity; the risk of violence during other activities at home is 12 times higher than it is for sleeping.
Read the complete report Risks of Violence in Major Daily Activities: United States, 2003-2005 (pdf, 549 pages).
Multiple Perspectives on Battered Mothers and their Children Fleeing to the United States for Safety: A Study of Hague Convention
Authors: Jeffrey L. Edleson, Taryn Lindhorst, Gita Mehrotra, William Vesneski, Luz Lopez, and Sudha Shetty
This report focuses on women who experienced abuse overseas and came to the United States to protect themselves and their children, but who then faced civil actions in U.S. state or federal courts for child abduction under international legal agreements. Researchers interviewed mothers around the world, their attorneys and their husbands’ attorneys. The study found that U.S. authorities and courts often send children back to the care of the allegedly abusive fathers in the home country. Mothers and children faced great hardship after a Hague Convention decision, including hefty legal fees.
Computational Methods for Handwritten Questioned Document Examination
Author: Sargur N. Srihari
Questioned document (QD) examination involves the comparison and analysis of documents, printing instruments, and writing instruments to identify or eliminate people as the source. Questions about documents arise in research, business, and finance, as well as in civil and criminal trials. A significant part of QD examination concerns handwriting. The goal of this project was to develop computational approaches such as algorithms, statistical models, and software for two forms of handwriting: extended writing (e.g., a paragraph or page of writing) and signatures on paper documents. The tools developed showed their effectiveness in four areas: establishing that handwriting of twins can be distinguished; providing an upper bound on the error rate of expert human examiners; automatically extracting frequencies of various letter formations for use in forensic testimony, and determining authorship of a historical document.
Read the complete report Computational Methods for Handwritten Questioned Document Examination (pdf, 46 pages).
A Statistical Validation of the Individuality of Guns Using High Resolution Topographical Images of Bullets
Author: Intelligent Automation, Inc.
Barrel markings on the bullets fired from a gun are typically unique to that gun. This study extended that premise to most barrels. Barrels made by Bryco were the notable exception. For Bryco barrels, the variability found on bullets fired by the same barrel was so extreme that the feasibility of a reliable identification of the firearm from a bullet it fired was questionable. The study concluded that the ability to find out that a given bullet passed through a specific barrel depends on the individual barrel itself and not only on its brand. In addition, the automated analysis used in this study is not representative of that of a trained firearms examiner. A trained firearms examiner will perform better because humans have the ability to perform pattern matching, and this ability is difficult for an automated system to reproduce.
The Role and Impact of Forensic Evidence in the Criminal Justice Process
Authors: Joseph Peterson, Ira Sommers, Deborah Baskin, and Donald Johnson
For the five jurisdictions analyzed, the study found the collection of forensic evidence from crime scenes and victims was extensive in homicides and, to a lesser extent, rapes. However, the evidence was significantly more limited for assaults, burglaries and robberies. Except for homicides, few of the reported offenses involved forensic evidence sent to crime laboratories (89 percent for homicides; 32 percent for rapes; and less than 15 percent for assaults, burglaries and robberies). The overall percentage was also low for reported offenses that had physical evidence examined in crime labs. Except for homicides (81 percent), it was less than 20 percent for rape cases and less than 10 percent for assaults, burglaries, and robberies. However, examination rates for evidence sent to labs exceeded 70 percent, except for rape cases (58 percent). These findings suggest that criminal justice officials screen much of the forensic evidence to decide which evidence to send to crime labs for analysis, giving them significant discretion in deciding evidence-examination priorities and practices.
Read the complete report The Role and Impact of Forensic Evidence in the Criminal Justice Process (pdf, 151 pages) .
Knife and Saw Toolmark Analysis in Bone: A Manual Designed for the Examination of Criminal Mutilation and Dismemberment
Authors: Steven A. Symes, Erin N. Chapman, Christopher W. Rainwater, Luis L. Cabo, and Susan M.T. Myster
This project developed and presents standard definitions, documentation protocols and analytical methods to enable more accurate and reliable analyses of saw marks in bone and other hard tissues. To produce these instructional materials, the project first relied on the creation, analysis and documentation of a comparative sample of human remains cut with various serrated tools covering the main commercial saw types and classes. The design and evaluation of the instructional materials also relied on a dissemination strategy that included a series of lectures the authors delivered to various forensic professionals. The experimental part of the project also examined some common misconceptions about the evidentiary value of some major saw-mark elements.
Forensic Glass Analysis by LA-ICP-MS: Assessing the Feasibility of Correlating Windshield Composition and Supplier
Authors: Abbegayle J. Dodds, Edward M. Pollock, and Donald P. Land
Before conducting this research, the research team validated the use of solution nebulization and laser ablation - inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for forensic casework in glass elemental analysis. The primary research determined that some windshield panes examined displayed variation, and about half were composed of significantly different panes of glass. The study also found that the compositional variation of windshields from individual manufacturers was much smaller than that found in the total population of automotive windshields. This finding suggests the potential for “fingerprinting” glass produced by specific manufacturers. Using elemental data to provide investigators with supposed sources of evidentiary glass fragments is an attractive possibility, since this is a common event in hit-and-run offenses.
Elemental Analysis of Glass and Paint Materials by Laser Ablation Inductively Coupled Plasma Mass Spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS)
for Forensic Application
Authors: Tatiana Trejos, Waleska Castro, and Jose R. Almirall
This research expands on prior work to develop a database for the analysis of many glass samples. The results of the studies described in this report yield excellent precision and low bias for the analysis of glass samples found in forensic casework. The study also addressed glass sample size.
Development and Implementation of Forensic Science Research and Training Programs at the University at Albany’s Northeast
Regional Forensic Institute (NERFI)
Authors: Donald D. Orokos, John Hicks, Igor Lednev, Ron Stevens, Tomek Strzalkowski, and Sanjay Goel
This document reports on the cost-free instruction and travel funded through this grant. The University of Albany’s Northeast Regional Forensic Institute trained 104 people in DNA analysis and management assessment. Four topics were available: forensic DNA training leadership assessment and research; judicial awareness of forensic science; Chat Minder: a safe Internet tool for parents, and Capitol region cybercrime partnerships.
Read the complete report Development and Implementation of Forensic Science Research and Training Programs at the University at Albany's Northeast Regional Forensic Institute (NERFI) (pdf, 255 pages).
Application of Laser-Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy to Forensic Science: Analysis of Paint and Glass Samples
Author: Michael E. Sigman
The study results show that laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS), when used with refractive index (RI), provides high (more than 90 percent) discriminating power for several glass types. These include beverage glass, automobile headlamp glass, and float glass from automobile side and rear windows. LIBS and RI showed a lower discriminating power for automobile side-mirror glass, which is commonly found in forensic casework. A comparative assessment of LIBS and laser ablation - inductively coupled plasma - mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) for several common sets of glass samples found that LA-ICP-MS is a more discriminating analytical technique, although the analysis time is longer. The authors caution that this study did not address the use of the changing dual-pulse LIBS techniques, which may prove to be more discriminating for glass analysis.
Quantifying the Dermatoglyphic Growth Patterns in Children through Adolescence Author: J.K. Schneider
The project’s objective was to research friction ridge patterns during a rapid period of growth (such as that found in children through adolescence). The researchers wanted to find out whether a commonality of growth exists and to develop a statistically valid mathematical model for predicting change during a time of rapid growth. The goal was to improve the likelihood of matching a person’s adolescent or adult fingerprints to his or her fingerprints captured during childhood. The researchers found that growth patterns of fingerprints do not follow a general pattern and are so individualistic that it is impossible to develop a single map or family of maps that accurately model minutiae pattern growth.
Read the complete report Quantifying the Dermatoglyphic Growth Patterns in Children through Adolescence (pdf, 57 pages).
National Institute of Justice Visiting Fellowship: Police Investigation of Rape-Roadblocks and Solutions
Author: Martin D. Schwartz
This report discusses (1) an exploratory study of the attitudes and experiences of active and experienced police rape investigators and (2) a pencil-and-paper study of active-duty patrol officers. One conclusion from the findings is that most police officers are aware of the basic, well known “rape myths” and the “politically correct” answers that challenge those myths. Still, the findings show that despite many years of training, many police officers still hold attitudes and opinions that undermine their ability to treat rape victims well. Although the objective of this study was to identify best practices in police investigations of rape, the study infers there are no best practices worthy of widespread use. The study recommends that police training in rape investigations be based in solid research and be related to the types of cases most often faced (i.e., acquaintance rapes rather than stranger rapes).
Long-Term Effects of Law Enforcement’s Post-9/11 Focus on Counterterrorism and Homeland Security
Authors: Lois M. Davis, Michael Pollard, Kevin Ward, Jeremy M. Wilson, Danielle M. Varda, Lydia Hansell, and Paul Steinberg
This study examined the long-term adjustments that large, urban law enforcement agencies made to accommodate the renewed focus on counterterrorism and homeland security. The researchers present case studies of five major law enforcement agencies in major metropolitan areas to understand their experiences in these areas post-9/11.
Less-Lethal Operational Scenarios for Law Enforcement
Author: Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies, Applied Research Laboratory of the Pennsylvania State University
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization research organization examined the feasibility and utility of nonlethal weapons (NLW) in peacekeeping. In September 1999, a policy on NLW was approved for the NATO SAS-035 study. In 2004, the Third International Law Enforcement Forum explored less-lethal weapons database development; effectiveness and injury potential; tactics and use; and common standards for development, testing, training and use. The resulting 14 recommendations from this forum contained four that were directly related to the work contained in the NATO study.
Read the complete report Less-Lethal Operational Scenarios for Law Enforcement (pdf, 23 pages)