Research Report Digest, Issue 13
In NIJ's Research Report Digest, you will find brief descriptions of studies in a variety of criminal justice disciplines, such as crime and forensic sciences, and evaluations of technologies used 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 July to September 2013.
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Examination of the "Marriage Effect" on Desistance From Crime Among U.S. Immigrants (PDF, 119 pages)
Authors: Bianca E. Bersani, Ph.D., and Stephanie DiPietro, Ph.D.
The so-called "marriage effect" suggests that marriage inhibits criminal offending and promotes desistance from crime because it fosters informal social control and limits time spent with nonconventional peers. This study merges two strands of criminological research—the immigration-crime nexus and life-course criminology—to examine whether and to what extent marriage is related to offending among first- and second-generation immigrants. The authors found that second-generation immigrants marry at rates comparable to their white, Hispanic and first-generation immigrant peers. Also, although marriage is negatively related to crime for both first- and second-generation immigrants, the "marriage effect" is particularly strong for second-generation immigrants.
Automating the Differential Digestion Method in the Analysis of Sexual Assault Cases Using Selective Degradation (PDF, 48 pages)
Authors: Helena G. Wong, Jennifer S. Mihalovich, and George Sensabaugh
Separating sperm from nonsperm cells in sexual assault evidence samples requires a method known as differential digestion. Applying a degradative agent to selectively remove nonsperm DNA from mixed samples would allow the differential digestion process to become automated, saving time and labor. In this study, researchers developed an automated differential digestion protocol using a DNase I digestion step. This initially led to lower DNA yield and inferior short tandem repeat (STR) DNA typing compared to conventional differential digestion. By optimizing the concentrations of magnesium and calcium and the quantity of DNase used, researchers increased both the DNA yield and the quality of the STR DNA typing results. Study findings showed that all samples subjected to the selective degradation method produced results similar to samples processed by the conventional method. STR DNA typing data from all examined samples illustrated that the automated differential digestion protocol with selective degradation using DNase I can produce sperm fractions with no or minimal epithelial cell carryover.
Collecting DNA at Arrest: Policies, Practices, and Implications, Final Technical Report (PDF, 126 pages)
Authors: Julie E. Samuels, Elizabeth H. Davies, and Dwight B. Pope
This report examines arrestee DNA laws, their implementation, and their effects on agency operations and public safety. Twenty-eight states and the federal government have enacted laws authorizing DNA collection from individuals arrested for or charged with certain offenses, and the practice has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. Arrestee laws vary across states, particularly with respect to qualifying offenses, point of collection and analysis, and expungement procedures, and they impose significant administrative and analytic burdens on state laboratories and collecting agencies. Researchers found that arrestee DNA laws have contributed additional profiles to CODIS and led to additional hits, but they could not estimate the number of hits for which arrestee laws were solely responsible.
Development of Advanced Raman Spectroscopy Methods and Databases for the Evaluation of Trace Evidence and the Examination of Questioned Documents-Phase II (PDF , pages)
Authors: John R. Lombardi, Marco Leona, Patrick Buzzini, and Philip Antoci
The goal of this research was to enhance the use of Raman spectroscopy and nondestructive surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) analysis techniques to evaluate trace evidence and examine questioned documents. The researchers assembled a database of spectra for forensic applications and optimized new techniques for nondestructive SERS analysis. Phase I demonstrated that SERS can be used to identify organic colorants in inks, paints and textile fibers. Phase II used Raman spectroscopy to evaluate trace evidence and examine questioned documents. The authors plan to expand the database to include spectra from dyes, pigments, inks and controlled substances and several as yet uninvestigated compounds such as heroin, cocaine, fentanyl, methadone, oxycodone, and natural and synthetic cannabinoids.
Development of a Sampling System to Stabilize Ignitable Liquid Residues in Fire Debris (PDF, 46 pages)
Authors: Dee Turner, John Pichtel, John McKillip, and John Goodpaster
This project explored two approaches to preventing the microbial degradation of ignitable liquid residues in soil samples collected at fire scenes. First, the authors sought to inhibit or eliminate the microbes naturally present in soil by developing a preservative solution of triclosan, an anti-microbial agent that can preserve ignitable liquid residues for up to 30 days. They anticipate that the solution will improve both sample integrity and the ability to accurately identify an ignitable liquid in a fire debris sample that contains soil. The authors also sought to increase the recovery of ignitable liquids and avoid degradation by creating a sampling container that could immediately partition ignitable liquid residues from fire debris. However, discrimination effects and a lack of improved recovery compared to traditional methods made this approach unattractive.
Digitizing Device to Capture Track Impression (PDF, 69 pages)
Authors: Mihran Tuceryan and Jiang Yu Zheng
The authors built a digitizing device that scans impression evidence and generates a high-resolution 3-D surface image and a co-registered 2-D color image. The method uses active, structured lighting methods to extract the 3-D shape information of a surface. The prototype device uses an assembly of two line laser lights and a high-definition (HD) video camera that is moved at a precise and constant speed along a mechanical actuator rail to scan the evidence. The authors also developed prototype software for image processing, calibration and surface depth calculations. The resulting 3-D image has a resolution of 0.0438 mm in the Y-axis (along the rail motion direction), 0.2369 mm along the X-axis (limited by the HD video camera's resolution) and 0.5 mm along the Z-axis (depth). The resulting 2-D color image has a resolution of 1900 pixels in the X-axis direction and up to 4500 pixels in the Y-axis direction (depending on the speed of the rail motion and length of the scan). The Y-axis resolution can be increased to up to 9000 pixels using super-resolution techniques. The scan of a long tire track (about 1.75 m) at the slowest scan speed takes about 20 minutes, and processing the resulting video to generate the 3-D image and the 2-D color image takes less than one hour on a personal computer.
Dimensional Review of Scales for Forensic Photography (PDF, 48 pages)
Authors: Massimiliano Ferrucci, Theodore D. Doiron, Robert Thompson, John P. Jones, II, Susan M. Ballou, and Janice A. Neiman
The forensic science community recognizes the American Board of Forensic Odontology No. 2 Bitemark Scale as a reliable and accurate tool for providing a geometrical reference in the photographic documentation of evidence. However, studies of commercially available scales show a lack of consistency in manufacturing processes and adherence to the standard. This study evaluated the quality of commercially available photo scales, documented manufacturing processes, and suggested pathways for establishing standards for forensic photo scales that will ensure accuracy and instill user confidence.
DNA Analysis of LCN Samples: Towards Fully Integrated STR Profiling (PDF, 45 pages)
Author: Eugene Tan
This research aimedto develop two microfluidic components for the analysis of low copy number (LCN) DNA samples. Researchers selected and tested four post-polymerase chain reaction (PCR) cleanup methodologies, designed and tested a single sample biochip, optimized the injection protocol, and tested the LCN profiling system with forensically relevant samples. The results show that a short tandem repeat typing instrument that combines DNA extraction, purification, amplification and separation has the potential to be faster, more sensitive, less costly and less labor-intensive than currently available technologies, and to improve both the quality and throughput of LCN profiles. Such an instrument could also benefit the analysis of trace DNA evidence in intelligence operations.
DNA Assay Development and Validation for Pigment-Related Features to Assist in the Identification of Missing Persons and Human Remains (PDF, 53 pages)
Author: Elisa Wurmbach, Ph.D.
The goal of this project was to optimize and validate a multiplex assay based on nuclear DNA that can help identify unidentified human remains by predicting pigmentation traits. Eight markers were selected to describe the eye and skin color of an individual. These markers were incorporated into a multiplex-SNP assay to create a standardized forensic test. The use of DNA analysis to predict visible pigment-related features of unidentified human remains will make it easier to gather identifying information from a decedent.
Face Annotation at the Macro-scale and the Micro-scale: Tools, Techniques, and Applications in Forensic Identification (PDF, 8 pages)
Authors: Patrick J. Flynn and Anil K. Jain
The authors developed a facial mark detection method that provides both location and scale information for facial marks. The report shows the utility of facial marks in face image retrieval tasks using a large-scale face image database. The proposed facial mark-based matching scheme can be combined with commercial off-the-shelf face matchers to improve overall face-matching accuracy. The improvements in face-matching accuracy are shown with both a general face image database and an identical-twin face image database. The authors proposed a conditional filtering scheme to reduce the retrieval time on a large-scale face image database. This study on symbolic query-based face image retrieval shows the utility of facial marks when a query image is not available. Although the study shows a number of cases where facial marks can be used for face image retrieval tasks, the instability of facial marks is still a major obstacle to using facial marks in practice.
Forensic Drug Identification by Gas Chromatography—Infrared Spectroscopy (PDF, 63 pages)
Authors: Robert Shipman, Trisha Conti, Tara Tighe, and Eric Buel
Infrared analysis is already a powerful analytic tool used in most forensic laboratories, and the authors believed that coupling infrared detection with a separation technique would provide a valuable instrument for forensic labs. To that end, the authors built a new type of chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) instrument to aid in analyzing samples for suspected drugs, which proved to be a powerful forensic tool for providing complimentary data to GC/MS. The equipment achieved acceptable levels of sensitivity, linearity and reproducibility using the GC split-less injection mode, and concern about cross contaminating samples on the collection disk was dispelled. Through these studies, the instrument was verified for casework analysis and is being used in the authors' laboratory.
Improvements in Laser Ablation-Inductively Coupled Plasma-Mass Spectrometry for Forensic Analysis (PDF, 76 pages)
Authors: Megan L. Mekoli, Jonna Berry, Stanley J. Bajic, and R. S. Houk
Laser ablation-inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (LA-ICP-MS) is a minimally destructive method for analyzing trace elements in solids. This study evaluated the efficacy of using LA-ICP-MS to analyze different types of tape and copper wire to identify and quantify trace elements not readily amenable to existing methods.
The study found that some elements—especially those at low concentrations—were distributed heterogeneously in the copper wire samples, which limited the method's applicability for very small samples. It also found that many brands of tape could be readily discriminated using this method. Study results show that principal components analysis methods that use biplots to determine which elements' signals contribute the most to overall signal variance can derive additional information from pairwise comparisons. Results from analysis of the copper wire samples did not show large differences in performance between conventional (ns) and short-pulse (fs) fiber lasers. However, the fs laser ablated through the tape samples very rapidly and removed some of the underlying substrate, which prevented a separate analysis of the tape's back and adhesive sides.
Radiographic Database for Estimating Biological Parameters in Modern Subadults (PDF, 59 pages)
Authors: Stephen Ousley, Suzanne Daly, Kathryn Frazee, and Kyra Stull
Current techniques in forensic anthropology for estimating fetuses', infants', and children's ages at death are of questionable validity due to a lack of data from modern and diverse groups and a lack of appropriate statistical methods. This project sought to establish a database of digital radiographs and demographic data from modern and diverse American fetuses, infants, and children and, to a limited degree, investigate methods of statistical analysis. A total of 44,220 radiographic images was assembled from 9,709 individuals, almost 4,000 of whom were x-rayed on multiple occasions at clinical offices. All major ethnic groups and ancestries in the United States are reasonably well represented. The radiographic collection has tremendous potential for research into age, sex and ancestry estimation methods; trauma analysis; and bone healing rates, and the database is expected to grow.
Raman Spectroscopy of Automotive and Architectural Paints: In situ Pigment Identification and Evidentiary Significance (PDF, 149 pages)
Authors: Christopher S. Palenik, Skip Palenik, Ethan Groves, and Jennifer Herb
This study evaluated Raman spectroscopy as a method for identifying and analyzing pigments in automotive and architectural paint samples and compared it with other analytical methods. It found that using Raman spectroscopy in conjunction with other analytical methods can enhance the forensic information obtained from colored paint and polymer evidence. The study demonstrated that Raman spectroscopy is useful for both paint analysis and general classification purposes, and it has its greatest potential as a fast screening tool and a high-level characterization and identification method. Even though it provided additional discrimination beyond currently used methods in only a handful of samples, this additional discrimination will be useful in cases that are subject to high levels of scrutiny, involve extremely small samples, or contain layers too thin to examine with Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy, and in cases where no comparison sample is available.
Research and Development of Impression Evidence (PDF, 40 pages)
Authors: Demos Athanasopoulos, Ph.D., Adam Dale, and Eric Sorrentino, M.S.
The ability of a casting agent to collect, preserve and resolve the fine-scale details of tool mark and impression evidence is important in criminalistics. This project aimed to establish an optimal formula composition of a Magneto-Rheological (MR) casting fluid, determine the limitations and benefits of using an MR solution as a casting fluid, and develop a method of creating 3-D images of casting impressions for permanent storage. The optimal MR fluid created durable high-resolution casts that enabled the visualization and analysis of small details not discernible on the original object.
Semi-Automated 3D Geo-Coding of Large Urban Structures for Deployment of Effective Emergency Response and Communication (PDF, 122 pages)
Authors: William Ribarsky, Ph.D., and Kalpathi Subramanian, Ph.D
The authors have developed an iPhone-based mobile application for first responders and emergency evacuations in urban settings. Using this technology, police officers can orient themselves in large buildings and determine the shortest route to any room or exit. Officers onsite can also transmit their positions to a command post and other involved officers. In addition, the command post can transmit precise directions to locate victims and perpetrators and to find vital equipment such as fire extinguishers and electrical closets.
Significance of Elemental Analysis from Trace Evidence (PDF, 70 pages)
Author: Jose Almirall
This research aimed to increase the scientific validity of probative information culled from trace evidence materials using elemental analysis. The study demonstrated that micro X-ray fluorescence and inductively coupled plasma-based analysis methods can clearly differentiate the elemental composition of glass samples manufactured in different plants or even in the same plant weeks, months or years apart. This level of differentiation can help investigators assign recovered fragments to a single source when several potential sources exist.
Smartphone Technology for Capturing Untreated Latent Fingerprints Feasibility Research (PDF, 98 pages)
Author: Tony Warren
This research tested the use of digital photography to capture images of untreated latent fingerprints. Its goal was to create a portable, handheld imaging device with spectral filters that could take photos of untreated latent fingerprints that are of similar quality to photos of dusted latent fingerprints. The authors developed a technique for collecting digital images of untreated latent fingerprints from specific substrates that could be used for forensic purposes by latent print examiners or by using Cogent's Automatic Fingerprint Identification System. The study found that using a digital imaging device with spectral filters is a viable and nondestructive method for identifying untreated latent fingerprints, which can be followed by dusting or chemical treatment, if required.
Spatio-Temporal Assessment of Exposure to Neighborhood Violence (PDF, 60 pages)
Authors: David S. Kirk, Margaret Hardy, and Jeffrey M. Timberlake
This study used longitudinal data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods to estimate the enduring and acute consequences of adolescents' exposure to neighborhood violence on both internalizing (depression and anxiety) and externalizing (aggression) problems. The authors found that such exposure has an acute and enduring effect on aggression but no effect on anxiety or depression. Although the enduring effect of violence exposure is due in part to changes in social cognition brought on by the exposure, other causal mechanisms may explain much of the relationship.
Courts and Corrections
Evaluation of Sex Offender Residency Restrictions in Michigan and Missouri (PDF, 95 pages)
Authors: Beth M. Huebner, Timothy S. Bynum, Jason Rydberg, Kimberly Kras, Eric Grommon, and Breanne Pleggenkuhl
This study documented the residences of sex and nonsex offenders before and after the implementation of residency restriction laws in Michigan and Missouri, described the collateral consequences of residency restrictions, and examined recidivism patterns before and after the laws were implemented. Study findings show a statistically nonsignificant decline in the number of sex offenders living in restricted areas such as near schools and daycare centers. Although all offenders in the study experienced difficulties in securing housing and employment, sex offenders faced additional challenges because of the residency restriction laws. The study did not substantiate a link between residency restrictions and recidivism.
Evaluation of the Second Chance Act (SCA) Adult Demonstration 2009 Grantees, Interim Report (PDF, 113 pages)
Authors: Ron D'Amico, Christian Geckeler, Jennifer Henderson-Frakes, Deborah Kogan, and Tyler Moazed
This implementation study evaluated the 10 grantees awarded Second Chance Act (SCA) funding in fiscal year 2009 to improve reentry services for adult offenders. It found that the grantees faced numerous challenges in developing effective program services, due in part to the difficulties of serving offenders and of designing and implementing evidence-based reentry programming. These challenges included training case managers in needs-based service planning and coordinating partner services. The grantees that overcame these challenges created strong foundations for sustainable systems change. They gained considerable experience in needs-based service planning and in coordinating pre- and post-release services, strengthened partnerships between government and community-based agencies, and came to embrace a rehabilitative philosophy on reentry.
Sex Offender Management, Treatment, and Civil Commitment: An Evidence Based Analysis Aimed at Reducing Sexual Violence (PDF, 82 pages)
Authors: Cynthia Calkins Mercado, Elizabeth Jeglic, Keith Markus, R. Karl Hanson, and Jill Levenson
This study aimed to provide a comprehensive, exploratory examination of program management, treatment, and recidivism of sex offenders in New Jersey. It provided normative data on a large sample of sex offenders, determined which sex offenders were selected for treatment and on what criteria, examined the effect of treatment on recidivism, and compared sex offenders committed as sexually violent predators with those not selected for commitment.
Testing the Effects of New York's Domestic Violence Courts: A Statewide Impact Evaluation (PDF, 101 pages)
Authors: Amanda B. Cissner, Melissa Labriola, and Michael Rempel
Despite having similar structures, domestic violence courts lack a common set of goals and policies, which makes comparisons between courts difficult. Because previous evaluations have been conducted on individual courts, it is unclear whether domestic violence courts produce better outcomes than other types of courts. This study of New York's domestic violence courts demonstrates a modest positive impact on recidivism among convicted offenders. Domestic violence courts are most effective at reducing recidivism and addressing victims' needs when they prioritize deterrence and implement specific policies that sanction offenders' noncompliance.
Dating Violence Among Latino Adolescents (DAVILA) Study (PDF, 208 pages)
Authors: Chiara Sabina, Ph.D., Carlos A. Cuevas, Ph.D., and Kristin A. Bell, M.A.
This study examines various forms of dating violence victimization, including physical, sexual, psychological and stalking dating violence, experienced by Latina/Latino youth in the past year. It analyzes additional forms of victimization that adolescent victims may experience, the formal and informal help-seeking efforts of Latina/Latino youth, the effectiveness of services, barriers to help-seeking, and the importance of cultural factors for this population. This study also assesses psychosocial outcomes of victimization, including both psychological consequences and delinquency behaviors, and evaluates the moderating effect of protective factors on the relationship between victimization and negative outcomes.
Results suggest that Latina/Latino youth experience significant comorbid victimization and will most likely seek help from friends rather than from formal outlets. When they use formal resources, these youth turn to their schools first. The authors recommend using informal help-seeking as a gateway to formal help. The role of Latina/Latino orientation and social support is important in diminishing the risk of being victimized and the negative impact of interpersonal violence among these youth.
Review of the Findings From Project D.A.T.E.: Risky Relationships and Teen Dating Violence Among At-Risk Adolescents (PDF, 237 pages)
Authors: N. Dickon Reppucci, Ph.D., Barbara Oudekerk, Ph.D., Lucy Guarnera, B.A., Alison Nagel, B.A., Cristina Reitz-Krueger, M.A., Tammi Walker, J.D., and Todd Warner, M.A.
Project D.A.T.E. (Demand Appreciation, Trust, and Equality) investigated risk and protective factors related to teen dating violence and relationship outcomes within a single relationship and across multiple relationships. The project explored how early abusive relationships can set patterns that repeat themselves in later abusive relationships and how age gaps between romantic partners might contribute to victimization and other negative outcomes. The study found that low-income adolescents who receive services show high rates of abuse in their earliest relationships and continue to be significantly at risk for abuse in subsequent relationships, despite describing these relationships as positive in many ways.
Series: Study Group on the Transitions Between Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Crime
This series of six final technical reports presents findings from the National Institute of Justice Study Group on the Transitions between Juvenile Delinquency and Adult Crime. The series presents the latest research findings and information about criminal career patterns, special categories of serious and violent offenders, explanations for offending, contextual influences, and prediction and risk/needs assessments. The series also considers the interaction between the U.S. juvenile and criminal justice systems, effective justice system responses to young offenders, approaches to prevention and intervention with juvenile and young adult offenders, and research and policy recommendations.
- Bulletin 1: From Juvenile Delinquency to Young Adult Offending (PDF, 39 pages)
Authors: Rolf Loeber, David P. Farrington, and David Petechuk
- Bulletin 2: Criminal Career Patterns (PDF, 34 pages)
Authors: Alex R. Piquero, J. David Hawkins, Lila Kazemian, and David Petechuk
- Bulletin 3: Explanations for Offending (PDF, 43 pages)
Authors: Terence P. Thornberry, Peggy C. Giordano, Christopher Uggen, Mauri Matsuda, Ann S. Masten, Erik Bulten, Andrea G. Donker, and David Petechuk
- Bulletin 4: Prediction and Risk/Needs Assessment (PDF, 45 pages)
Authors: Robert D. Hoge, Gina Vincent, and Laura Guy
- Bulletin 5: Young Offenders and an Effective Response in the Juvenile and Adult Justice Systems: What Happens, What Should Happen, and What We Need to Know (PDF, 51 pages)
Authors: James C. Howell, Barry C. Feld, Daniel P. Mears, David P. Farrington, Rolf Loeber, and David Petechuk
- Bulletin 6: Changing Lives: Prevention and Intervention to Reduce Serious Offending (PDF, 56 pages)
Authors: Brandon C. Welsh, Mark W. Lipsey, Frederick P. Rivara, J. David Hawkins, Steve Aos, Meghan E. Pee, and David Petechuk
Technology, Teen Dating Violence and Abuse, and Bullying (PDF, 198 pages)
Authors: Janine M. Zweig, Ph.D., Meredith Dank, Ph.D., Pamela Lachman, and Jennifer Yahner
New data on teen dating violence has found that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) teenagers are at much greater risk of dating abuse than their heterosexual counterparts. Transgender teens are especially vulnerable. This study provides an in-depth examination of dating violence and abuse as related to sexual orientation and gender identity. Researchers surveyed 3,745 youth in 7th to 12th grades in New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, six percent of whom identified as LGBT. Of the LGBT respondents, 43 percent reported being victims of physical dating violence, compared to 29 percent of heterosexual youth, and 59 percent reported emotional abuse, compared to 46 percent of heterosexual youth. Additionally, 37 percent reported digital abuse and harassment, compared to 26 percent of heterosexual youth, and 23 percent reported sexual coercion, compared to 12 percent of heterosexual youth.