Research Report Digest, Issue 10

June 2013

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 that are 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 Oct.-Dec. 2012.

Find research reports related to:


A Comprehensive Investigation of the Role of the Individuals, the Immediate Social Environment, and Neighborhoods in Trajectories of Adolescent Antisocial Behavior, Final Technical Report (pdf, 84 pages)
Author: Christopher J. Sullivan

This study analyzed the development of adolescent antisocial behavior (substance abuse and delinquency) using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods. Substance use, including alcohol use, is an indicator of problem behavior. Youth who reported associating with more antisocial peers engage in delinquency and substance use at higher rates than those with fewer antisocial peers. The variation in the trajectories of antisocial behavior across neighborhoods is important. The strong effect of peers on delinquency, along with the finding that the level of exposure to antisocial peers differs across neighborhoods, suggests that a portion of the effect might come from the concentration of delinquent peers in certain neighborhoods. Consequently, youth are subject to early environmental risk that persists over time.

Coroner Investigations of Suspicious Elder Deaths (pdf, 95 pages)
Authors: Laura Mosqueda and Aileen Wiglesworth

This study examined California’s decision-making process in the investigation of suspicious deaths of elderly persons. At least since 1999, coroners and medical examiners in California counties have participated in elder death review teams. The teams study and learn from suspicious deaths of elderly persons and try to improve communication among public agencies. The current study confirmed a finding of elder death review teams: coroner and medical examiner offices are failing to assume jurisdiction over elder deaths that should be investigated. The study revealed other concerns as well. Some agencies do not investigate all accidental deaths. There are problems with getting information from reporting parties already at the death scene. The coroner and medical examiner agencies have no data collection standards. The authors conclude that the science of elder death investigation is unlikely to advance if coroners and medical examiners are not investigating suspicious deaths. Also, reporting parties as well as the coroners and medical examiners do not receive training on what little is known about signs and factors associated with caregiver neglect and elder abuse. Many coroners and medical examiners are biased against investigating elder deaths because a natural death is more likely with advanced age. Finally, budget pressures and heavy workloads increase the likelihood that coroners and medical examiners will initially assume that a natural death is likely when the deceased is an elderly person.

Essays on the Spatial Clustering of Immigrants and Internal Migration within the United States (pdf, 159 pages)
Author: Matthew Howard Ruther

This dissertation, supported in part by an NIJ grant, presents the results of a study that explored immigrant concentration and homicide mortality rates at the neighborhood level in Los Angeles County. The study found that higher immigrant concentration was associated with reduced homicide mortality at the neighborhood level, even after adjusting for the neighborhood structural factors commonly associated with homicide. It also shows that increased concentration of foreign-born populations was associated with decreases in the homicide rates at the county level. The study also explored the internal migration patterns of Puerto Ricans in the United States and compared the migration patterns of those born in the United States to those born in Puerto Rico. The analysis found that immigrants born in Puerto Rico were less mobile than Puerto Ricans born in this country who were second- and later-generation residents of the United States. In addition, Puerto Ricans born in this country were less likely to be influenced by the presence of Puerto Rican communities when making migration decisions, compared to their first-generation counterparts.

Evaluation of Youth Gang Drug Intervention/Prevention Programs for Female Adolescents (pdf, 482 pages)
Authors: Katherine Williams, Marcia I. Cohen, and David Curry

This study evaluated three drug intervention and prevention programs aimed at gang-involved female African-American and Latina adolescents. The evaluation found that the programs had very different styles of organization and implementation. Each focused primarily on providing services to individual youth and their families. They had evaluation plans that contained both process and outcome components and plans for conducting local evaluations. The programs focused on girls at risk of gang involvement and delinquency, and disseminated information to populations of noninvolved girls. Two of the three programs saw no significant program effects for delinquency reduction among the participants.

Expanding the Scope of Research on Recent Crime Trends (pdf, 87 pages)
Authors: Eric P. Baumer, Richard Rosenfeld, and Kevin T. Wolff

This project aimed to improve the data infrastructure that supports crime-trends research by compiling the most commonly referenced datasets and measures in a centralized location. The project also illustrated the utility of the resulting data archive by addressing several research issues, such as creating a uniform set of analyses across states, counties and cities. Researchers assessed the effects of economic conditions on recent crime trends. They also analyzed key criminal justice features on recent crime trends that have not been widely considered in prior research. These criminal justice features include the nature of policing and age- and crime-specific imprisonment rates. The analyses include models of overall homicide, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft and larceny. This report also identifies factors that influence crime rates, including criminal justice policies and practices.

Looking for a Hidden Population: Trafficking of Migrant Laborers in San Diego County (pdf, 155 pages)
Author: Sheldon X. Zhang

This study provided estimates of the prevalence of trafficking victimization among unauthorized migrant laborers in San Diego County and investigated the types of victimization they experienced. Labor trafficking is widespread among unauthorized Spanish-speaking migrant workers in San Diego County. Researchers estimate that more than 30 percent of them are trafficking victims and 55 percent are victims of abusive labor practices or gross exploitation. Study results show that violations and abuses from employers were far more common than those from smugglers during transportation. Also, there are marked variations across business sectors. Agriculture had the lowest proportion of violations and abuses, and construction and janitorial services had the highest proportion. Wage and employment conditions vary greatly among businesses. The fragmented labor market and diverse job requirements make it easy for unscrupulous employers to take advantage of unauthorized workers.

Monitoring Drug Epidemics and the Markets that Sustain Them Using ADAM II: Final Technical Report (pdf, 85 pages)
Authors: Andrew Golub, Henry Brownstein, and Eloise Dunlap

This study examined trends in the use of five widely abused drugs among arrestees at 10 geographically diverse locations from 2000 to 2010. The study used data from the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program reintroduced in 2007 (ADAM II) and its predecessor, the ADAM program. Analyses indicate that there is no simple relationship between the nature of individuals’ drug market purchases and trends in drug epidemics. The most pressing drug-related concern for most of the ADAM II locations was marijuana. At most ADAM locations, the crack epidemic has been declining for some time. One exception to this trend is in Sacramento, where prevention efforts are needed to discourage youth from crack use.


Classifying Drug Markets by Travel Patterns: Testing Reuter and MacCoun's Typology of Market Violence (pdf, 228 pages)
Author: Lallen Johnson

This dissertation examines the effect of travel distance on violence levels and crime rates in outdoor drug markets. It analyzed incident and arrest data that the Philadelphia Police Department collected between 2006 and 2010. The author found that public markets, those to which buyers and sellers travel from outside their own neighborhoods, were the most violent. Raw distance measures for buyers and sellers correlated with within-drug market violence after controlling for community demographics. A negative effect of socioeconomic status and violence held even when modeled with drug market variables. As the proportion of crack cocaine sales within drug markets increased, so too did violence. These findings suggest that understanding the travel patterns of buyers and sellers in drug markets helps to predict the different levels of violence found in neighboring markets.

Dating Abuse Prevention in Teens of Moms with Domestic Violence Protection Orders (pdf, 405 pages)
Authors: Vangie A. Foshee, Kim Dixon, Ling Yin-Chang, Susan Ennett, Beth Moracco, J. Michael Bowling, and Jennifer L. Moss

This study developed an intervention program to prevent dating abuse among 12- to 15-year-old teens exposed to domestic violence in their homes. The Families for Safe Dates program also conducted a small randomized trial that tested procedures for a future large randomized trial of the program. The program mailed booklets of information and interactive activities to study families for use at home. Two weeks after the mailing, a health educator followed up with a phone call. To obtain feedback, program managers invited 28 women who had been victims of domestic violence, who no longer lived with their abusers, and who had daughters ages 12-15 to participate in focus groups and interviews. This report includes results from piloting the recruitment procedures and presents lessons learned about recruitment, administration, data collection, and measures that will reform the methods of the randomized trial. The report also covers findings concerning the prevalence of multiple types of dating abuse victimization and perpetration among these teens along with the prevalence of bullying, sexual harassment, peer aggression, victimization and perpetration.

Forensic Sciences

Development of an Automated Holographic Optical Trapping Method for Sexual Assault Evidence Kit Analysis (pdf, 60 pages)
Authors: Tania Chakrabarty, Ryszard Duszak, Matthew Runyon, Byeong-Seok Chae, Osuola Akinbiyi, Evan Tanner, and Pamela Korda

The system described in this report combines two technologies — microfluidic and machine-vision technologies with holographic optical trapping. This method of analyzing evidence allows human sperm to be separated from epithelial cells and other contaminants in the sample to address the problem of DNA from both victim and perpetrator being included in the amplification process, which yields a mixed rather than a unique profile to match the assailant. The report discusses the reasons for the research (to address the evidence analysis backlog and the DNA carryover issue) and the goals of the research (to improve cell separation techniques, incorporate microfluidics for higher throughput and reduced reagent cost, and automate the handling of samples). The report presents information on the key laboratory methods used in the development efforts as well as the results of the development efforts using these methods. The report shows that significant progress has been made toward the development of a commercially viable automated system for isolating cells and handling evidence.

Development of an Expert System for Automated Forensic Mitochondrial DNA Data Analysis (pdf, 130 pages)
Authors: Rhonda K. Roby, Nicole R. Phillips, Jennifer L. Thomas, and Marc L. Sprouse

This project’s goal was to reduce the review time of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence analysis by using advanced expert system tools, while also decreasing subjectivity and error in haplotype reporting. The project focused on developing two software programs (eFAST Software v2.0 and STATIS) and improving an existing software data analysis package (MTexpert). The three programs are designed to communicate with one another to streamline analysis. With the three software programs linked together, mtDNA sequence data can be evaluated more quickly, with less error, and generate a report more easily.

High Throughput Mass Spectrometry to Exploit Genetic Differences in Same-Length STR Alleles (pdf, 116 pages)
Authors: Thomas A. Hall and Steven A. Hofstadler

The forensics community needs to derive maximum information from degraded DNA samples that can yield an incomplete set of STR (short tandem repeat) markers. Researchers analyzed sets of samples to compile nucleotide-polymorphic allele frequencies in the core CODIS STR loci and the standard forensic Y-STR loci. They also analyzed samples linked by extended family relationships. Because of this research, a new technology for analyzing forensic markers was developed, culminating in an STR assay and associated software prepared for commercialization.

Improving Evidence Screening Efficiency Using a Biological Processing Laboratory (pdf, 197 pages)
Author: Cecelia A. Crouse

This report documents the creation, procedures and benefits of Palm Beach County’s (Florida) biological processing laboratory, which screens crime-scene evidence for biological materials before it is submitted to the Forensic Biological Unit for DNA analysis. Although the Forensic Biological Unit decreased the case backlog from 1,700 in 2008 to 200 in 2009 by validating automation for high sample throughput, improving case submission policies and hiring additional staff, the turnaround time still lagged behind expectations. The Palm Beach County Law Enforcement Planning Council appointed a working group to determine how to decrease the DNA backlog and turnaround times. The working group determined that the biological processing lab should prescreen crime-scene evidence for biological material before it is submitted for DNA analysis. An evaluation found a 50-percent decrease in the time it takes to accept, process and report casework results.

QuantAssure Cassette Development Research (pdf, 43 pages)
Authors: Christian Carson, Peter Sutovsky, Glen Ford, Dale Dembrow, and Joseph Gorman

This research examined the development of a lateral flow cassette to identify the presence of sperm and semen in evidence samples. The effort to develop a polyclonal antibody by immunizing rabbits with the SPTRX3 exon5 peptide failed. The inability to develop SPTRX3 antibodies has prevented the intended effect of making the processing of rape kits in the forensic laboratory faster and more effective. BluePoint Bioscience immunized mice with the SPTRX3 exon1 peptide to develop a monoclonal antibody. This effort at SPTRX3 antibody development also failed, along with a second round of mouse immunizations. The inability to develop SPTRX3 antibodies ended the research project. However, the researchers believe that the concept of developing a lateral flow cassette to determine the presence of spermatozoa and semen in evidence samples remains viable.

Law Enforcement

Body Armor Use, Care, and Performance in Real World Conditions: Findings from a National Survey (pdf, 280 pages)
Authors: Heath Grant, Bruce Kubu, Bruce Taylor, Jack Roberts, Megan Collins, and Daniel J. Woods

This report describes research conducted regarding law enforcement officers’ use of body armor, state and local law enforcement agencies’ policies on the use of body armor, and exploratory research on the performance characteristics of older body armor compared to new body armor. The survey consisted of a national sample of sworn officers from randomly selected agencies that reflect a representative sample of agency sizes, types and regions of the country. Researchers conducted the study from the officer’s perspective, producing findings about the actual use of and attitudes toward body armor in addition to agency policies. Major findings are as follows. Policies requiring the use of body armor are increasingly prevalent. Although most officers appear to be knowledgeable about body armor care and maintenance practices, many do not understand certain aspects of recommended procedures and do not always adhere to recommended practices even when they do understand them. Ballistics testing of vests used in the field indicates that body armor may degrade.

A Collaborative Approach to Eliminating Street Drug Markets Through Focused Deterrence (pdf, 215 pages)
Authors: James M. Frabutt, Terri L. Shelton, Kristen L. Di Luca, Lynn K. Harvey, and Mary K. Hefner

This project conducted a process evaluation and outcome analysis of a focused deterrence strategy used by two midsized cities in North Carolina to combat open-air drug markets. The project’s main goals were to describe the steps of the street-drug intervention and measure the impact of the strategy. For law enforcement personnel, the use of a data-driven approach, engaging the police department internally and conducting a thorough and in-depth undercover investigation were important aspects of the strategy. Community residents who lived in the drug-impacted areas were able to help deter criminal behaviors in their own communities. Notified offenders were able to provide insights into the deterrence strategy.

Effects of Data Quality on Predictive Hotspot Mapping (pdf, 89 pages)
Authors: Timothy C. Hart and Paul A. Zandbergen

This study set out to determine the quality of typical geocoding techniques employed in crime mapping, characterize the effects of data quality on predictive hotspot mapping techniques, and determine the effects of analysis method, crime type and other factors on predictive hotspot mapping. The major finding from this study was that geocoding quality was affected by variations in crime type and in reference data used during the geocoding process. The study also found that no single hotspot analysis technique was more accurate than any other, and that many factors influenced the procedures that analysts used.

Gang Hot Spots Policing in Chicago: An Evaluation of the Deployment Operations Center Process (pdf, 117 pages)
Authors: Megan A. Alderden, Amie M. Schuck, Cody D. Stephens, Timothy A. Lavery, Rachel M. Johnston, and Dennis P. Rosenbaum

This study evaluated whether the Chicago Police Department’s Deployment Operations Center could reduce crime. Based on interviews with administrators and observations of meetings, researchers found that several goals were successfully implemented. These included communication of a department-wide mandate to focus on gang, drug and gun-related crime; analysis of intelligence and crime data; hot spot identification; communication of hot spot locations to police; redeployment of officers to hot spots and active suppression activities. However, despite considerable evidence that the process was implemented as designed, quantitative analyses showed that it did not reduce violent crime.

Homeland Security in Small Law Enforcement Jurisdictions: Preparedness, Efficacy, and Proximity to Big-City Peers (pdf, 111 pages)
Authors: George W. Burruss, Joseph A. Schafer, Matthew J. Giblin, and Melissa R. Haynes

This report addresses the need for law enforcement agencies from small jurisdictions to develop a coordinated approach to address any type of emergency that could affect homeland security. The approach should focus on increasing prevention, preparedness, response and recovery efforts for critical events. Previous research showed that many agencies in smaller jurisdictions were not as prepared and fully funded due to their proximity to larger, better-funded jurisdictions. Researchers surveyed small municipal agencies employing 25 or fewer full-time sworn officers. Survey results show that agencies that perceived they were at greater risk reported greater levels of preparedness. Other factors that increased the level of preparedness included the degree of attention paid to respected peers, trends in policing and small agency interactions with their closest large agency peer.

Legitimacy, Fear and Collective Efficacy in Crime Hot Spots: Assessing the Impacts of Broken Windows Policing Strategies on Citizen Attitudes (pdf, 209 pages)
Authors: David Weisburd, Joshua C. Hinkle, Christine Famega, and Justin Ready

The broken windows thesis suggests that eliminating visual signs of social disorder and neglect in hot spot areas will make residents feel safer and help them to exercise informal social controls that reduce disorderly and criminal behavior at hot spots. To test this theory, the study examined the impact of a 6-month broken windows policing program that cracked down on disorder in the targeted areas. These efforts sought to achieve an extra three hours per week of police presence in each of 55 targeted street segments. The study surveyed residents and businesses before and after the intervention to measure their fear of crime, perceived risk of victimization, police legitimacy, collective efficacy and perceived social and physical disorder. The findings do not support the belief that broken windows policing at hot spots will significantly reduce levels of fear of crime among people who live on the targeted streets. Also, residents’ views of police legitimacy did not improve, but their views of police were not undermined.

A Practitioner's Guide to the 2011 National Body Armor Survey of Law Enforcement Officers (pdf, 13 pages)
Authors: Bruce Taylor, Heath Grant, Bruce Kubu, Jack Roberts, Megan Collins, and Daniel J. Woods

This study shows that much progress has been made in the last decade in law enforcement agencies providing body armor to officers, developing policies to require its use and educating officers about why they need it and how to care for it. The study showed that proper care and maintenance procedures are vital. This study was conducted from the officer’s perspective, producing findings about the actual use of and attitudes toward body armor in addition to agency policies. The survey consisted of a national, representative sample of sworn officers from randomly selected agencies. The authors offered various findings and recommendations. An increasing number of agencies are adopting policies requiring officers to wear armor, and many officers report wearing armor in compliance with these requirements. Agencies should maintain educational and training programs on the importance of wearing body armor, and should maintain or adopt policies requiring officers to wear body armor. Agencies should conduct inspections to ensure that officers are wearing and maintaining body armor. Law enforcement agencies should make body armor comfort a consideration in future acquisition decisions (without sacrificing quality), and should involve officers in the process of evaluating body armor. Agencies should adopt policies, training and education that are based on the recommendations of the agencies’ particular body armor manufacturer. Many agencies need stronger replacement strategies to ensure quick replacement of body armor when necessary.

Survey and Evaluation of Online Crime Mapping Companies(pdf, 25 pages)
Authors: Derek Paulsen and James LeBeau

This study produced a baseline assessment of the state of the online crime-mapping field. It tallied the number of online crime-mapping companies, the basic functions and services they provide, and their accuracy in reproducing local crime data. Researchers identified seven online mapping companies. The companies varied widely in their function and analysis capabilities. The number of police agencies they served varied from 16 to more than 1,700. Almost all of the companies covered the same types of crimes. The greatest amount of variation among the companies is in the mapping functions available to those who use the site. For temporal analysis, most of the companies allowed people to select their own date range, with some companies providing a date range of more than 6 months.

Courts and Corrections

The Anatomy of Discretion: An Analysis of Prosecutorial Decision Making - Technical Report (pdf, 429 pages)
Authors: Bruce Frederick and Don Stemen

This study examined the impact of legal, quasi-legal, and extra-legal factors on case outcomes throughout the prosecutorial process; examined how prosecutors weigh these factors in their decision-making; and explored the formal and informal mechanisms that constrain or regulate prosecutors’ decision-making. Researchers found that prosecutors’ decisions were guided by two basic questions: “Can I prove the case?” and “Should I prove the case?” The relative influence of these questions shifted over the course of a case. The first question was most influential at the outset of a case, where the objective strength of evidence was the determining factor in most screening decisions. Later, factors such as the seriousness of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, characteristics of the defendant and victim, and contextual factors became increasingly influential as prosecutors evaluated whether a case should go forward. While prosecutorial discretion is generally seen as very broad and unconstrained, prosecutors often rely on a limited array of legal and quasi-legal factors to make decisions. Several contextual factors further constrain their decision-making. These contextual constraints — rules, resources and relationships — sometimes trump evaluations of the strength of the evidence, the seriousness of the offense and the defendant’s criminal history. Future evaluations of prosecutorial outcomes should consider these constraints when assessing the impact of case-level factors, and chief prosecutors and criminal justice policymakers should be alert to the potential for contextual factors to influence and possibly distort the exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

Extension of Current Estimates of Redemption Times: Robustness Testing, Out-of-State Arrests, and Racial Differences (pdf, 114 pages)
Authors: Alfred Blumstein and Kiminori Nakamura

Redemption time is the “time when an individual with a prior arrest record has stayed clean of further involvement with the criminal justice system sufficiently long to be considered ‘redeemed’ and relieved of the stale burden of a prior criminal-history record.” This report discusses the increasing use of criminal background checks by employers, the potential size of the population with criminal records who are affected by background checks, and the initial research on redemption times that examined when a criminal record loses its relevance in predicting future crime. The report also explores the robustness of redemption time estimates, summarizes study findings, discusses future work and describes the authors’ efforts to disseminate the findings and implications of this research.

A Multi-State Recidivism Study Using Static-99R and Static-2002 Risk Scores and Tier Guidelines from the Adam Walsh Act (pdf, 37 pages)
Authors: Kristen M. Zgoba, Michael Miner, Raymond Knight, Elizabeth Letourneau, Jill Levenson, and David Thornton

This study examined components of the nation’s sex offender tracking and monitoring systems. It focused on risk assessment and sexual recidivism as measured by rearrest. The study’s findings indicate that the current Adam Walsh Act tier classification scheme is likely to be less effective in protecting the public than the classification systems currently implemented in the states studied. The tier was unrelated to sexual recidivism, except in Florida, where it was inversely associated with recidivism. Offender age was found to have a significant protective effect for sexual reoffending. Older offenders showed a decreased risk for sexual recidivism. On average, the recidivism rate was about 5 percent at 5 years and 10 percent at 10 years. The researchers concluded that policymakers should consider substantial revisions of the Walsh Act to incorporate research findings on sex offender management.

Under the Penal Gaze: An Empirical Examination of Penal Consciousness Among Prison Inmates (pdf, 217 pages)
Author: Lori Sexton

This dissertation develops a new theoretical framework for exploring the nature of punishment as experienced and perceived by inmates (“penal consciousness”). The punishments that prisoners experience are distinguished as “concrete” or “symbolic.” Concrete punishment consists of the material deprivations of prison, inadequate or unhealthy food, and the inability to pay for necessities not provided by the prison. Symbolic punishment consists of the deprivations experienced by inmates, such as the loss of autonomy and family. Punishment experienced only as concrete was rated low in severity compared to punishment that is experienced as symbolic. All respondents acknowledged that being locked up is unlike any other experience. Other than agreeing on that observation, the respondents in the sample had few areas of complete agreement. The proposed theory of penal consciousness provides a bridge between the legal definitions of sanctions and the various ways in which inmates experience and perceive punishment.

Juvenile Justice

The Non-Criminal Consequences of Gang Membership: Impacts on Education and Employment in the Life-Course (pdf, 192 pages)
Author: David Cyrus Pyrooz

This report presents the results of research examining the impact of adolescent gang membership on future education and employment prospects. Gang members were 30 percent less likely to obtain a high school diploma and 58 percent less likely to earn a 4-year college degree than their non-gang peers. Former gang members were less likely to be employed and more likely not to participate in the labor force. The cumulative effect of adolescent gang membership on annual income in the last 6 years of the study exceeded $14,000. Findings indicate that the consequences of joining a gang extend beyond the domains of crime and victimization into educational and employment prospects and show the need for continued and improved gang prevention efforts.

A Process and Outcome Evaluation of the 4-H Mentoring/Youth and Families with Promise (YFP) Program (pdf, 205 pages)
Authors: Mary E. Poulin and Stan Orchowsky

This report presents the results and methodology of a process and outcome evaluation of Utah’s 4-H Mentoring effort, a statewide mentoring program designed for at-risk youth who are 10-14 years old. The program pairs youth with mentors, involves them in 4-H activities and provides opportunities for them to participate with their families in activities designed to strengthen family bonds. The process evaluation found that the program’s implementation deviated significantly from documented program guidelines and that the required program “dosage” was not always provided. The outcome evaluation found no evidence that the program improved participating youth’s academic performance, strengthened family relationships or prevented delinquency.