What is the Evidence on Second Responder Programs?
Second responder programs are listed under “What doesn’t work?” on our Review of the Research Evidence.
A Campbell review of second responder programs by Davis and colleagues (2008) suggests second responder programs are not effective in reducing violence. The programs do, on average, lead to a slight increase in reporting abuse to the police, but there is no evidence such programs reduce violent incidents and thus such programs do not seem to have any beneficial impact on crime and disorder. As Davis et al. (2008: 17) note “An increase in calls to the police can be interpreted in one of two ways: Either victims are experiencing more abuse as a result of the intervention, or the intervention has increased confidence in the police.” Victim self-reports indicate no significant reduction in abuse as a result of the programs. It is difficult to determine exactly what the increase in calls for service means, but the results overall are not very positive for second responder programs.
One study (Hovell et al., 2006) found significant backfire effects from a second responders program. Domestic violence victims that received a visit by the Family Violence Response Team were 1.7 times more likely to be re-abused than a comparison group that received no special services.
Welsh and Rocque (2014) examined harmful effects in criminal justice interventions. They note that among the 15 outcomes measured in the 10 second responder studies in the Davis et al. (2008) systematic review, only 1 was in a desirable direction, 12 suggested no impact of hte program, and 2 suggested significant evidence of undesirable effects.