Individuals – Abrahamse et al. (1991)

Study Reference:

Abrahamse, A.F., Ebener, P.A., Greenwood, P.W., Fitzgerald, N., & Kosin, T.E. (1991). An Experimental Evaluation of The Phoenix Repeat Offender Program. Justice Quarterly, 8(2), 141-168.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive (but it involves both proactive and reactive efforts); Very rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examines the impact of the Phoenix Police Department Repeat Offender Program (ROP) on suspect disposition outcomes. The program involved cooperation between police and county prosecutors in identifying, convicting, and incarcerating offenders who were likely to be committing crimes at very high rates. Identified repeat offenders assigned to the target group received enhanced attention by the six detectives in the ROP unit.

When targeted offenders were arrested, often because of outstanding warrants, a ROP detective was immediately notified. The detectives worked closely with assigned county prosecutors to provide information on the arrestee’s know criminal activities; newly found charges; and any other information obtained from victims, witnesses, or other investigations. After the conviction of a ROP target, a ROP detective significantly influenced the writing of the presentence report used by the judge.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The researchers used a randomized controlled experiment after nominating repeat offenders for the study. The study included 480 repeat offenders, 257 assigned to the experimental group and 223 to the control group. Offenders assigned to the control group were handled through standard departmental procedures. Offender information was compared six months after the assignments regarding their disposition outcomes including pretrial release, convictions and sentences, charge severity, and case processing time.

What were the key findings?

The study found that the intervention increased the likelihood of commitment to prison and the length of term imposed, but had no impact on conviction rate. These increases appeared attributable to the ROP officers’ success in developing additional charges against the defendants and documenting their prior records. A follow-up analysis of the criminal history records for the first 6 to 18 months after the initial assignment also showed that offenders designated as eligible for ROP treatment were in fact high-risk individuals.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that officers can identify and focus attention on repeat offenders and work closely with prosecutors to increase offender sentence length. The authors note, however, that whether such practices should be adopted depends on factors such as available resources and prison space.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?