Individuals – Davis & Taylor (1997)

Study Reference:

Davis, R. C., & Taylor, B. G. (1997). A proactive response to family violence: The results of a randomized experiment. Criminology35(2), 307-333.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Very rigorous; No evidence of an effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The article examined the ability of a joint law enforcement-social services approach to reduce the incidence of repeat domestic violence in New York. The intervention consisted either of public education (e.g., posters, leaflets, presentation on elderly abuse, legal rights of victims, and assistance available), a home visit where family abuse occurred by a police officer and domestic violence counselor (in which victims were informed about services and legal remedies and provided with crisis counseling, and referrals were made to various services groups), or both. Public education was implemented by housing project, whereas home visit was implemented on an individual basis. The authors tested whether victims who received either of the two interventions would be more likely to report new violent acts, to report it sooner, and use social services more often relative to those who did not receive any intervention.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The researchers targeted households reporting incidents of family violence within two public housing police service areas in New York. 64 individual housing projects (with a total population of around 93,000) were matched for size and socio-demographic characteristics, with one in each pair randomly assigned to receive the public education intervention and the other serving as the control. Households within these two areas that reported family violence for the past 24 hours were randomly assigned to receive or not receive a follow-up visit within several days of the initial police response. To determine treatment effect, victims were interviewed six months after the initial incident regarding subsequent violence and awareness and use of services. They also checked official police reports to measure victim reporting.

What were the key findings?

Neither treatment produced a reduction in violence. Households that received public education or a follow-up visit were both more likely to report new violence to the police than households that did not receive the treatment. Moreover, the effect of the follow-up visit was most pronounced among households with more serious histories of violence.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that the interventions increased citizens’ confidence in the ability of the police to handle domestic situations.

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