Individuals – Koppensteiner et al. (2019)

Study Reference:

Koppensteiner, M. F., Matheson, J., & Plugor, R. (2019). Project 360: An intervention to address victim-police engagement in repeat domestic violence cases. Department of Economics Policy Brief, Sheffield University.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused; Reactive; Very Rigorous; No evidence of effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined Project 360, a secondary responder program embedded within the Leicestershire Police Force (United Kingdom). The program involved engagement workers with expertise in assisting victims of domestic violence, working with victims as mediators between the police and local domestic violence support services. The engagement workers begin by reviewing police reports, and they can gain access to further information about involved parties from police databases. After this initial investigation, engagement workers contact victims via telephone within 24 hours of the reported domestic violence incident. Once this initial contact has been made, the engagement worker will offer to provide further assistance to the victim in the form of (1) informing them of their legal options and the support services available, (2) providing referrals to support services, and (3) helping to construct an escape plan if the victim wishes to leave the perpetrator. These initial phone contacts are generally followed-up by face-to-face meetings between engagement workers and victims. The intervention itself lasts approximately one week, but the length may vary based on the needs of each victim.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The Project 360 intervention was evaluated using a randomized controlled trial (RCT) in which eligible cases were randomly assigned to receive or not receive the follow-up intervention. In order to be eligible for inclusion in the study, victims had to have shown up in at least two (but fewer than six) reports during the previous year. The victim also had to be identified as “standard” or “medium” risk from the DASH (Domestic Abuse, Stalking, and Harassment) assessment, which is a standardized risk assessment tool that has been used by UK police services since 2009. Finally, the victim could not have previously been part of the Project 360 subject pool as either a treatment or a control group participant. The final sample consisted of 1,015 cases, 510 of which were assigned to the treatment group and 505 to the control group (which received a normal police response but not a follow-up from the Project 360 team). A survey was administered to victims approximately one month after the initial incident and covered three different outcomes: the victim’s perceived well-being, actions the victim had taken since the initial incident, and satisfaction with the handling of the initial incident by police. The analysis also utilized administrative data, including whether the victim was involved in a police incident 3, 6, and 12 months after the initial report was filed, as well as information on whether the perpetrator was charged or sentenced in court.

What were the key findings?

The authors found that 43% fewer victims in the treatment group reported feeling dissatisfied with the police handling of the case. Victims in the treatment group were also 42% more likely to indicate a willingness to report future incidents to the police, more likely to have visited a general practitioner, more likely to have accessed a domestic violence support service, and less likely (by 34%) to be in contact with the perpetrator. The authors’ analysis did not show any significant difference between actions taken by the police against the perpetrator, such as arrests, charges, or sentencing. There was also no significant change in the number of domestic violence incidents recorded by police after the intervention, but the authors do report weak evidence suggesting the severity of future incidents (measured through risk assessment scores and arrests) was lower for the treatment group than the control group. (Other findings showed mixed indications of how the program affected other quality of life outcomes for victims.)

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The results of this study suggest that a second-responder approach in which workers embedded within the police department reach out to domestic victims to offer assistance does not reduce repeat victimization, but it can help to improve relationships between the police and victims and improve other aspects of  victims’ well-being. The authors also highlight the key components of Project 360 as elements future programs should emulate: (1) rapid response, (2) enhanced information-sharing with a worker who can design a bespoke intervention, and (3) embedding workers within the police where they have access to information and are endowed with extra authority over non-police support agencies.

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