Individuals – Uchida et al. (2019)

Study Reference:

Uchida, C. D., Swatt, M., Schnobrich-Davis, J., Connor, C., Shutinya, M., & Wagner, D. (2019). A Randomized Control Trial of a Targeted High-Risk Offender Program Across Three Jurisdictions. Police Quarterly, 22(2), 192–216.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Individuals; Focused, Highly proactive; Very rigorous; Backfire effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examined the RASOR project, a focused deterrence program implemented across three jurisdictions in Massachusetts that targeted individuals at the highest risk for serious re-offending. For each offender receiving the treatment, crime analysts, officers/detectives, and a social worker developed a detailed case file on the individual. Offenders were then invited to voluntarily attend a formal meeting with a focused deterrence team comprised of a police detective and a social worker, during which the individual was informed of the harm that they had caused to the community and was offered outreach opportunities based on their needs, such as housing and employment assistance. Further, the focused deterrence team informed the individual that they would be monitored carefully for further wrongdoings and receive greater sanctions for future criminal behaviors. Family and friends may also be engaged to motivate selected individuals to participate in the project. The focused deterrence team also coordinated the delivery of services after the meeting and was responsible for sharing information across participating actors.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The sample was selected based on a “social harm” risk score developed from police department records across three cities on crimes that individuals were involved in. The 150 individuals with the highest risk scores were then selected for the study. These offenders were then further divided by risk score into three “cohorts,” with the highest third (in terms of risk scores) in the first cohort, the second highest third of offenders in the second cohort, and the lowest third in the third cohort. Then, for each cohort, half were randomly assigned to the RASOR treatment (N=25) and half to a control condition (N=25) that received business as usual. Treatment was given for each group in April, August, and November of 2014, respectively. The outcome observed was the time to failure, or the average amount of time between the intervention and arraignment for a new offense. Here, longer time intervals for the treatment group relative to the control group would indicate a successful intervention.

What were the key findings?

Overall, the treatment group was associated with shorter average survival times compared to the control group, though this difference was not statistically significant and specific results varied by cohort. In Cohort 1, the treatment group experienced a lower probability of failure across time than the control group, while the opposite was true for Cohorts 2 and 3. The only statistically significant difference between groups was observed in Cohort 2, however, where treatment participants had significantly shorter survival times than control participants. In interpreting these findings, the authors note that treatment participants in Cohort 1 received a substantially higher dosage of treatment than participants in Cohorts 2 and 3 (e.g., more time spent in administrative and case management tasks). The authors suggest that these dosage levels may help to explain the discrepent findings across cohorts.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The results of this study suggest that a focused deterrence program may not be effective and might even backfire if the intensity and dosage of treatment are not enough or the intervention is not well implemented. Although the findings are not significant for Cohort 1, the findings overall may indicate that for a focused deterrence program to be successful, high levels of monitoring, time and commitment by a dedicated team, and the provision of social services must be provided. Agencies should also expect that resources committed to treatment might wane over time, which could impact outcomes.

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