A Randomized Control Trial of a Targeted High-Risk Offender Program Across Three Jurisdictions

AuthorMariel Shutinya,Julie Schnobrich-Davis,Craig D. Uchida,Christine Connor,Marc Swatt,Daniel Wagner
Published date01 June 2019
Date01 June 2019
Subject MatterArticles
A Randomized Control
Trial of a Targeted
High-Risk Offender
Program Across
Three Jurisdictions
Craig D. Uchida
, Marc Swatt
Julie Schnobrich-Davis
Christine Connor
, Mariel Shutinya
and Daniel Wagner
This study reviews findings from Project Regional Analytics for the Safety of Our
Residents, a modified focused deterrence program operated across three jurisdic-
tions in Massachusetts. Unlike most other evaluations of targeted high-risk offender
programs, the impact on individual-level offending is examined. Data from records
management systems in three police agencies were extracted and used to create
social harm risk scores. The top 150 offenders were selected for inclusion in this
study. Subjects were blocked into three groups according to their composite score
and then randomly assigned into treatment and control groups. All treatment group
offenders were invited to a notification meeting where they decided whether to
participate in the program with a police and social worker case management
team. The outcome examined in this study is time to a new arr aignment.
Nonparametric and semiparametric methods detected no significant difference
between groups after approximately one year. Implications for future research and
practice are then discussed.
Justice & Security Strategies, Inc., Silver Spring, MD, USA
Central Connecticut State University, New Britain, CT, USA
Cambridge Police Department, Cambridge, MA, USA
Corresponding Author:
Marc Swatt, 6138 S 102nd Street Omaha, NE 68127, USA.
Email: marc.swatt@gmail.com
Police Quarterly
2019, Vol. 22(2) 192–216
!The Author(s) 2018
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1098611118807771
focused deterrence, randomized experiment, targeted high-risk offenders
Focused deterrence continues to be a popular intervention for jurisdictions
struggling with violent crime problems. Following the successes of Boston’s
Operation Ceasefire (Kennedy, 1997), a number of cities have employed the
“pulling levers” approach to address a number of crime problems, including
gang violence, drug markets, and substance abuse (see Braga & Weisburd,
2012a; Braga, Weisburd, & Turchan, 2018). A meta-analytic review of these
projects suggests that such focused deterrence approaches are associated with
statistically significant reductions in crime (Braga & Weisburd, 2012a; Braga
et al., 2018). Targeting high-risk offenders for crime reduction purposes contin-
ues to be a viable strategy for police organizations throughout the country.
While many of these programs have been successful, important gaps in the
research on these interventions remain. First, most of these studies have relied
on place-based assessments of the impact of these programs (see Lattimore
et al., 2016 for an exception). While many of these programs are oriented
around particular locations, the key theoretical mechanism behind focused
deterrence remains at the individual level (see discussion in Kennedy, 1997).
Because the pulling levers approaches involve increasing the probability of
detection and the severity of punishment associated with criminal activity (see
Kennedy, 1997), pulling levers should be associated with deterrent effects for
individual offenders. To date, individual-level research on focused deterrence
approaches remains limited.
This project takes a slightly modified version of focused deterrence and
implements the concepts of rational choice theory without the leverage that
traditional focused deterrence programs have used. The current program
called, Operation RASOR, which stands for Regional Analytics for the Safety
of Our Residents, seeks to increase the risks of getting caught and convicted
while also providing case management and services to targeted high-risk
offenders. While other studies used focused deterrence strategies in one jurisdic-
tion, this study implemented the program among three contiguous cities in
Massachusetts to focus on chronic cross-jurisdictional high-risk offenders.
Second, researchers found few of the evaluations of focused deterrence
approaches have involved randomized experimental designs (Braga &
Weisburd, 2012a; Braga et al., 2018). Quasi-experimental designs are often nec-
essary when randomization is either inappropriate or impossible. While these
designs offer some control over confounding variables (see Shadish, Cook, &
Campbell, 2002), only true experimental designs offer sufficient control over
Uchida et al. 193

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