Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2005, $219,813)
In recent years, strategic problem solving programs, such as SACSI and Project safe Neighborhoods (PSN), have developed new tools or techniques for improving their understanding of local homicide and gun violence problems so that more effective interventions can be designed and implemented. Combining the data collection and analysis skills of research partners with the implementation functions and resources of criminal justice and social service agencies, these programs have been implemented in a growing number of cities and have begun to show promising results in their efforts to reduce violence in their communities. No formal evaluations have yet been conducted, however, to provide guidance on effective implementation of these techniques and to assess their impacts on the criminal justice process and on the target crimes.
This study proposes to conduct such a formative and impact evaluation of one of the most promising and frequently implemented techniques for problem identification and strategy design: homicide incident reviews. In these reviews, relevant criminal justice agencies, working with research partners, examine each homicide occurring in the target area(s), bringing all of their collective knowledge to bear on its victim, offender(s), and situational or contextual factors. Research partners then analyze similarities occurring across individual incidents in order to identify underlying causes and patterns so that specific problems can be understood. Then the assembled criminal justice agencies, often working with social service agencies and community groups, work together to design and implement interventions aimed at suppressing, deterring, and/or preventing the specific problems identified.
The evaluation will be conducted by a team of public health and criminal justice researchers from Harvard University who will examine the development, implementation, and consequences of a new Homicide Incident Review Commission in Milwaukee. This Commission and its activities are a part of the PSN program of the Eastern District of Milwaukee and are funded with PSN block grant monies to the District. The PSN task force of criminal justice agencies and PSN research partner from the University of Wisconsin will be involved in the Homicide Review process. The evaluation will utilize a randomized matched pairs design to select areas for implementation of the program and will use observation techniques, semi-structured interviews, and homicide data analysis to determine: (a) whether homicide reviews provide additional insights into the nature of the homicide problems in the target areas (compared to traditional methods); (b) whether these insights lead to the development of new strategic responses to homicide problems; (c) whether law enforcement agencies, social service providers, and the community feel that the sharing of information and resources improves their ability to work together; and (d) whether the resulting strategic interventions have (short-term) impacts on reducing homicide and gun violence in the target areas.