At first glance, the nitty-gritty world of law enforcement appears to have little in common with that of academic researchers. But this issue of the NIJ Journal shows that collaborative relationships between those who work in criminal justice and researchers can produce extraordinary results.
A primary example is a study of Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner programs. Advocates have lauded SANE programs as an improvement in care for assault victims, but questions remained about what effects, if any, SANEs were having on the criminal justice system. Rebecca Campbell of Michigan State University led a team of researchers who examined police and court records in a Midwestern county. They found a statistically significant increase in prosecution rates and convictions after SANE programs started. Yet the researchers took the study a step further. They interviewed dozens of detectives, prosecutors, assault victims and nurses to learn which ingredients of SANE were making an impact in the courtroom. The result is a fascinating study of how programs can benefit both victims and law enforcement alike.
We also present results of a rigorous evaluation of Chicago's CeaseFire program conducted by a team of researchers led by Wesley Skogan of Northwestern University. This innovative violence reduction program abated shootings in crime-plagued neighborhoods. The researchers analyzed crime rate changes and found that shootings declined 16 to 28 percent in some of the CeaseFire neighborhoods. The research team also shared the results of interviews with many law enforcement officials, social workers, street gang members and the "violence interrupters" who work to prevent a shooting from sparking a cascade of retaliatory killings.
The National Institute of Justice is currently working to spur closer collaborations between criminal justice practitioners and researchers. We recently invited people to apply for grants that would focus on such partnerships. We are particularly interested in creative ideas that would involve placing a researcher within a criminal justice organization to develop and conduct studies or program evaluations. We look forward to sharing the results of these endeavors with you in the future.
Finally, I would like to mention our cover story highlighting an exciting NIJ initiative that is assisting law enforcement organizations, medical examiners and coroners to resolve cases of missing persons and unidentified human remains. The National Missing and Unidentified Persons System is now helping to solve some tough cases, and we wanted to share a few of our first success stories with you.
Acting Director, National Institute of Justice
About This Article
This article appeared in NIJ Journal Issue 264, November 2009.