Improving forensic responses to residential burglaries: results of a randomized controlled field trial
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Residential burglaries (or break and enters) can cause great concern to the public but are typically a routine police job. The present study sought to evaluate an enhanced police approach to this high-volume crime by emphasizing police–victim interactions and more thorough forensic examinations.
Scenes of crime officers (forensic examiners) were randomly assigned to either a control (business-as-usual) or experimental condition. Officers in the experimental condition received additional training and resources to upskill them in DNA and fingerprint evidence collection and crime scene evaluation. Experimental officers also received additional training on procedurally just approaches to dealing with victims and were encouraged to be more thorough and spend more time at these high-volume crime scenes.
The trial revealed that the enhanced, experimental, approach offered a number of benefits, including greater evidence collection, identification, and incidents solved. Further, this enhanced approach boosted victims’ perceptions of officers’ procedural justice and satisfaction with the procedures used. However, this approach was more costly in relation to time, and the additional collection of extra DNA evidence did not greatly add to the crime solvability of these incidents.
High-volume crimes such as break and enters have a significant impact on the victims and often go unsolved. This study provides causal evidence that enhancing officers’ attendance and attention to victims and evidence at these scenes can increase solvability and enhance victim experiences.
KeywordsCrime scene examiners Policing Procedural justice Property crime Randomized experiment
The authors wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments. The authors also importantly thank the many police officers involved in this project in various ways. Particular thanks go to Assistant Commissioner Peter Martin, Chief Superintendent Debbie Platz, Superintendent Brian Huxley, and Inspector Paul Baker. The authors also acknowledge the team of researchers from the University of Queensland (Institute for Social Science Research and School of Social Science), especially Emina Prguda, Professor Lorraine Mazerolle, Dr. Sarah Bennett, and Dr. Elise Sargeant, who assisted in a variety of ways to bring this trial to fruition. The partnership between the research team and the Queensland Police Service is particularly acknowledged. The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors and are not those of the Queensland Police Service. Responsibility for any errors of omission or commission remains with the authors. The Queensland Police Service expressly disclaims any liability for any damage resulting from the use of the material contained in this publication and will not be responsible for any loss, howsoever arising, from use or reliance on this material.
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