2021 JOAN MCCORD AWARD LECTURE BY BRANDON WELSH - PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL OF EXPERIMENTAL CRIMINOLOGY
Standing on the shoulders of pioneers in experimental criminology: the Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study at 85 years (1935–2020) and beyond: the 2021 Joan McCord Award Lecture
Paper of the month:
Fishbane, A., Ouss, A., & Shah, A. K. (2020).
Behavioral nudges reduce failure to appear for court.
08 Oct 2020: eabb6591 DOI: 10.1126/science.abb6591
VOLUME 16, ISSUE 3, SEPTEMBER 2020
In this issue (5 articles)
Ling, S., Raine, A., Choy, O. et al. (06 May 2020)
This study examines the influence of high-definition transcranial direct current stimulation (HD-tDCS) of the prefrontal cortex (PFC) on aggressive behavior and antisocial intentions, and provides an updated meta-analysis of prior studies.
In this double-blind, stratified, randomized, sham-controlled, parallel-group trial, 94 participants received sham or 20 min of 2 mA anodal stimulation of the PFC using HD-tDCS. The Voodoo Doll Task and hypothetical vignettes were used to measure aggressive behavior and antisocial intentions, respectively.
There were no significant group differences in aggressive behavior or antisocial intentions after stimulation.
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first study to examine HD-tDCS in reducing aggressive and antisocial behavior. The null effects on aggressive behavior align with an updated meta-analysis of prior studies (d = − 0.028, 95% CI [− 1.14, 1.08]). Future studies employing repeated tDCS sessions on significantly antisocial populations could further help assess the utility of tDCS for reducing antisociality.
van der Pol, T.M., Cohn, M.D., van Domburgh, L. et al. (02 May 2020)
Earlier, we reported that multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) decreased criminal offending in adolescents as measured with self-report in a randomised controlled trial with 1-year follow-up. The present study tested if this effect could be confirmed using police arrest data.
Study participants were 109 adolescents who were recruited for the Dutch part of a transnational treatment trial. National police arrest records were analysed for 3 years before the adolescents entered treatment with MDFT or CBT and for 7 years after treatment entry.
Police arrest rates rose in the 3 years preceding treatment and then dropped in both treatment groups to almost zero level during the follow-up period.
The results suggest that MDFT and CBT both strongly and durably decreased police arrest rates. However, this conclusion remains uncertain as crime rates concurrently decreased in the general population.
Langley, B., Ariel, B., Tankebe, J. et al. (27 April 2020)
When it comes to interviewing suspected terrorists, global evidence points to harsh interrogation procedures, despite the likelihood of false positives. How can the state maintain an effective counterterrorism policy while simultaneously protecting civil rights? Until now, the shroud of secrecy of “national security” practices has thwarted attempts by researchers to test apparatuses that engender fair interrogation procedures. The present study aims to test one approach: the use of a “procedural justice checklist” (PJ Checklist) in interviews of suspected terrorists by counterterrorism police officers in port settings.
Using a clustered randomized controlled field test in a European democracy, we measure the effect of implementing Procedural Justice (PJ) Checklists in counterterrorism police settings. With 65 teams of officers randomly-assigned into treatment and control conditions, we compare post-interrogation surveys of suspects (n = 1418) on perceptions of legitimacy; obligations to obey the law; willingness to cooperate with the police; effectiveness of counterterrorism measures; distributive justice; feelings of social resistance to the state; and PJ. A series of multi-level linear, logistic, and ordered logit regression models are used to estimate the treatment effect, with Hedges’ g and odds ratios used for effect sizes.
When compared with control conditions, implementing a policy of PJ Checklist causes statistically significant and large enhancement in all measured dimensions, including the willingness of suspects to obey the law (g = 1.022 [0.905, 1.138]), to cooperate with the police (g = 1.118 [0.999, 1.238]), distributive justice (g = 0.993 [0.880, 1.106]), effectiveness (g = 1.077 [0.959, 1.195]), procedural justice (g = 1.044 [0.930, 1.158]), and feelings of resistance towards the state (g = − 0.370 [− 0.259, − 0.482]).
PJ checklists offer a simple, scalable means of improving how state agents interact with terrorism suspects. The police can use what is evidently a cost-effective tool to enhance legitimacy and cooperation with the police, even in a counterterrorism environment.
Lawrence, D.S., Peterson, B.E. (26 October 2019)
Examine how the amount and makeup of police-initiated activities changed after the introduction of body-worn cameras (BWCs).
From May 21 to November 22, 2016, patrol officers and sergeants from the Milwaukee Police Department were involved in a randomized controlled trial. Through a stratified random sampling procedure, half the officers (n = 252) were assigned BWCs, while officers from the control group (n = 252) continued business as usual. The counts of proactive activities, which included a total count of self-initiated events, as well as traffic stops, business checks, subject stops, and park and walks, were examined using random-effects negative binominal panel regression analyses. The models included a unique measure of contamination to assess its impact on officers’ proactivity.
BWCs had no impact on the total amount of officer-initiated activities, traffic stops, or business checks. Officers with BWCs conducted approximately 8% fewer subject stops and 23% more park and walks than those in the control group. In all models, contamination levels were significantly, positively associated with the number of proactive activities that were conducted; however, the size of this effect was very small.
Results suggest that BWC-wearing officers may be less likely to engage in proactive activities that are highly discretionary and that could potentially lead to confrontations with community members. As departments continue to develop BWC programs or fine-tune their existing BWC policies, more research is needed to understand the degree to which BWCs affect officers’ behaviors and interactions with the public.
Mares, D., Blackburn, E. (21 January 2020)
The primary aim of this study is to provide an evaluation of St. Louis’ Acoustic Gunshot Detection System’s (AGDS) ability to reduce gun violence.
The study design is a quasi-experimental longitudinal panel study. We measure a variety of gun-related offenses across multiple treatment and control neighborhoods using a difference-in-difference approach. Because treatment neighborhoods were added to the experiment over time, changing experimental conditions, three separate study periods were examined.
Results indicate AGDS has a mixed relationship to police response time and does not significantly reduce violent crime levels in any of the study periods. We do find consistent and substantial reductions (around 30%) in citizen-initiated calls for service for shots fired, but once new calls for AGDS are added, an overall 80% increase in gunshot responses is found.
Although the study is limited to one city, results indicate AGDS may be of little benefit to police agencies with a pre-existing high call volume. Our results indicate no reductions in serious violent crimes, yet AGDS increases demands on police resources.
* DEC openly accepts all types of experimental designs