Current Projects

Criminal Justice Research Partnerships

Partnerships between criminal justice agencies and researchers take many forms, but the objectives are, we believe, the same regardless of the form: using social science methods and findings to better inform the development of strategies, programs, organizational structures, and managerial practices in criminal justice agencies or criminal justice task forces. The Finn Institute has served as the research partner to several localities in upstate New York. We assist with the analysis of crime and other public safety problems, and with the formulation (and refinement) of data-driven strategies for crime reduction; we also evaluate the effectiveness of interventions, and assist with the development of systems for crime and intelligence analysis, performance measurement systems, and related programming. More…

Police Legitimacy and Procedural Justice: Theory and Practice

Police departments routinely assess officers’ performance, especially their productivity, but the ‘procedural justice’ with which officers treat citizens is seldom measured, except through citizen complaints, and it is rarely an outcome for which police managers are held accountable.  Procedural fairness is a matter of treating people with dignity and respect, listening to what they have to say, and explaining what is being done.  Officers’ conformity with principles of procedural fairness is of fundamental importance, as it affects police legitimacy – i.e., people’s trust in legal institutions, their cooperation with law enforcement, and even their compliance with the law.  One theory suggests that measuring police performance in these terms, and making it susceptible to police management, would improve all of these outcomes. Another theory, one of organizational “loose coupling,” suggests that managerial controls in “street-level bureaucracies” like police departments would not extend so far as the procedural justice with which officers act toward citizens.  With support from the National Institute of Justice, Finn Institute researchers tested these propositions and at the same time examined procedural justice in new ways. More…

Gang Violence Reduction in Syracuse

Building on the foundation of the gang assessment completed by the Institute in 2012, Institute researchers are working with partners in Syracuse on new initiatives designed to reduce gang violence in that city.  In 2013, following several months of preparatory work, a focused deterrence initiative, Syracuse Truce, was launched.  Syracuse Truce is based on the group violence reduction strategy pioneered in Boston as Operation Ceasefire in the 1990s and replicated since then in a number of cities, including Indianapolis, Cincinnati, and Lowell (MA).  Syracuse Truce has been partially supported by two grants from the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), and with support from BJA and the Syracuse Police Department, the Institute has served as the Syracuse Truce research partner.  In addition, the City of Syracuse received an award in late-2013 from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) to support the implementation of OJJDP’s comprehensive gang model, on which the Institute serves as the research partner.  The comprehensive gang model includes five core strategies: social intervention; opportunities provision; community mobilization; suppression; and organizational change and development.  With oversight by a steering committee comprised of community leaders, Syracuse formed a multi-disciplinary intervention team to address the needs of high-risk, gang-involved youth; implemented a prevention initiative in local schools; hired a project director to mobilize community resources and facilitate organizational change as needed; and conducted targeted suppression and social control.  Under the auspices of its subaward, the Institute is monitoring implementation and impacts over the course of the funding period (through early-2017), conducting a process and outcome evaluation.

Early Intervention Systems: The State of the Art

Based on the premise that a small set of “problem officers” account for a disproportionate fraction of police misconduct, an early intervention system is a management tool used to monitor indicators of misconduct, identify officers who display symptoms of problem behavior, and intervene with counseling or retraining.  Early intervention (EI) systems are widely considered to be promising mechanisms for enhancing police integrity, but social science provides little evidence on their effectiveness in reducing misconduct or their unintended – inhibiting – effects on appropriate uses of police authority.  With support from the National Institute of Justice, the Institute is surveying the nation’s police agencies about their use of EI systems, and Institute researchers will conduct an in-depth and rigorous process and outcome evaluation in each of five police agencies, whose EI systems differ in presumptively important respects. More…

Smart Stops

In the context of an enhanced partnership with the Albany Police Department, the Institute will conduct research designed to increase the efficiency of proactive policing, increasing the ratio of successful or other “high-value” stops to all stops. Proactive policing, which previous research suggests is an effective crime control tactic, would thus be conducted more surgically, such that the stops that are made would have the greatest potential crime-reduction benefits, perhaps mitigating the adverse consequences of proactive policing without vitiating its crime control value. The enhanced partnership is organized in terms of a project working group and a steering committee – the new Research Advisory Council (RAC) –that will set direction for and exercise oversight over partnership work, and also serve as a forum for formal exchanges about research.

Reports and Publications

Andrew P. Wheeler, Robert E. Worden, and Sarah J. McLean, 2015. “Replicating Group-Based Trajectory Models of Crime at Micro-Places in Albany, NY,” Journal of Quantitative Criminology. (Published on-line October 19, 2015; doi 10.1007/s10940-015-9268-3.)

Group Violence Intervention

We know that in many American cities gun violence is not random; it exhibits a common pattern. The violence is driven to a large extent by groups of high-rate offenders. Group Violence Intervention (GVI) is a demonstratively effective strategy that seeks to alter the group dynamics in a subtle but consequential respect – by prompting group members to discourage rather than encourage one another to pick up a gun to preserve their standing on the street.  GVI has variously been called focused deterrence, pulling levers, or “Operation Ceasefire.”

GVI has been adopted by cities across the nation with a large measure of direct and indirect guidance from the National Network for Safe Communities. Since 2012 the Institute has worked with partners in Syracuse on its GVI, Syracuse Truce. The Institute conducts problem analysis, provides implementation guidance, and monitors implementation and impacts. The Bureau of Justice Assistance and the Syracuse Police Department have funded the Institute’s work on Syracuse Truce. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) is providing support to a number of cities to assist them in implementing GVI.  With DCJS support under its Gun-Involved Violence Elimination (GIVE) initiative, the Institute is working with partners in Albany, NY, on a process evaluation of its GVI strategy. Also with DCJS support the Institute is working with partners in Schenectady and Utica around the problem analysis that must be conducted prior to implementing GVI, and also providing other technical assistance in establishing the GVI. More…

Gun Involved Violence Elimination Initiatives

GIVE provides state funds to seventeen counties in New York State to support their efforts to combat firearm-related crimes, shootings, and homicides. Under GIVE, the Institute will work with the Cities of Albany, Troy, and Kingston and the Counties of Oneida and Onondaga, providing crime analysis support and/or serving as the research partner to these jurisdictions. As the research partner, the Institute will conduct process and outcome evaluations of their GIVE strategies, assessing the fidelity of the implemented strategies to their designs and empirically estimating the impacts and effectiveness of the strategies in conformity with established scientific principles. In Kingston and Troy the Institute will also continue to provide crime analysis support. More…

Citizen Oversight of the Police

Citizen oversight of the police has proliferated among the larger cities of the U.S., based on the expectations that it would curtail police misconduct and raise the public’s confidence in the police. But social science offers very little empirical evidence to either confirm or refute these expectations.  In 2001, one northeastern city established a police review board to provide for citizen oversight, and to learn about how well the new board achieved some of its objectives, Rob Worden and Shelagh Dorn designed and administered surveys of complainants, other people who had contact with city police (i.e., police “clients”), and officers against whom complaints were filed. More…

Evaluation of Public Surveillance Cameras

The Institute is conducting an assessment of the City of Syracuse’s Criminal Observation and Protection System (COPS). The network of public surveillance cameras are placed in the city’s high-crime areas and are intended to serve as a deterrent to crime and disorder. The Institute’s evaluation design includes estimating the magnitude of the intervention impacts on crime and disorder using an interrupted time series analysis applied in the intervention areas, defined buffer areas surrounding the intervention areas, and in control areas.

Reports and Publications

Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean, and MoonSun Kim, 2012. Camera Surveillance on the Near Westside: A Preliminary Evaluation.  Report to the Syracuse Police Department.  Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.

Sarah J. McLean, Robert E. Worden, and MoonSun Kim, 2013. Camera Surveillance on the Near Westside: An Outcome Evaluation.  Report to the Syracuse Police Department.  Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.

Procedural Justice and Compliance with the Law

Theory and some empirical evidence suggest that offenders may be less prone to recidivate when their treatment by the legal system conforms to principles of procedural justice. When legal authorities treat offenders with respect and dignity, give offenders an opportunity to tell their side of the story, and act impartially, offenders are more likely to experience the legal process as fair and just, to see the legal system as legitimate, and to feel a stake in the society that the legal system is designed to sustain – and hence less likely to re-offend. We are testing the hypothesis that recidivism is affected by the perceived fairness with which police treat the people whom they arrest. More…

Past Projects