Past Projects

Gang Assessment

In its capacity as the Project Safe Neighborhoods research partner, the Institute worked with stakeholders in Onondaga County to conduct a comprehensive gang assessment. The gang assessment includes an analysis of the scope and nature of Syracuse’s gang problem and factors that may be contributing to local gang involvement. The project will ultimately serve to support the development of data driven strategies (prevention, intervention, and suppression) – grounded in social science literature – to address gang issues. The assessment includes data from official sources as well as primary data collected through surveys, interviews and focus groups administered to law enforcement, service providers, parents, community members, and youth. The assessment examines five domains:

  • community demographic data,
  • law enforcement data,
  • school data,
  • community perceptions data, and
  • community resources data.

The project was designed to support the development of data driven strategies (prevention, intervention, and suppression) – grounded in social science literature – to address gang crime. The Institute continued to work with local stakeholders to formulate and adapt evidence-based strategic initiatives suitable for Syracuse, geared toward leverage points uncovered through the assessment. This work culminated in the current gang violence reduction initiatives on which the Institute is now working.

Reports and Publications

Sarah J. McLean and Robert E. Worden. 2011. City of Syracuse Youth Gang Assessment: Phase I. Report to the Onondaga County IMPACT       Consortium/Project Safe Neighborhoods Task Force and the Syracuse Community Intervention Committee. Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety.

Sarah J. McLean and Robert E. Worden, 2012. City of Syracuse Youth Gang Assessment. Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety.

Stops by Syracuse Police

A 2001 Syracuse ordinance mandates the collection of data on stops, and the Common Council has twice commissioned analyses of the data, first in 2006 and again in 2010 – studies that relied on an approach known as the “outcome test.” Skeptical about the utility of the outcome test in analyzing the Syracuse data, Institute researchers proposed to conduct an analysis using the “veil-of-darkness” method, an approach devised by researchers at the RAND Corporation. Analyzing vehicle stops in the “inter-twilight” period – the times of day when it might be light or dark, depending on the time of year – the Institute tested to see whether African-Americans were more likely to be stopped during daylight, when drivers’ race can be more readily determined by officers, than in darkness. Finding no consistent differences between stops in daylight and stops in darkness, the Institute’s analysis detected no persuasive evidence of racial bias in stops.

Reports and Publications

Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean, and Andrew Wheeler (2010).  Stops by Syracuse Police.  Report to the Syracuse Police Department. Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.   

Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean and Andrew P. Wheeler (2012). “Testing for Racial Profiling with the Veil-of-Darkness Method,” Police Quarterly 15 (March): 92-111.  (Published on-line January 8, 2012; doi 10.1177/1098611111433027.)

Operation IMPACT

The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) implemented Operation IMPACT in 2004. Under Operation IMPACT NYS provided funding to multi-agency task forces in each of seventeen NYS jurisdictions to support strategic crime-reduction initiatives. From 2006 until 2014, the Institute served as the research partner to a number of upstate New York IMPACT jurisdictions. As the Operation IMPACT supported research partner, we assisted our partners in strategic problem solving, conducted evaluations of the operation of their systems for crime and intelligence analysis, and worked with police and other agencies’ personnel to enhance their agencies’ capacities for crime and intelligence analysis, and strategic and operational problem solving. Institute work was also tailored to the strategic initiatives developed and implemented in each city.

For example, we evaluated Albany’s Operation Safe Corridor, a collaborative a place-based initiative designed to address student victimization. We worked with Troy, Syracuse, and Poughkeepsie to formulate criteria to guide the identification of chronic offenders on whom to concentrate resources, and we went on to conduct a process and outcome evaluation of Syracuse’s chronic offender initiative (Chronic Offender Recognition and Enforcement). A final example includes our work in Syracuse to assess the impact of its Highway Gun Interdiction Details.

Reports and Publications

Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean, Heidi S. Bonner, MoonSun Kim, Tanya Meisenholder, Shelley L. Schlief, and Heather C. Stroker, 2006. Analytical Support for Strategic Problem Solving.  Report to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.  Albany, NY: Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center, University at Albany.

Robert E. Worden and Sarah J. McLean, 2006. Building an Intelligence and Crime Analysis System. Report to the Onondaga County IMPACT Consortium.  Albany, NY: Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center, University at Albany.

Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean, Heidi S. Bonner, MoonSun Kim, Tanya Meisenholder, Shelley L. Schlief, and Heather C. Stroker, 2007. Strategic Problem Solving in Selected IMPACT Sites: Observations from the Field, 2004-2007.  Report to the NYS Division of Criminal Justice Services.  Albany, NY: Hindelang Criminal Justice Research Center, University at Albany.

Sarah J. McLean, Robert E. Worden, MoonSun Kim, and Tara L. Garmley, 2008. Schenectady Public Surveillance Camera Project: A Process and Outcome Study.  Report to the Schenectady Operation IMPACT Consortium.  Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.

Sarah J. McLean, Robert E. Worden, MoonSun Kim, Tara L. Garmley, and Heidi S. Bonner, 2009. Operation Safe Corridor: An Outcome Evaluation. Report to the Operation Safe Corridor Steering Committee and the Albany Operation IMPACT Consortium. Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.

Sarah J. McLean, Robert E. Worden, MoonSun Kim, Tara L. Garmley, & Heidi S. Bonner, 2010. “Operation Safe Corridor: An Outcome Evaluation,” Criminal Justice Policy Review 21 (September): 363-380.

Sarah J. McLean and Robert E. Worden, 2010. CORE: An Interim Assessment.  Report to the Onondaga County IMPACT Consortium.  Albany, NY: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.

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

Juvenile Delinquency Reduction

In 2006, one upstate New York city enlisted the assistance of Institute staff in the development of a juvenile delinquency reduction strategy. Working with the city’s Juvenile Crime Enforcement Coalition (JCEC), a multi-agency group, we conducted a resource and needs assessment, which culminated in a series of strategic recommendations, spanning prevention to intervention.

Stemming from the strategic recommendations, and under the direction of the JCEC, the city sought and received funds from New York State to support the creation of a truancy reduction program. For the past two years, the Finn Institute has continued to work with the JCEC, providing input into program development and conducting a process and outcome evaluation.  The evaluation includes a description of the contours of the truancy reduction program as it is delivered – relevant characteristics of the program population, and the nature of their involvement in the program – and also an examination of the impacts of the program at both individual and aggregate levels — on program participants’ absenteeism, school performance, and delinquency, and on neighborhood, school, and city-wide outcomes, such as juvenile crime.  Impacts at the individual level are based on comparisons with a matched control group of non-participants.

Reports and Publications

Sarah J. McLean, Giza Rodick & Robert E. Worden, 2006. Juvenile Delinquency Reduction Strategy: Final Report.

Robert E. Worden, Sarah J. McLean& Giza Rodick, 2006. Strategies: Discussion.

Sarah J. McLean, Heidi S. Bonner & Robert E. Worden, 2009. An Evaluation of the Granger Truancy Abatement Program: Final Report.

Evaluation of Schenectady’s Public Surveillance Cameras

In 2007, serving as the research partner to a County-wide law enforcement task force, the Institute initiated the first phase of a process and outcome evaluation of the County’s Public Surveillance Camera Project (PSCP). The study included an outcome evaluation estimating the impact of the introduction of cameras on crime and disorder. Using a form of interrupted time series analysis (known as Auto-Regressive Integrated Moving Average [ARIMA] modeling), the effects of camera surveillance on crime and disorder were estimated. The study also included a key informant survey designed to assess the extent to which the cameras bear on citizens’ perceptions of safety and concerns regarding proper use of cameras. Institute staff provided regular feedback to key actors to guide mid-course corrections or modifications to the project, as needed. The Phase I project culminated in a monograph describing the program environment, a description of the phases of the project evolution, core program requirements, and findings from our analysis of crime and disorder reduction effects.

The following year (2008), the local Police Department and the Institute entered into an agreement to extend the Institute’s work on the PSCP. In Phase II the Institute conducted a process evaluation of the PSCP to assess the extent to which the project continued to develop and to identify new obstacles or outstanding issues yet to be resolved. The process evaluation drew primarily on interviews and regular attendance at PSCP meetings. The work and reports are designed to assist project stakeholders in providing an optimally effective system and to serve as a guide for others seeking to develop or improve their own camera initiatives.

Reports and Publications

Sarah J. McLean, Robert E. Worden, MoonSun Kim & Tara L. Garmley (June 2008). Weston’s Public Surveillance Camera Project: A Process and Outcome Study.

Sarah J. McLean, Robert E. Worden & Tara L. Garmley (June 2009). Weston’s Public Surveillance Camera Project: Phase II Process Evaluation.

Sarah J. McLean, Robert E. Worden & MoonSun Kim (2013). “Here’s Looking at You: An Evaluation of Public CCTV Cameras and Their Effects on Crime and Disorder,” Criminal Justice Review 38: 303-334. (Published on-line July 7, 2013; doi 10.1177/0734016813492415.)

Crime and Traffic Safety

Rob Worden and Sarah McLean prepared an overview of the theory and practice of DDACTS – Data Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety. DDACTS is an initiative of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, which applies traffic enforcement to both traffic safety and crime reduction.

Reports and Publications

Robert E. Worden and Sarah J. McLean, 2009. DDACTS in Theory and Practice.  Albany: John F. Finn Institute for Public Safety, Inc.  (Also included as an appendix in Jack Stuster, Data-Driven Approaches to Crime and Traffic Safety: Case Studies of Six Programs, Report to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration [Santa Barbara: Anacapa Sciences, Inc., 2010].)

Compstat

The Institute has worked with each of two police agencies to design a Compstat program that is tailored to the structure and needs of the individual agency. We worked closely with command staff around the development of the Compstat mission, meeting structure and content, and to inform and assess the work that is done between meetings. Following the implementation of Compsat we have conducted a process evaluation to take stock of how well it is working, and how it could be altered to work better.
A version of one report can be found here.

Patterns of Police Misconduct and its Prevention

From 2001 until 2004, Rob Worden, Shelagh Dorn, Chris Harris, and others worked with one large northeastern police agency to examine cross-sectional and longitudinal patterns of (real and alleged) police misconduct, analyzing up to fifteen years of data on indicators that are commonly incorporated into early intervention (EI) systems, such as personnel complaints, uses of force, secondary arrests, police-involved vehicle crashes, civil litigation, and others. They also simulated the performance of common mechanisms for selecting officers for an EIS intervention, assessing the accuracy of their predictions, and also evaluated the effectiveness of the agency’s training intervention for problem officers.

They found that while the distribution of each indicator, such as personnel complaints, resembles that reported in previous research – that is, a small number of officers accounted for a disproportionately large fraction of the events – it was not, for the most part, the same officers year after year. Problem officers, the primary target of early intervention systems, are very few in number. A larger number of officers display symptoms of problem behavior for limited periods of time – a year or two – and then not again, or only once again. Thus problem behavior that is captured by the indicators on which early warning system selection criteria rely is to a large degree evanescent and hence unpredictable. The researchers tested various selection mechanisms; none performs very well. All of them yield fairly large numbers of false negatives; many of them also yield large numbers of false positives. Some perform better than others, however. A very simple time-and-numbers system, based only on complaints, with a threshold of 4 in 12 months, was arguably the best of those examined. It is simple, it is straightforward to implement, it selects a small and thus manageable number of officers for intervention, a large fraction of which (albeit less than half) were by the definition adopted for this inquiry true positives. The need for systematic selection criteria of some kind is clear. The evaluation of the EIS intervention – training in police-citizen interaction – suggests that it had not had the intended impacts in classes since the second or third, and the reason may be the composition of the trainees, whose selection was not based on explicit criteria. The researchers found no reason to believe that the content of the training was deficient in any way, but rather that the needs of trainees have not been properly matched with the objectives of the training.

Continuous, Collegiate In-Service Police Training 

The Institute worked with  the Albany Police Department Training Unit in its efforts to develop an innovative, comprehensive in-service training model: Continuous, Collegiate In-Service Training. The planned model of  in-service training provided for extensive, multi-modality training for all officers in core subject matter, with additional, more specialized training in a set of “tracks” designed for officers’ professional development. The Finn Institute developed an evaluation plan to assess the  impact of this training model on the retention of training content, officer job satisfaction, and dimensions of police performance, including citizens’ subjective experience in their interactions with officers.