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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Police intervention and the repeat of domestic assault
Richard B. FelsonJeffrey M. Ackerman and Catherine A. GallagherCriminologyVol. 43 No. 32005pp. 563-88
The Minneapolis Domestic Violence Experiment (Sherman and Berk, 1984) has proven to be one of the most influential social science studies in terms of its influence on public, and more specifically, criminal justice, policy in history. In brief, the Minneapolis Experiment found that arrest has a deterrent effect on domestic violence. While subsequent replications of the Minneapolis study have provided mixed findings, the original effect of increased mandatory arrest laws remains.
The current article points out, however, that domestic violence experiments are limited by their failure to include incidents that are not reported. The authors claim that by including unreported incidents, it is possible to student the effects of police involvement as well as arrest. The authors suggest that there are a number of reasons that reporting an incident may be an effective deterrent even if there is no arrest made. They also consider the retaliation hypothesis, or the idea that victims who report domestic violence are more likely to be violated again than those victims whose incidents are reported by a third party.
The authors use data from the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) for the years 1992 to 2002 (they did not use the more commonly used concatenated NCVS because that data set includes only those respondents who report victimizations). The NCVS data create a longitudinal file in that respondents are surveyed six times (every six months) over a three-year period, with a sample size of 2,564. The file included person and household information, and information on each incident of intimate domestic violence reported by each victim.
A series of dichotomous variables were employed to assess the data in the current study. Police intervention was measured to determine effects of reporting versus not reporting and arrest versus no arrest. Alternative analyses distinguished between whether the incident was reported by the victim or a third party. Weapon use and injury, whether the incident included sexual assault, and whether the offender was using alcohol or drugs were used as measures of characteristics of the intervention. Total family income and victim’s years of education were used as measures of poverty, or socioeconomic status. A series of variables were constructed to separate the effects of marital status from those of cohabitation. Race and estimated age were also measured.
Findings suggest that while arrest may have a small deterrent effect (the coefficient for arrest approaches significance), there is no evidence that arrest is a stronger deterrent for offenders with a greater stake in conformity. The effect of reporting is fairly strong, however, and suggests that reporting acts as a deterrent. There was no evidence to support the retaliation hypothesis. The authors caution against the possibility of various confounding effects due to the fact that the data used was not experimental.