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Improving Forensic Responses to Residential Burglaries: Results of a Randomized Controlled Field Trial

NCJ Number
Journal of Experimental Criminology Volume: 12 Issue: 3 Dated: 2016 Pages: 319-345
Emma Antrobus; Andrew Pilotto
Date Published
August 2016
27 pages

Because residential burglaries (or breaking and entering) can cause great concern to the public but are typically a routine police job, the current study evaluated an enhanced police approach to this high-volume crime by emphasizing police-victim interactions and more thorough forensic examinations.


Crime-scene 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 improve skills in DNA and fingerprint evidence collection and crime-scene evaluation. Officers in the experimental group 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 several benefits, including greater evidence collection, identification, and solved crimes. 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 DNA evidence did not greatly add to the solving of these crimes. High-volume crimes such as breaking and entering have a significant impact on the victims and often go unsolved. This study provides evidence that enhancing officers' attendance and attention to victims and evidence at these crime scenes can increase solvability and enhance victim experiences. 7 tables, 2 figures, and 59 references (publisher abstract modified)