Two home-based strategies for secondary prevention of domestic violence have shown increasing use over the past decade. Personal radio alarms are indicated for extremely serious cases, while home visitation has been employed as a followup strategy after police response to a domestic disturbance call.
The personal alarm is usually a small panic button worn as a necklace. Pressing the button directly activates a message at police headquarters to dispatch a police car on an urgent basis to the home of the wearer, who uses it to signal that a batterer is on the premises (Sherman, 1992: 242; Farrell, 1995: 518-19). While the system is expensive to maintain, it can be allocated rationally based upon known risk factors. Police serving the Liverpool, England area rotate the available alarms across the most recent and highest-risk victims of serious attacks, based on their finding that repeat attacks were most likely to occur within thirty days after the last attack. This finding of highest risk of repeat victimization in the first 24 hours and first 30 days after the last incident has been replicated in a sample of 40,000 cases in an around Melbourne, Australia (Strang and Sherman, 1996), and is an important basic research finding of indirect evidence in support of the use of personal alarms. Unfortunately, the many documented cases of domestic homicide of women who had been issued alarms shows that the system is not foolproof. While it seems unlikely to increase the risk of attack, there is no impact evaluation presently available to address the question of whether alarms are safe and effective.
The strategy of home visitation after a police contact for domestic violence or disturbances also focuses on the high-risk time period in the immediate aftermath of a police response to a domestic disturbance in the home. The strategy has been evaluated in three tests using strong scientific methods. An NIJ-funded Dade County (Florida) police experiment in the late 1980s randomly assigned four responses to misdemeanor assault cases in which there was legally sufficient evidence to make an arrest: arrest, warning, arrest with followup visitation, and warning with followup visitation. The design was thus two separate controlled tests of followup visitation by police, one test following an arrest and one test following a warning (Pate, et al, 1991). The home visits consisted of a police detective reviewing the family's history of domestic violence problems, their legal options, and social service agencies to which the detective could refer them for further assistance. The visit was a one-time treatment, with no attempt to provide a theoretically based psychological treatment. The very rigorous test of the strategy found no effects of home visits on several diverse measures of repeat domestic violence over a six-month followup period, including police offense reports, arrest reports, and victim interviews, analyzed by prevalence, frequency, and time to failure. The results were the same for visits after an arrest and visits after a warning.
A second controlled experiment included both arrest cases (21%) and non-arrest cases (79%) in the same sample randomly assigned to receive home visitation (or not) by two person police-social worker teams (Davis and Taylor, forthcoming). The home visits were observed by researchers as lasting from ten to thirty minutes, depending on the victim's receptiveness and whether the batterer was present. The team tried to educate the victim, and the batterer if present, about the seriousness of domestic violence and encourage the family to seek change through the courts or other services. Specific information was provided about how to go to court for restraining orders, and to social services including battered women's shelters, substance abuse treatment, relocation to another address, and home security. No difference in repeat violence between experimentals and controls were reported in victim interviews (response rate = 72%), but homes assigned to the experimental group generated twice as many domestic calls to police. The authors interpret this as evidence that visitation increases reporting but not violence; an alternative interpretation (untested in the analysis) is that visitation increased repeat calls, with the homes with no victim interviews accounting for a substantial portion of the total increase in the experimental group.
However the data are interpreted, there are now three strong tests of the police home visits strategy for preventing domestic violence. All three of the tests falsify the hypothesis that this strategy is effective.
Effects on Domestic Violence of Proactive Home Visitation after Reactive Police Contacts
Study Scientific Home Visitation Results
Pate et al 1991 5 Police Detectives Visits after a warning had no
effect on repeat violence
(N= 447) over a 6 month followup
period as reported by victim
interviews or documented in
Pate et al 1991 5 Police Detectives Visits after an arrest had no
effect on repeat violence
(N= 442) over a 6 month followup
period as reported by victim
interviews or documented in
Davis and Taylor 5 Police-social Visits in domestic violence
forthcoming worker teams public housing "hot spots"
had no effect over a six
(N= 436) month followup period on
repeat violence reported by
victims; calls to police
about domestic incidents from
experimental group almost
twice as high as from control
PREVENTION LINKS BETWEEN PARENTS AND PRESCHOOL OR SCHOOL
Outside the home, the preschool and the school provide major opportunities for family-based crime prevention. Many of the prevention effects associated with early infancy home visits are impossible to separate from the simultaneous provision of a strong linkage between parents and preschool. As children age, the school takes over more of the child's day (see Chapter Five), but many schools continue to seek parental involvement in reducing a child's behavioral risk factors for delinquency. Without duplicating the coverage of school-based prevention in the next chapter, this section explores the evidence on family-based prevention delivered through school settings.
Developmentally, the family-school linkage can begin as early as infants are left in educationally enriched day care for even part of the day. For children whose parent or parents are employed, the availability of such care can be a crucial factor allowing the parents to work. For children who have at least one parent out of the labor force, the link to day care or preschool can be an important means of helping that parent find work. The daily structure of commuting to a child care center, and of spending part of each day or week there, can help establish patterns essential for participation in mainstream society. Effects of maternal participation in preschool in studies reviewed by Yoshikawa (1994) included increased employment, reduced welfare dependency, and increased time between giving birth. To the extent that these effects were also linked to home visitation, however, the greatest certainty about generalizing from these results lies in framing them as a combined preschool-home visitation effect.
School setting programs for parent training and family-based prevention with older children also combine several different treatments. The recent review by Tremblay and Craig shows generally positive effects of these programs on delinquency or, more often, risk factors for delinquency with indicated or selective samples. Many of the evaluations suffer from small samples, short (or no) followup periods, and other methodological weaknesses. But the consistency of the results suggests that school-family outreach to train parents of problem children could be an effective means of preventing delinquency in certain kinds of areas.
Children at Risk. Unfortunately, the results of the moderately strong evidence in Figure 4-4 were not confirmed by a very strong test of a very expensive program linking schools and families of very high-risk youth to a wide range of services in very high risk neighborhoods. The Urban Institute's four-year NIJ-funded evaluation of the Children at Risk program in Austin (TX),
Submitted by: Lawrence W. Sherman *
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