Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2021, $499,737)
Empirical evidence suggests that gun homicides are cleared at higher rates than nonfatal shootings because homicide cases benefit from specialized investigators, reduced detective caseloads, and sustained investigative effort that all lead to improved evidence collection, witness interviews, and forensic analysis. Applying these investigative enhancements to nonfatal shootings could generate significant improvements in case clearance. This is critical because unsolved shootings fail to deliver justice to victims, contribute to ongoing cycles of violence, and increase the likelihood that others will seek retribution themselves.
Recognizing the need to improve police response to these incidents, the Hartford Police Department developed a dedicated Shooting Response Team (SRT). The SRT is a specialized unit committed solely to response and investigations of nonfatal shooting cases. The cases investigated by this unit benefit from enhancements that are common to homicide divisions like enhanced investigative effort and committed case time from experienced detectives. Since securing victim and witness cooperation is a key element in the likelihood of case clearance, this program also emphasizes a victim-centric approach that is expected to play a vital role in clearing shooting cases.
The SRT seeks to improve responses to shootings through several key evidence-based activities. First, the SRT creates a team of specialized detectives to rapidly respond to crime scenes and investigate all nonfatal shootings. Assigning dedicated investigators will increase committed case time and investigative effectiveness. Second, the SRT adopts a victim-centric investigative approach based informed by procedurally just tactics to improve victim and witness cooperation in shooting cases. Third, the SRT program emphasizes ongoing engagement in advanced investigative training to expand detectives’ skillsets. Finally, the SRT program will formalize investigation protocols and a peer case review process to ensure sustained investigative effort.
This proposal seeks funding for the expansion and continuation of the SRT and a 24-month retrospective evaluation of this effort. The process evaluation will focus on qualitative data to highlight challenges and spotlight the most beneficial policies and practices for use by other police departments nationwide. The impact evaluation will explore whether the implementation of the SRT was associated with improved investigative responses to nonfatal shootings and increased rates of case clearance through regression models and interrupted time series analysis. We hope that these evaluation reports can serve as a blueprint for other departments seeking to improve their shooting responses, reduce retaliatory incidents and deliver justice to those impacted by violence.