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Program Profile: Richmond (CA) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on May 22, 2012

Program Summary

A problem-oriented policing program that offered a broad collection of enforcement and non-enforcement strategies, including a middle school mentoring program, designed to reduce homicide in Richmond, California. This program is rated Promising. It had a significant impact on homicide reduction in Richmond.

Program Description

Program Goals
The Richmond (California) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative is a problem-oriented policing program composed of a broad collection of enforcement and nonenforcement strategies designed to reduce homicides.

Target Site
Richmond, California is located across the bay from San Francisco. During the 1990s the population of the city was around 94,000. Nearly half of this population was African American, just more than one third white, and one fourth Hispanic and Asian. Richmond’s relationship to San Francisco is analogous to Newark, N.J.’s relationship to New York, N.Y.; Gary, Ind.’s relationship to Chicago, Ill.; and Camden, N.J.’s relationship to Philadelphia, Pa.

Between 1985 and 1994, the city experienced several economic setbacks and increases in drug-related violence that were common among other urban areas at that time. Richmond also witnessed a rise in the number of homicides. Homicides had remained constant from 1985 to 1987 but then increased dramatically by the end of the 1980s. By 1991 the number of homicides had tripled from 20 in 1985 to 61 in 1991, making Richmond one of the most violent cities in the country, per capita.

Program Components
To address the rising number of homicides in the city, the Richmond Police Department began to rethink its strategy toward homicide and violent crime and in the early 1990s started to shift toward a problem-oriented policing philosophy. In 1995, Richmond was selected as a demonstration site for the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance Comprehensive Homicide Initiative. The initiative provided funding to jurisdictions to implement violence reduction strategies that concentrated on reducing homicides.

The Richmond Comprehensive Homicide Initiative combined traditional law enforcement practices with specific prevention and intervention efforts that involved partnerships with the community, other city agencies, and local schools. The initiative departed from the traditional police definition of homicide as a unique offense in which the appropriate police role is largely limited to after-the-fact investigation. Instead, it started to include homicide prevention as a critical police responsibility that can best be accomplished by identifying the paths that frequently lead to homicide and closing them by intervening early. With this new definition in mind, a plan was developed that concentrated on specific problem areas, including targeting domestic violence, enhancing investigative capabilities, intervening in the lives of at-risk youths, and targeting outdoor-, gun-, drug-, and gang-related violence.

The initiative included the development of numerous enforcement and nonenforcement strategies. Nonenforcement strategies, characterized as prevention/intervention strategies, consisted of:

  • Collaborating with the community, the Richmond Public Works Department, and the Housing Authority in a crime-reduction planning process emphasizing aesthetics and community pride
  • Using the Richmond Police Athletic League Computer Center to provide job skills training to Richmond youths and adults
  • Collaborating with the Richmond public schools to enlist officers in an adopt-an-elementary-school program and to develop a middle school mentoring program involving Drug Abuse Resistance Education (or D.A.R.E.) officers and high school students
  • Collaborating with the Contra Costa County Probation Department to develop a probation-officer-on-campus program for high schools
  • Collaborating with the juvenile justice system to develop a youth court program
  • Collaborating with the Battered Women’s Alternatives and the Rape Crisis Coalition to support programs and practices to reduce domestic violence (Fyfe, Goldkamp, and White 1997)
Traditional investigative and enforcement functions included:

  • Developing an intensified team approach to obtain information on high-profile homicides
  • Obtaining FBI assistance in reviewing old, unsolved ("cold") homicide cases
  • Obtaining the assistance of the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the California Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement in targeting violence-prone members of the drug culture
  • Assigning an evidence specialist to the Richmond Police Department’s detective bureau
  • Improving information sharing and technology (Fyfe, Goldkamp, and White 1997)

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1

White and colleagues (2003) found a significant impact of the Richmond (Calif.) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative on homicides in Richmond, beginning in January 1995 and lasting through the end of the study period (July 1998). The time-series analysis showed that the number of homicides significantly decreased in the first month of 1995, by more than one homicide per month.

The results of the time-series analysis indicated that the Richmond Police Department’s response to the increase in violence that began in 1992 and continued through the implementation of the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative started to have an effect in January of 1995, suggesting that the impact was gradual in onset but long lasting in duration.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
White and colleagues (2003) evaluated the Richmond (Calif.) Comprehensive Homicide Initiative by using the interrupted time-series analysis, Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA), to determine whether the problem-oriented policing philosophy caused changes in the frequency of homicides in Richmond from 1985 to 1998.

The goal of the time-series analysis was to account for or explain the values in the dependent variable (monthly levels of homicide). In the first stage of ARIMA, called model-building, the method sought to identify a descriptive model that captures the implicit pattern in the frequency of homicides in Richmond, measured on a monthly basis. The second stage, called impact assessment, sought to determine whether any changes in the model were associated with the independent variable (the implementation of the problem-oriented policing practices). The analysis considered different types of impacts, including onset (whether gradual or abrupt) and duration (whether temporary or permanent).

Data was obtained from Richmond Police Department (RPD) homicide reports and interviews with detectives from homicide and gang units. Data was grouped into 3 periods according to homicide patterns: 1985–89 was a period of stability; 1990–94 was a period of great increases; 1995–98 was the “posttreatment” phase after the initiative was implemented. Since the Richmond Comprehensive Homicide Initiative was the culmination of changing policing practices, rather than the onset of a new philosophy, the examination for an impact of the initiative began at the beginning months of 1995, when a new police chief was appointed to the RPD. The new police chief immediately began to concentrate the policing practices of the RPD to a more problem-oriented approach.

There are some limitations to the research design. For example, there may be other important factors at work in Richmond at or near the time of the intervention that also influenced the prevalence of homicide. The time-series analysis does not control for other historical events (i.e. changes in the economy). The authors of the study acknowledged the importance of history as a threat to internal validity, and warned that the analyses cannot produce definitive evidence of a causal relationship between the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative and homicide trends.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Information about the Richmond Police Department’s strategy to implement the Comprehensive Homicide Initiative is presented in the 1997 report by Fyfe and colleagues (a link to the study is available under Additional References).
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1
White, Michael D., James J. Fyfe, Suzanne P. Campbell, and John S. Goldkamp. 2003. “The Police Role in Preventing Homicide: Considering the Impact of Problem-Oriented Policing on the Prevalence of Murder.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 40(2):194–225.
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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Fyfe, James J., John S. Goldkamp, and Michael D. White. 1997. Strategies for Reducing Homicide: The Comprehensive Homicide Initiative in Richmond, California. Monograph. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance.

White, Michael D., James J. Fyfe, Suzanne P. Campbell, and John S. Goldkamp. 2000. Redefining the Police Response to Homicide: Assessing the Richmond, California, Comprehensive Homicide Initiative. Philadelphia, Pa.: Crime and Justice Research Institute.
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Related Practices

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Following are practices that are related to this program:

Targeted Truancy Interventions
These interventions are designed to increase attendance for elementary and secondary school students with chronic attendance problems. The practice is rated Effective for improving attendance.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Effective - More than one Meta-Analysis Education - Attendance/truancy

Problem-Oriented Policing
These analytic methods are used by police to develop crime prevention and reduction strategies. The practice is rated Promising and led to a significant decline in crime and disorder.

Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
Promising - One Meta-Analysis Crime & Delinquency - Multiple crime/offense types
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Program Snapshot

Age: 0+

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting, High Crime Neighborhoods/Hot Spots

Program Type: Community and Problem Oriented Policing, Community Awareness/Mobilization, Truancy Prevention, Violence Prevention

Targeted Population: Serious/Violent Offender, Truants/Dropouts

Current Program Status: Not Active

Listed by Other Directories: Model Programs Guide

Program Director:
Richmond Police Department
41701 Regatta Blvd.
Richmond CA 94804
Phone: 510.233.1214

Michael D. White
Associate Professor
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Arizona State University
411 N. Central Avenue, Suite 600
Phoenix AZ 85004