Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Summary of Responses

The table below summarizes the responses to sexual assault of women by strangers, the means by which they are meant to work, the conditions under which they should work best, and some factors you should consider before implementing a particular response. It is critical that you tailor responses to local circumstances, and that you can justify each response based on reliable analysis. In most cases, an effective strategy will involve implementing several different responses. Law enforcement responses alone are seldom effective in reducing or solving the problem.

# Response How It Works Works Best If Considerations
General Considerations for an Effective Response Strategy
1 Implementing a multifaceted response It simultaneously attacks several factors that contribute to sexual assault have accurate data on your community's sexual assault problem Police data often do not show the extent of the problem and omit important victim, offender, and location characteristics
2 Developing an interagency collaboration It relies on each agency's specific expertise and requires coordination among agencies ...cross-training of agency staff is in place; full-time staff are assigned; formal protocols for communication and information-sharing are developed; team members develop methods to collect complete information about the sexual assault problem Victims' privacy wishes must be respected; distrust among team members can disrupt information-sharing
# Response How It Works Works Best If Considerations
Specific Responses To Reduce Sexual Assault of Women by Strangers
Victim-Oriented Responses
3 Supporting sexual assault victims It increases the likelihood that victims will report assaults to police ...victims work with a single advocate as long as needed and are not transferred among caseloads; advocates protect victims' interests throughout all of the stages of the medical and criminal justice process, and beyond Even with emotional support, some victims will not want to report assaults to police
4 Making forensic medical exams less burdensome It increases the quality of forensic evidence ...nurses are on call 24 hours; nurses have special training in the technology of forensic evidence collection and receive regular updates about changing legal procedures Nurses who specialize in sexual assault examinations must remain impartial when examining the victim
5 Improving police skill in interviewing victims It increases the quality of information police obtain about reported sexual assaults ...police adapt their interviewing style to the victim's manner of presentation; training includes videotaped role- play and feedback Some victims may be more comfortable talking to an officer of a specific gender, so the department should have a diverse cadre of well-trained officers; well-paced interviews that are responsive to victims' needs can be time-consuming
6 Teaching women self-protection It increases the effort required for an offender to complete a sexual assault ...women consider the level of resistance with which they are comfortable long before an attack occurs; women stay alert for opportunities to flee or resist throughout the attack Emphasizing resistance may cause victims to believe they must resist for the police to view the assault as legitimate; emphasizing resistance by women may suggest that men are not ultimately responsible for their actions
7 Offering safe transportation or escort services It limits the availability of potential victims ...the transportation is legal, credible, and easily accessible, and operates when and where women are at the highest risk of attack If the analysis of high-risk times and places is inaccurate, this response will have no impact on the problem
# Response How It Works Works Best If Considerations
Offender-Oriented Responses
8 Detecting prowlers It decreases the likelihood that a motivated offender will be able to commit a sexual assault ...foot patrols and volunteer groups focus on high-risk areas; volunteers are trained to identify suspicious behavior and to contact police; police interview callers and neighbors and document suspicious activity, even if the prowler has fled; police assigned to provide increased surveillance are not sidetracked with other assignments Offenders may become aware of patrols and move to an area without increased surveillance
9 Encouraging involvement by community members It increases the likelihood of apprehension and successful prosecution of offenders ... residents feel a personal duty to address the problem of sexual assault; residents call police immediately to report an assault in progress; residents are willing to be formal witnesses Most offenders choose isolated locations to avoid being observed by bystanders
10 Collaborating with probation and parole officers to identify suspects It increases the likelihood of identifying a suspect ...police share subtle facts about offenders' characteristics or behavior with parole and probation agents who are very familiar with the offenders on their caseloads Police may unfairly harass offenders who didn't commit the crime in question
11 Using validated risk assessments to identify the supervision needs of known sex offenders in the community It increases the likelihood that supervisors will address an offender's risky behaviors before they escalate into a new sexual assault ...staff use an instrument specifically designed to assess the risk of sexual reoffending; police are aware of high-risk behaviors for individual offenders Supervisors must adjust the intensity of supervision as the offender's risk level changes
12 Developing case- management plans to reduce the risk individual offenders pose It decreases offenders' propensity to commit sexual assault ...staff balance plans between surveillance activities and long-term treatment; staff individualize plans based on each offender's unique characteristics The management and treatment of high-risk offenders is costly; the community must have evidence-based treatment programs
12a Monitoring offenders' activities It decreases the likelihood that a motivated offender will be able to commit a sexual assault ...field contacts supplement office contacts; officers make collateral contacts with spouses, employers, roommates, etc. Field contacts are time- consuming; interagency agreements for information- sharing are required; GPS is very costly, depends on the availability of a cell-phone signal, and requires the offender's cooperation
12b Providing evidence-based treatment to known sex offenders It decreases the propensity of offenders to commit sexual assault ...the program focuses on examining offenders' own behavior rather than changing attitudes or creating victim empathy; therapists verify self-reported behavior with police, probation, and parole officers; therapists share information about offenders' risky behaviors with those responsible for monitoring them in the community Interagency agreements for information-sharing are required; long-term intensive treatment can be costly
12c Using lie detectors to inform case- management planning and execution It improves the quality of information available to therapists and officers responsible for supervising offenders in the community ...lie detector examiners are highly trained; examiners collaborate with therapists and officers to develop questions The best treatment outcomes are noted when indicators of deception lead to investigation and treatment, rather than to immediate parole revocation
# Response How It Works Works Best If Considerations
Location-Oriented Responses
13 Limiting intoxication in public places It decreases the propensity of some men to become aggressive; it decreases the tendency of potential victims to become less aware of their surroundings or to take other risks and nightclub owners practice responsible beverage service Not all victims and offenders are intoxicated when an attack occurs, so this response has the potential to affect only a subset of potential sexual assaults
14 Improving lighting It increases offenders' risk of detection ...the high-risk locations for sexual assault have been properly identified Improved lighting may displace potential offenders to areas with limited surveillance opportunities; installing and maintaining lighting may be expensive
15 Removing hiding spots It increases offenders' risk of detection; it decreases the places available for offenders to wait for suitable victims ...the high-risk locations for sexual assault have been properly identified Reducing hiding spots will deter only those offenders who rely on cover to surprise their victims; it won't affect offenders who openly approach their victims and verbally persuade them to move to a more isolated area
# Response How It Works Works Best If Considerations
Responses With Limited Effectiveness
16 Reforming legislation It makes it easier to convict offenders once police apprehend them Research has shown that efforts to reform the criminal code have had very minimal effects on the number of arrests, indictments, and prosecutions of sexual assaults by strangers