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Using Offender Interviews To Inform Police Problem Solving

NCJ Number
Scott H. Decker
Date Published
April 2005
62 pages
This guide first summarizes the most important findings from offender interviews that can contribute to problem-oriented policing, followed by recommendations for conducting offender interviews that can yield results relevant to problem-oriented policing projects.
Research with active offenders has focused on five offender categories: drug dealers and users, residential burglars, armed robbers, gang members, and gun offenders. This guide presents key findings from these interviews that relate directly to police problem solving. The central conclusion from such interviews is that offenders' values, relationships, and regular activities are directly linked to their criminal behavior. Information on these facets of offenders' lives relates to their criminal tactics, motives, targets, and offending patterns. This knowledge provides significant input for designing proactive police problem solving strategies that counter the circumstances and tactics that underlie various types of crimes. The second part of this report provides guidance on how to conduct offender interviews that yield the kinds of information that is useful in planning problem-oriented police projects. Topics covered are the goals of interviews, whom to interview, who should conduct the interview, how to find appropriate subjects, convincing subjects to consent to interviews, informed consent, maintaining field relations, conducting interviews, and distinguishing truth from deception. Suggestions are also offered for analyzing the results of the interview and presenting the findings. 28 notes, 23 references, and 17 annotated recommended readings