Pilot study of method to review closed organized crime files

Acknowledgement

The authors hereby thank the regional offices which participated in this study for their interest and invaluable assistance. Without their help and input, this study could not have been completed.

Executive Summary

This report presents the findings of a pilot study to develop and test a methodology to review closed organized crime files dealt with by the Federal Prosecution Service (FPS). This study is Phase 1 of a two-part review, which is to provide a clear description of the nature and volume of organized crime files prosecuted by the FPS. In Phase 1, a method for the conduct of these file reviews was developed and tested. Subject to the findings and recommendations of Phase 1, Phase 2 will extend the tested method to a larger and more representative sample of files.

The key components of the pilot study were the development of an operational definition of an organized crime file, the identification and collection of data on a sample of files which conform to this definition, and analysis of the results of the pilot test. The focus of this analysis was on the feasibility of extending the method to a larger sample of files for the purpose of generating nationally representative estimates of the volume and nature of closed organized crime files.

More specific tasks included:

  • The analysis of data from a study of case complexity conducted by the Research and Statistics Division for the FPS in 1998. This study identified a small sample of files in which the accused had links to organized crime. These files were reviewed in order to understand their scope and nature, and to identify issues for discussion at the workshop held in Ottawa on May 30th 2003.
  • An assessment of the extent to which CASEVIEW (FPS's file management information system) could be used to draw a sample of files for the study. This assessment concluded that due to the widespread absence of relevant data for the period under review, CASEVIEW could not be used for this purpose.
  • The conduct of a workshop to develop an operational definition of an organized crime file. The definition that emerged from the workshop was used to identify files for review during visits to six FPS regional offices.

Following the workshop, site visits were made to the six FPS regional offices to:

  • Review a sample of 20 closed organized crime files as defined during the workshop.
  • Confirm the practical applicability of the definition and indicators of organized crime files identified at the workshop.
  • Collect descriptive information about the files.
  • Assess the ease or difficulty of extracting information from these files.

The visits to the six regional offices took place between mid-June and the end of July of 2003. The duration of the visits was three or four working days, depending on the number of organized crime files available for review. Across the six sites, a total of 114 files were identified by the regional offices as organized crime files, for an average of 19 files per office. During the site visits, a total of 85 files were reviewed, for an average of 14 files reviewed per site. The remaining 29 files were not reviewed for various reasons, including their not being complete, closed or physically accessible at the time of the site visits. The average amount of time taken to review each of the 85 files was 82 minutes, with a range of 20 - 240 minutes.

The results of the pilot test confirmed that the operational definition of an organized crime file agreed to at the workshop could be used to identify these files in the FPS caseload. It also determined that Phase 2 of the study, to involve collecting data on a larger and more representative sample of organized crime files handled by the FPS is, in fact, feasible. Specific recommendations for the conduct of Phase 2 included:

  • Narrowing the scope of the data to be collected from the files compared to the scope of the pilot study, and focussing the data collection on those characteristics of closed files that are most clearly related to describing the nature of organized crime files.
  • Using CASEVIEW to compile a sampling frame for all FPS files and winnow the caseload down to those files which may qualify as 'organized crime files,' and which were opened and closed during the period of study.
  • From the CASEVIEW sampling frame, drawing a regionally proportionate random sample of 2,000 of the files remaining after the winnowing effort. Since this sample will include both organized crime files and other files, analysis of the resulting data will enable FPS to estimate the proportion of its overall caseload which meets the definition of 'organized crime files.'
  • Reviewing the files in the sample of 2,000 using the coding instrument developed for this study.
  • Analyzing the coded information to both classify the files reviewed as 'organized crime files' or not (according to the definition agreed to at the workshop) and to describe the typical and distinguishing characteristics of these two sets of files.
  • As a supplement to the analysis of the data from the random sample of 2,000 files, applying a parallel coding and analysis process to 200 of the closed organized crime files currently being flagged by the regional offices.
  • Defining the work of the file review so that it can be done by analyst/coders with minimum qualifications and experience.
  • Focussing the file reviews on those documents identified in the pilot study as most likely to yield the required information.
  • Aiming for an average review time of one hour per file.
  • Establishing a reasonable standard for productivity for the coder/analysts. We recommend a target of 30 files reviewed per week per coder.
  • Being prepared to locate and examine linked files where appropriate.
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