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Pennsylvania State Police TRIAD Program

Prescription pain relievers and heroin (opiates) abuse is a growing epidemic in the United States. Of all drug-related overdose deaths in 2013, 43% were due to prescription opioids and 22% were due to heroin, representing an increase of over 300% since 1999 (NIDA, 2015). In Pennsylvania, opiate overdose rates have increased over 470% over the past two decades, and the state now ranks 7th in the US for drug-related overdoses (Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 2014). Additionally, over half of all arrests in Pennsylvania in 2014 involved heroin (Center for Rural PA, 2014). The cities of Harrisburg and York were recently ranked 25th and 33rd, respectively, amongst the most dangerous cities to live in the US (, n.d.). During the last three years, drug-related deaths increased 69.05% in Dauphin County (which houses Harrisburg) and 69.64% in York County (which houses York). Due to the critical and prevalent nature of this issue, we are proposing an innovative project – the TRIAD program – that will disrupt the flow of these illegal substances into our communities through three components: increased patrols, technological advancement, and community partnerships.

Project Team

  • Principal Investigators: Pennsylvania State Police
  • Co-Investigators: Jennifer Gibbs, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Penn State Harrisburg; Jonathan Lee, Assistant Professor, Criminal Justice Program, Penn State Harrisburg; Glenn Sterner, Post-Doctoral Scholar, Justice Center for Research, Department of Sociology and Criminology,

About the Project

  • Proposal to the Bureau of Justice Assistance

Project Details

To combat the rise in drug-related crime and deaths, PSP will utilize Smart Policing Initiative FY2016 Competitive Grant (SPI) funds, under Purpose Area 1: Smart Policing Innovation, to develop “The Triad Program.”  The Triad Program (TRIAD) is a mitigation strategy driven by arrest and overdose data, to be evaluated for effectiveness by the research partners at Penn State University, utilizing measurable performance metrics.

TRIAD will synchronize innovative enforcement strategies, driven by cutting-edge technology, while leveraging information received by community input and outreach, along with police-gathered intelligence.  TRIAD is named for the three main component parts that will be brought to bear on the problem of drug-related crime and deaths: Incident Response Team, Technological Dashboard, and Community Partnership.

The TRIAD program will be assessed through a quasi-experimental design using Harrisburg City and York City as target areas, and two respective comparison areas which will be determined based on demographic characteristics.  Pre-intervention and post-intervention data collection will be implemented through PSP database sharing and resident surveys at both the target and comparison areas.  Crime analysis will deliver hot-spot identification and examine situational factors associated with high odds of criminal incidents.  Surveys will shed light on individual perceptions of drug activities and police enforcement, among others.

Project Objectives

  1. Mitigate overdose rates in York and Harrisburg and their surrounding counties.
  2. Increase disruption of opiate distribution networks through increased surveillance and arrests.


This project has great potential for sustainability after the SPI funding period.  Once the Technical Dashboard is purchased, PSP will have the resources to continue the TRIAD program.  Additionally, the PSP Commissioner has encouraged police-researcher partnerships to ensure evidence-based practices, and Penn State Harrisburg has a commitment to promoting evidence-based practices in policing.  Further, PSP has networks and influence with other jurisdictions across the Commonwealth, and PSP fully intends to introduce the TRIAD program to other areas if it is effective.  This includes presenting the project at various regional and national conferences (e.g., IACP, Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association).  Finally, the research partners will attend academic conferences and produce academic publications to disseminate results to the academic community, who can promote the TRIAD program to other jurisdictions.

Project Products

  • BJA Grant Proposal submitted April 12, 2016 for $697,473