Crime reporting is a key event that links crime to the criminal justice system, and much research has been devoted to identifying the factors that influence victims, decisions to notify the police (Baumer and Lauritsen, 2010: 172). One potential correlate of reporting that has been understudied is prior contact with law enforcement. Yet, police contact is more common for victims (Maxfield, 1988) and legitimacy research suggests this experience shapes norms regarding reporting (Tyler and Fagan, 2008). The United States primary source of information on victimization, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), does not include the data needed to examine the relationship between police contact and future crime reporting. The proposed study will overcome this problem by linking the NCVS to the 2002, 2008, and 2011 Police Public Contact Surveys (PPCS).
Using nationally-representative data from approximately 150,000 individuals, this research will 1) describe the extent and nature of face-to-face police contact for victims versus non-victims; 2) assess the association between direct police contact and subsequent victimization reporting, exploring factors that might condition this relationship (e.g., victim characteristics, perceptions of procedural justice); and 3) examine if reporting is related to vicarious police contact. Differences in contact between victims and non-victims will be investigated using bivariate statistics. Adjusting for differences in the likelihood of experiencing contact, the effects of direct and vicarious police contact on reporting will be examined using logistic regression.
This project will address limitations with prior work. Extant research primarily examines the effects of contact on attitudes and willingness to cooperate with police; however, actual reporting behaviors are most relevant for the distribution of justice and the production of official crime data. The few studies that investigate reporting behavior focus on one type of contact, lack measures of procedural justice, or fail to examine factors that condition the effect of contact on reporting. The police desire and need citizens to be co-producers of safety (Skogan, 2006). Study results will assess if and under what conditions police actions affect this cooperative effort and if the potentially negative effects of contact on reporting can be mitigated by police interaction with the public.
In addition to a final report, several manuscripts will be submitted to top-tier journals. Dissemination of findings will occur through presentations for the American Society of Criminology, National Institute of Justice, and Bureau of Justice Statistics. Final, merged datasets, syntax for variable creation, and the methodology will be archived. ca/ncf