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Can Community Policing Help the Truly Disadvantaged?

NCJ Number
Crime & Delinquency Volume: 50 Issue: 2 Dated: April 2004 Pages: 139-167
Date Published
April 2004
29 pages

This study examined whether community policing models that break down barriers between police and citizens are able to raise citizen assessments of their quality of life.


Critics of the professional model of policing charge that a police emphasis on reactive responses to crime has contributed to many undesirable outcomes, including a disconnection between police officers and the citizens they are charged with protecting. Over the past couple of decades, the policing profession has evolved and more departments are focusing on community policing models and “quality of life” issues such as reducing citizens’ fear of crime. The current study examined four independent data sources to discover if community policing does affect citizens’ quality of life assessments at both the citizen and neighborhood levels. Data from community surveys, patrol officer interviews, police crime records, and the Census Bureau were collected during another study entitled, “Project on Policing Neighborhoods,” which was conducted in Indianapolis, IN, and St. Petersburg, FL, during the summers of 1996 and 1997. Data from community interviews were used to construct citizen-level measures, while data from the patrol officer interviews were used to construct neighborhood-level measures. Two citizen-level quality of life measures were used: perceived incivility and perceived safety walking at night. The neighborhood-level variable measured aspects of police-community collaboration. Results of statistical analyses revealed that citizens who responded positively to measures of perceived community-police collaboration reported fewer problems related to incivilities and also perceived higher levels of safety than their counterparts who did not perceive a positive community-police collaboration. An ecological analysis was used to test whether the positive outcomes associated with community-police partnership extended beyond affluent neighborhoods. Results indicated that positively perceived community-police collaboration mediated the adverse consequences of concentrated disadvantage. Findings support an ecological argument for community policing which asserts that police should address crime problems by establishing mutual levels of trust and building working relationships with citizens. Limitations of the study include a reliance on cross-sectional data. Tables, figures, notes, references

Date Published: April 1, 2004