A survey of 450 citizens in Indianapolis examined public perceptions of active traffic law enforcement strategies before and after the initiation in July 1997 of a crackdown called the Indianapolis Directed Patrol Project and also considered whether the implementation of two different types of traffic enforcement decreased public support.
The research also examined whether an increased police presence in the neighborhood influenced citizens’ perceptions of crime, quality of life, and the police. Data came from two experimental target areas and one comparison area. The police implemented a general deterrence strategy in one target area for 90 days and a specific deterrence strategy involving more selective approach to vehicle and pedestrian stops in the other target area. Results of the surveys indicated that citizens strongly supported active traffic enforcement practices and that the implementation of such strategies does not reduce their support. Residents of areas where police used these types of tactics did not think that the police were harassing them. Citizens living in one of the experimental areas were significantly more likely than others to support the police and thought that the police worked well with the neighborhood. However, residents of the areas that experienced two types of active enforcement did not think that crime had decreased, nor that quality of life had improved. Findings provided some preliminary insights into the relationship between formal and informal processes of social control, suggested the need for additional research, and supported the conclusion that variables other than concerns about crime and fear of crime may influence public attitudes toward the police. Tables, footnotes, appended description of variables, and 49 references (Author abstract modified)