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Study of Knowledge and Attitudes of Public Housing Residents Toward Community Policing in the City of Charleston

NCJ Number
Date Published
99 pages
This study assessed attitudes of public housing residents in Charleston, South Carolina, toward community policing using data collected through surveys and records of the Charleston Police Department.
The target population for the study included 1,777 people who resided in public housing developments managed by the Charleston Housing Authority. Responses were received from 605 of 1,022 public housing units, for a response rate of 69 percent. Questionnaires were administered to assess fear of crime, perceptions of crime, resident expectations of police service, and resident participation in crime prevention and education programs. About 81 percent of residents said they felt safe or somewhat safe in their neighborhoods during the day, and 35.2 percent said they felt safe at night. They ranked important crime threats as child involvement in drugs, random shootings, crimes against children, and robbery. Nearly 42 percent said courts were too lenient in sentencing criminals and indicated they often did not report crimes due to fear of retaliation. Approximately 35 percent said police officers were somewhat responsive to crime, 28.9 percent said police officers were very responsive, and 16.6 percent said police officers were somewhat unresponsive. When asked what precautions they took in response to crime, 25.1 percent of residents said they stayed in at night, 11.1 percent said they requested better lighting, 8.7 percent said they joined a neighborhood watch, 8.4 percent reported having installed new locks, 6.3 percent said they carried mace, and 4.6 said they had obtained a gun. About 30 percent of residents were aware of community policing and believed it made a difference in crime prevention, and about 45 percent were reasonably optimistic about community policing in Charleston. Recommendations are offered that reflect the attitudes and concerns of public housing residents. A detailed review of community policing in other jurisdictions is included, and an appendix tabulates Uniform Crime Reporting data in Charleston between 1989 and 1999. 18 references and 14 tables

Date Published: January 1, 2000