A survey of high-crime neighborhoods in six cities found that residents are willing to work with police to help solve crimes, attend community-police meetings and even participate in voluntary patrols—even though they believe law enforcement is often biased and prone to misconduct.
The findings released today by the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy Center add weight to other research and anecdotal evidence underlining the importance of community policing strategies.
The study, by Nancy La Vigne, Jocelyn Fontaine and Anamika Dwivedi, was based on door-to-door surveys conducted between September 2015 and January 2016 in Birmingham, Al.; Fort Worth, Tx.; Gary, In.; Minneapolis, Mn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; and Stockton, Ca.
Researchers conducted interviews in person or by phone with a sampling of 1,278 adults in neighborhoods selected because of their high crime rates and large populations of poor and unemployed individuals—neighborhoods which are commonly characterized by strained relations with law enforcement.
Summarizing the findings, the study said that a majority of those surveyed did not believe that police acted in “procedurally just” ways, such as trying to help people they encountered, treating them with dignity and respect, or giving them a chance to tell their own side of the story.
More than half (55.5 percent) agreed with the statement that “police officers will treat you differently because of your race/ethnicity.” And only a small percentage believed police departments in their cities made community concerns a priority.
Nevertheless, a majority believed laws should be obeyed and were likely to report a crime or suspicious activity to police. Almost half said they would volunteer to help solve a crime, and just over 41 percent said they were even willing to patrol the streets to help police identify suspicious activity.
The study, which was conducted on behalf of the National Initiative for Building Community Trust and Justice, was unique in being targeted directly at the neighborhoods most affected by high violence.
The study authors said their findings underscored research elsewhere showing that “despite often deep distrust in law enforcement over all, individual relationships with individual patrol officers can be strong and positive.”
The full study is available here.