‘Disrespect’ by Cops Reduces Civilian Reporting of Crime: Study

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Individuals who are stopped and questioned by police are less likely to report crimes, according to a study published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency,

Drawing on data collected by the Vera Institute of Justice in 2012 as part of a study that focused on areas of New York City marked by high rates of crime and police stops and arrests (Harlem, South Bronx, Jackson-Heights, Jamaica and East New York/Bedford-Stuyvesant), the researchers found that a greater number of lifetime stops correlates with a lower likelihood of police notification, and with lower ratings of both police legitimacy and effectiveness.

“Willingness to report crime is …one of several mechanisms that enable the mobilization of law as an immediate antecedent of citizen behavior, and is the lifeblood of police work,” said the study.

Researchers also noted that those who felt disrespected by the police were less willing to report crimes, regardless of whether they were satisfied with how the police handled the encounter.

“The more individuals see the police as aligned with their own values and dispositions, the more they should be willing to support them, to engage them, and to abide by these shared expectations,” the study said.

Significantly, individuals who perceived the police as legitimate and effective were 37 percent more likely to report crimes.

They also found that reporting intentions are relatively higher among women, employed persons, and those who perceived a greater likelihood of future victimization.

Data revealed no pattern related to  race and ethnicity, which they claimed was “perhaps due to the specific nature of our sample or the use of alternative markers of stratification such as employment or foreign-born status.”

However, researchers said that during involuntary encounters with police, tensions are higher, which can make encounter-based evaluations of the police less relevant for general assessments of law enforcement legitimacy and effectiveness, as well as for reporting intentions.

“It is also important for research because more detailed information on the appraisal process of personal experience can inform theory development on the mechanisms of citizen compliance and cooperation,”  they wrote.

The study was prepared by Andres F. Rengifo, Lee Ann Slocum and Vijay Chillar.

A full copy the report can downloaded here.

This summary was prepared by TCR staff reporter Megan Hadley.

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