Community-oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder and fear and increase satisfaction and legitimacy among citizens: a systematic review

Abstract

Objectives

Systematically review and synthesize the existing research on community-oriented policing to identify its effects on crime, disorder, fear, citizen satisfaction, and police legitimacy.

Methods

We searched a broad range of databases, websites, and journals to identify eligible studies that measured pre-post changes in outcomes in treatment and comparison areas following the implementation of policing strategies that involved community collaboration or consultation. We identified 25 reports containing 65 independent tests of community-oriented policing, most of which were conducted in neighborhoods in the United States. Thirty-seven of these comparisons were included in a meta-analysis.

Results

Our findings suggest that community-oriented policing strategies have positive effects on citizen satisfaction, perceptions of disorder, and police legitimacy, but limited effects on crime and fear of crime.

Conclusions

Our review provides important evidence for the benefits of community policing for improving perceptions of the police, although our findings overall are ambiguous. The challenges we faced in conducting this review highlight a need for further research and theory development around community policing. In particular, there is a need to explicate and test a logic model that explains how short-term benefits of community policing, like improved citizen satisfaction, relate to longer-term crime prevention effects, and to identify the policing strategies that benefit most from community participation.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    We thank an anonymous peer reviewer for this useful description.

  2. 2.

    Studies were not excluded on the basis of language, but we lacked resources to conduct our search in languages other than English.

  3. 3.

    Note that meta-analysis is performed on the log odds ratio, but we present findings as odds ratios for simplicity.

  4. 4.

    If we assume that crime counts follow a Poisson distribution, the standard error would be the same as for the odds ratio because Poisson is a generalization of the binomial distribution. However, this assumption is not realistic at places: counts tend to be overdispersed (see Bowers et al. 2011).

  5. 5.

    The method for calculating the variance of this adjusted OR varies depending on whether the same people were interviewed in the pre- and post-intervention surveys. If the samples are different, the variance is simply the sum of the variances of the pre- and post-test ORs. If the studies report panel data (measures based on the same sample), the variance falls between the post-test variance and the sum of the variances, depending on the pre-post covariance, which is not reported in studies. In this analysis, it was not always clear from the original studies whether panel samples were used, although it appeared that most studies surveyed different people in each wave. We performed sensitivity analyses and elected to use the sum of the variances for all effect size calculations based on survey data, which is correct for the majority of studies, and a more conservative estimate for the panel studies because it overestimates the variance of these studies.

  6. 6.

    Note that the numbers in the table are based on the 65 independent treatment–control comparisons reported in the studies, not the 25 publications.

  7. 7.

    All the studies involved some degree of community collaboration in order to meet our eligibility criteria.

  8. 8.

    We did not code organizational transformation because this was rarely discussed in studies and was not well operationalized.

  9. 9.

    Some reported outcome measures were ineligible for our review, even if the overall study was eligible. For example, in some studies, crime outcomes were measured pre- and post-intervention in treatment and control sites, but citizen surveys were only conducted in the treatment sites or only in the post-intervention period. Studies also reported an array of findings, not all of which were relevant to our outcomes of interest or comparable with outcomes measured in other studies.

  10. 10.

    Only 34 of these comparisons are included in the meta-analyses. Pate et al. (1986) included 5 comparisons across two sites, but each site used a common control group so we picked one comparison from each of the two sites at random (PCS in Houston and CCPP in Newark) to maintain statistical independence.

  11. 11.

    The five studies are Connell et al. 2008, Segrave and Collins 2005, and three comparisons reported in Uchida et al. 1992 (Kingston, Gate City, and Oakland).

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Additional Eligible Studies

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Acknowledgments

This systematic review was supported by a grant from the National Policing Improvement Agency (UK) to the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy at George Mason University. The opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed here are those of the authors alone. We are grateful to a number of colleagues who have provided helpful feedback on presentations of the preliminary results, and to the graduate students at George Mason University who assisted with data collection and coding.

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Correspondence to Charlotte Gill.

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Note that, in the References:

*Denotes a reference to a study included in the systematic review

**Denotes a reference to a study included in both the systematic review and meta-analysis

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Gill, C., Weisburd, D., Telep, C.W. et al. Community-oriented policing to reduce crime, disorder and fear and increase satisfaction and legitimacy among citizens: a systematic review. J Exp Criminol 10, 399–428 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11292-014-9210-y

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Keywords

  • Community policing
  • Crime prevention
  • Evaluation research
  • Legitimacy
  • Meta-analysis
  • Problem solving
  • Systematic review