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Communities as Neighborhood Guardians: A Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Community Policing in Nairobi's Suburbs


The efficacy of citizens to participate in neighborhood-watch activities and report signs of trouble is important for safeguarding communities against crime. Community policing is a key policing strategy for utilizing the capability of residents to solve local crime-related problems. However, variability in social cohesion among communities profoundly affects the contribution of individuals towards policing. After 7 years of a community policing intervention in suburban Nairobi, Kenya, this study assesses the program as a state-initiated and community-sustained security venture. We compare micro-scaled concentrations of different property and violent crimes to identify geographic variations over time using kernel density estimates and spatio-temporal scan statistics. Multi-level regression models assess the direct and conditioned perceptions of individuals and their neighbors, and how these perceptions influenced crime variation during the pre- and post-intervention periods of community policing. Both the density estimates and the scan statistics pinpoint a disproportionate crime reduction across neighborhoods. The research findings also depict an interaction between the communal willingness to participate in neighborhood-watch activities and the relative crime decline. In particular, those communities that have good relations with the police are more inclined to involve themselves in community policing. The findings of this study are discussed in terms of their implications for policy.

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    Other potential variables not highly significant for the estimation were excluded to increase the model statistical power. A bivariate correlation analysis and the assessment of variance inflation factors (VIF) showed no evidence of multicollinearity among the remaining independent variables.

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The first author would like to express her gratitude to the law enforcement in Dandora and Buruburu, Nairobi and to Professor Alexander Zipf (University of Heidelberg, Germany) for their support, as well as to the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) for funding this research. The authors are also grateful for the valuable comments from the anonymous reviewers.

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Correspondence to Lucy Mburu.

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Mburu, L., Helbich, M. Communities as Neighborhood Guardians: A Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Community Policing in Nairobi's Suburbs. Appl. Spatial Analysis 10, 189–210 (2017).

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  • Community policing
  • Kernel density estimation
  • Space-time scan statistic
  • Multi-level regression
  • Nairobi (Kenya)