Neighborhood – Blair et al. (2021)

Study Reference:

Blair, R. A., Moscoso-Rojas, M., Castillo, A. V., & Weintraub, M. (2022). Preventing rebel resurgence after civil war: A field experiment in security and justice provision in rural Colombia. American Political Science Review116(4), 1258-1277.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhood; General; Proactive; Very Rigorous; No evidence of effect

What police practice or strategy was examined?

The study examined the effectiveness of community policing across several cities, provinces, and regions in six countries in the Global South (i.e., Medellin, Colombia; Santa Catarina, Brazil; Monrovia, Liberia; rural areas nationwide in Uganda; Sheikhupura Region, Pakistan; and Sorsogon Province, the Philippines).The community policing intervnetions generally focusd on increasing foot patrols, community town hall meetings, reporting hotlines to receive citizen feedback, and problem-solving approaches. The strategies exhibited some variation across the sites, reflecting both the global diversity in community policing implementation and its absence of a universal model. The interventions were delivered to about 9 million people in 516 treated areas (e.g., police beats, districts, neighborhoods, police stations) across the six countries.

How was the intervention evaluated?

In the six countries, areas (beats, neighborhoods, districts, or police stations) were randomly assigned to either treatment areas with community policing strategies or control areas with their usual policing strategies. In total, 18,382 citizens and 874 police officers were surveyed, and crime data were collected to assess the interventions’ effectiveness. The average effects from the field experiments, as well as effects across six countries, were estimated by comparing the treatment and control areas on various outcomes, including crime, victimization, police behaviors, perceptions of the police, and cooperation with the police. The six field experiments were synthesized using meta-analysis.

What were the key findings?

The community policing strategies did not effectively reduce crime and victimization, nor did they enhance police behaviors (i.e., reduce police abuse), citizen perceptions of the police, and cooperation with the police in any of the six countries. Implementation of study interventions was not consistent or complete across sites. Even though citizens reported more frequent exposure to the police, there was  limited evidence of police action in response to citizen reports. The meta-analysis overall results are also reinforced by similar null findings across each country.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

Community policing may not be sufficient to reduce crime or improve citizen-police relations without first implementing structural changes, particularly in the Global South. The authors argue that societies may need to consider broader systemic changes to realize the benefits of community policing strategies. These changes could include prioritizing community policing by police leadership, stabilizing community policing officers in their roles, having police leaders champion the reform, and providing sustained resources to follow up on concerns identified by citizens.

Where can I find more information about this intervention, similar types of intervention, or related studies?