Neighborhood – Blair et al. (2022)

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; Focused; Proactive; Very Rigorous; Mixed effects

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study evaluated the ComunPaz program, which was designed to encourage state-building and replace rebel governance by providing information about the roles and responsibilities of different state and local institutions to enhance coordination among these groups and improve security and justice after a civil war. The intervention also sought to establish trust with community members by providing opportunities for them to interact with state and local authorities within a secure and structured environment. The intervention focused on three types of actors: Police Inspectors, police officers, and JACs (JACs are non-profit civic organizations made up of neighbors who pool their efforts and resources to address needs within the community) and involved four modules made up of lectures discussions, group work, and Q&A sessions. Modules 1 and 2 focused on helping participants understand the separate roles and responsibilities of state and communal authorities while also identifying the biggest sources of conflict within communities under the participants’ jurisdiction. Module 3 attempted to build trust among participants and encouraged them to develop actionable plans for collaboration. Finally, Module 4 included citizens in addition to the three primary groups and was intended to build trust within the community by disseminating information about the proposals (specifically tailored to each community) developed in the previous module.

How was the intervention evaluated?

The authors utilized an experimental design to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention and randomly assigned treatment at the community level. The total sample included 149 communities from 24 different municipalities within four regions. The authors hypothesized that the intervention would reduce unresolved and violent disputes, improve citizen perceptions of police, and increase coordination between state and local authorities. They tested these hypotheses using a survey carried out approximately 7 months after the end of the intervention. The survey involved 18 randomly selected residents and 8 leaders from each community, as well as one police commander and one police inspector from each municipality. Resident surveys measured household-level disputes, while community leader surveys measured community-level disputes. The survey was conducted from November-December 2019.

What were the key findings?

The authors report that the intervention was successful in reducing the prevalence of unresolved and violent disputes at the community level, but not at the household level. Moreover, the results indicate that the ComunPaz program was only slightly effective in terms of improving citizens’ perceptions of police and increasing coordination between state and local authorities.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors emphasize that the intervention shows how state-level actors benefit from the local legitimacy and specific information that community agencies can provide. Conversely, community agencies can benefit from the resources that state-level actors provide, and the authors advocate for this type of collaboration across groups. They also suggest that despite this study’s focus on areas previously governed by rebel groups, the goals of the intervention may apply elsewhere, even in areas that have not experienced a civil war, and that similar programs could have a positive impact on perceptions of the police and reduce the number of violent and unresolved disputes.

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