Neighborhood – Pate et al. (1985) (Houston)

Study Reference:

Pate, A. M, Lavrakas, P. J., Wycoff, M. A., Skogan, W. G., & Sherman, L. W. (1985). Neighborhood police newsletters: Experiments in Newark and Houston, technical report. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

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

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study examines whether a community-policing strategy called the “Houston Fear Reduction Task Force”, which increases the flow of information to community members through neighborhood newsletters could: increase perceptions of area crime problems without increasing the fear of crime; increase the relative worry about property; increase the attribution of responsibility for crime prevention to residents; increase the installation of household crime prevention devices; improve the evaluation of police services; and improve satisfaction with the area. The newsletters contained a mix of general and neighborhood news items. The general items included crime prevention and other safety information that could be employed to increase personal, household and neighborhood security. Included among the neighborhood items was information about area officers, and “good news” stories about crimes that had been prevented or solved, or other situations that had been resolved because of efforts of the police and citizens in the area. Two versions of the newsletter were tested. One version was the newsletter with an insert showing local crime statistics for the past month. The second version was the newsletter without the local crime statistics insert.

How was the intervention evaluated?

In Houston, the program area was the Wood Bayou neighborhood in the northeast part of the city, from which a random sample of households were selected. Households were then randomly assigned to one of three conditions: the treatment conditions represented by each version of the newsletter, and the “control” condition represented by households which were not mailed any newsletter. The Houston sample contained 660 households. The first newsletter was mailed in mid-November 1983, followed by issues in December, January 1984, February and March. Some respondents were interviewed before newsletter distribution and again 6 months later. Others were interviewed only 6 months after newsletter distribution began.

What were the key findings?

Respondents in households that were sent newsletters, regardless of whether crime statistics were included, perceived a significantly greater increase in area crime than did respondents that were not sent newsletters. However, respondents who were sent newsletters with the crime statistics insert were significantly more likely to say they had increased levels of worry about being a victim because of reading the newsletter than did those sent the version without such statistics. In the post-only samples, respondents in households sent newsletters with crime statistics expressed significantly higher levels of worry about being a victim of property crime than those who did not receive the newsletters.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that police community newsletters, although successfully implemented as planned for six months, were generally unsuccessful in achieving their desired outcomes.

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