Neighborhood – Wycoff et al. (1985)

Study Reference:

Wycoff, M., Pate, A. M., Skogan, W., & Sherman, L. W. (1985). Citizen contact patrol in Houston: Executive summary. Washington, DC: Police Foundation.

Location in the Matrix; Methodological Rigor; Outcome:

Neighborhoods; General; Highly Proactive; Moderately Rigorous; Effective

What police practice or strategy was examined?

This study tests the impact of the Citizen Contact Program, wherein police officers initiate informal contacts with citizens in residences, businesses, streets, and parking lots, on disorder, crime, fear of crime, and perceptions of the police. The contacts typically began with the officers introducing themselves, explaining that they worked in the area and were trying to become more familiar with local people and their problems, and asking if there was any problem in the neighborhood the citizen wanted the police to know about. One officer on each shift was assigned exclusively to the program area and would be responsible for the contacts during that shift, and record those contacts on a Citizen Contact Card to be filed with the record keeper. The contacts were brief, friendly efforts to get aquainted and solicit citizen views about local problems. Moreover, while working this assignment, the citizen contact officer would not be dispatched to calls outside of the program area. In the 1 square-mile test area, police made face-to-face contacts equal to some 14 percent of the population and 37 percent of the occupied housing units. Most of the encounters with residents (73%) and non-residents (68%) were proactive.

How was the intervention evaluated?

After 10 months of Citizen Contact Patrol in 1983-1984, the evaluation compared residents in the test neighborhood to a matched area where no new programs were introduced. The authors measured for both area and individual effects. Area effects were assesed by interviewing a random sample of residents prior to program implementation and another sample was interviewed 10 months after implementation. The pre-program survey resulted in 932 completed interviews with residents in the two areas with a response trate of 78% in the program area and 75% in the comparison area. The post-program survey yielded 963 completed interviews with response rates of 83% in the program area and 78% in the comparison area. Individual effects were assessed with pre and post panel interviews with 315 respondents in the program and comparison areas.

What were the key findings?

At the area-level, respondents living in the Citizen Contact Program area, relative to those in the comparison area had significantly lower scores on measures of fear of personal victimization in the area, perceived area personal crime problems, perceived area property crime problems, perceived area social disorder problems, perceived police aggressiveness, and property crime victimization. In the panel analysis, persons living in the program area had significantly higher scores on satisfaction with the area and evaluations of police service, and significantly lower levels of perceived area social disorder and property crime victimization.

What were the implications for law enforcement?

The authors suggest that police departments adopt citizen contact patrol in low-density neighborhoods, placing special emphasis on home visits, and that any future efforts to implement citizen contact patrol be accompanied by training the officers for this specific task.

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