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Do Citizens Vary in Their Confidence in Police?

NCJ Number
L E Hollis
Date Published
83 pages
A survey of about 200 citizens in three Standard Metropolitan Statistical Areas during 1977 was used to determine whether poor or minority persons are less likely to report criminal victimizations and to complain to police than wealthy or white persons due to lack of confidence in the police.
Since police cannot perform their law enforcement role without citizen cooperation, nonreporting of victimizations and noncomplaining by low income or minority persons may result in their receiving unequal service from the police. Variables other than race and income include knowledge of police mistreatment of citizens, rate of victimization within the neighborhood, perceived police response time, the type of offense involved in the victimization, and evaluations of police handling of previous victimizations. Contrary to expectations, citizens who participated in this survey failed to report victimizations for reasons indicating lack of faith in police, which were based more on their perceptions of police behavior rather than on the basis of their race or income. In the area of complaint activity, race is indicated as a weak predictor variable, and greater complaint activity occurs in the higher income respondents. Overall, citizens' reporting and complaint behavior can be better predicted by such variables as knowledge of police mistreatment, rating of police response time, and rate of victimization in the neighborhood than by race or family income. Data tables and 18 references are included.