Although experts have long known that some kind of partnership with residents is vital to the success of crime-control strategies, the importance of the role of everyday citizens significantly underestimated. Or, as researchers maintain in a new National Institute of Justice-funded study on collective efficacy and social cohesion, police agencies “[may] simply play lip service to community involvement.”
Collective efficacy is the collective ability of residents to produce social action to meet common goals and preserve shared values. Social cohesion is the emotional and social investment among residents in a neighborhood.
The recently released study, by Craig Uchida, Ph.D. and colleagues, represents a significant advancement in how criminal justice agencies can use resident surveys in developing policies and strategies to fight crime on the neighborhood level. The study focused on eight neighborhoods in Miami-Dade County, Florida and provided a number of practical recommendations — based on the finding that the vast majority of crime control actually results from the everyday activities of citizens — is already underway in other jurisdictions nationwide.
“The recent revelation in Cleveland, Ohio, where three young women were kidnapped and held captive for ten years raises important questions about how neighborhoods and residents function,” Uchida said. “An effective crime control strategy is one that not only acknowledges and embraces the importance of regular citizens in preventing crime but seeks to enhance their ability to do so.”
In a short summary geared to police agencies and community groups, the researchers explain how data from community surveys, systematic observations, and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessments are crucial to data-driven crime prevention — and offer an easy-to-follow strategy, including the top 5 areas for improving crime prevention — 1) problem solving; 2) micro-targeting problems and interventions; 3) organizing the community and encouraging volunteerism; 4) restoring anchor points (like parks and recreation centers); and investing in research and evaluation.