“Concern About Crime and Confidence in the Police: Reassurance or
Accountability?” Police Quarterly 13 (No. 3) September 2009, 301-318.

This article examines the relationship between confidence in the police and concern about
crime. A large body of research on opinions about police treats confidence in the police as
a dependent variable that is influenced by assessments of neighborhood conditions.
These studies argue that people hold police accountable for local crime, disorder, and
fear. Another large body of literature on public perceptions of crime treats concern about
crime as a dependent variable that is influenced by confidence in the police. This research
stresses the reassurance effects of policing. Taken as a whole, these studies thus assume
contradictory causal orderings of these two correlated factors. It is also possible that the
relationship between the two is instead reciprocal, with confidence and concern affecting
each other, but this possibility has never been tested. This article addresses this central
theoretical ambiguity in research on public perceptions, using panel data and structural
modeling to identify the most plausible causal ordering of concern about crime and
confidence in police. The findings support the reassurance model: reductions in concern
about crime flow from increasing confidence in the police, while an accountability link from
concern about crime to confidence in the police was much weaker and not statistically
significant.
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