“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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