Using data from the Police–Public Contact Survey (PPCS), the current study examined how experiencing traffic stops affect the likelihood that Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics will contact the police for services. First, experiencing one or more traffic stops in the past year significantly decreased the likelihood of contacting the police for assistance and to report a neighborhood problem, net of other demographic characteristics. Second, traffic stop experiences had similar effects on Whites, Blacks, and Hispanics, each group less likely to have contacted the police for assistance and to report neighborhood problems if they had experienced one or more traffic stops in the past year. This study also discusses the reasons why experiencing traffic stops are related to contacting the police for help and provides some implications for police–community relationships.The relationship observed raises confounding public policy questions. If there is a tradeoff between traffic enforcement and increasing the likelihood citizens will report crime, which is more important?
I was interested to read their assessment that "Calling the police is a highly discretionary act on the part of citizens. The NCVS has consistently found that citizens call the police to report crime in only about 37% of possible situations." The dynamic of when and why police are called and the crimes non-criminal members of the public choose not to report is an area where I've seen little research.
Researchers found that "traffic stop variables had the most important and consistent effect on reporting neighborhood problems across racial categories. In other words, regardless of race, those experiencing a traffic stop were significantly less likely to report neighborhood problems to the police."
Particularly curious, the effect was more pronounced among white folks than blacks: "Non-Hispanic Whites were significantly less likely to contact the police for assistance/information compared to non-Hispanic Blacks when they had experienced more than one traffic stops in the past 12 months."
The authors failed to propose a definitive cause of this correlation, offering several unproven (and relatively unsatisfactory) hypotheses to explain the data, but "suggest that traffic stops are likely to undermine positive relationships between citizens and the police." They note that:
Traffic stops are only one form of police crime fighting, but at the same time, the PPCS data indicate that traffic stops represent about half of all police citizen contacts and thus are likely to have a significant impact on both citizen attitudes and behavior toward the police, particularly when it comes to having confidence in the police and trusting them.I've downloaded the math-heavy paper, and may have more to say once I've digested it.
Via The Crime Report.