Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Do traffic stops reduce calls for police help?

The abstract of this recent paper offers up a suggestion with potential public safety implications:
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.


Anonymous said...

Humm I bet it will be hard to figure out why there is a corrolation between the two.

I think that in general most minorities do not want the police involved in their personal affairs, especially if they live in neighborhoods where the police are seen as the enemy.

Additionally,it might also have to do with the fact that minorites are more likely to have their vehicles searched during traffic stops. It might possibly have to do with their experience during the traffic stop.

gravyrug said...

Good luck with the math, Grits. I look forward to more on this subject. This could turn out to be important.

Anonymous said...

Unless a person has been in a coma since the officer friendly presentation in grade school prior to bussing the cops vs citizen mentality that we’re inundated with is atrocious. I can see a 10 minute conversation with a cop during a traffic stop could turn a person off to cops. That’s a no brainer due to the required schmuck mentality for the job. Also look at how the media portrays cops. What decent thinking human being would want to have anything to do with those basterds, no matter what color you want to be.
middle-aged white family guy who lives in a nice suburban neighborhood

Anonymous said...

"If there is a tradeoff between traffic enforcement and increasing the likelihood citizens will report crime, which is more important?"

Maybe if Texas had better public transportation people wouldn't have to drive so much.

As it is, here in Houston, you take your life in your hands every time you go out on the roads. There is so much at-risk driver behavior that there is no choice but to write tickets.

If I had another way to get around, I'd never drive again.
Death by Car: capitalism's drive to carmageddon

Anonymous said...

LEO's are more likely to be perceived these days as Revenue Enhancers, not Peace Officers. You call police, and justice is a crapshoot. Someone's going for a ride, not necessarily the perp. BTW, I really resent officers asking for a Social Security Number. They say it is to collect, but I see it as invasion of privacy.

Anonymous said...

So what's your point??

Anonymous said...

Title is misleading!
I thought this topic would be about more cops pulling people over on traffic equals less cops catching real crooks in the act. confusion.

Anonymous said...

grits - I'd advise you not to spend more time w/this. Much like studying the sex and crawling habits of Alaskan boa constrictors!


Anonymous said...

"Additionally,it might also have to do with the fact that minorites are more likely to have their vehicles searched during traffic stops."

Is that so 10:38?

Where do you get your information?

From January 1, 2009 to December 31,2009, Texas DPS troopers searched a total of 58,278 vehicles during traffic stops.

Of those searched, 37239 or 63.90% were white, 9279 or 15.92% were black, 7,436 or 12.76% were hispanic. 380 Asian/0.65%, 104 Indian/0.18% and 3840 other/6.59% were the remainder.

So how is that minorities are more likely to have their vehicles searched during traffic stops, at least by Texas troopers?

Charlie O said...

Cops treats citizens with nothing but contempt. Why would anyone want to have any contact with someone who treats them like that? If I came home and found a dead body on my front porch, I'd drag it into the street before I'd call a cop.

And to all the cops, NO I WON'T be calling 911 the first time I need help. I'm well armed and very sure you'd never find the guy who burglarized my house anyway.

Anonymous said...

anon 9:09

Minorities are searched in percentages disproportionate to their percentage in the population.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:46 is rev. charles in Tulia

Anonymous said...

In response to 5:42 AM Whatever…….

This is some pretty sad commentary. I have had experience with both respectful and disrespectful police officers and was my self being respectful to them as I always have been. In Houston being pulled over for a traffic stop is common place for all including the many law abiding citizens rushing to work until stopped by the infamous speed trap. I was angry after being treated disrespectfully without cause but if I take an objective look at things then there is a very good chance that I have acted inappropriately once or twice in my life and there’s a good chance that a cops life may provide for a little stress now and then.

It’s a very dangerous job, much more so in large cities and to demonize all police officers and make broad statements about their mentality is small minded to say the very least.

I’ve had bad nurses, bad doctors, bad teachers, bad A/C repairmen and bad doughnuts. I’ve read way more than my share of bad journalism. I still eat doughnuts and I’m still thankful when the good nurse comes in to check on my elderly mother.

Minorities and those who live within the lower social economical scale of society are more likely to not want the police involved but they dial 911 just as often as anybody else when the abusive jackasses in this world think that violence is the only answer to self satisfaction.

The comfort level of walking into the neighborhood convenient store that has been robbed twice in the last month rises a little when we make a night run for refreshments and a police car is parked in front.

I have had a brother murdered with no sign of struggle or anything being disturbed or stolen, or motive, it turned out to be a hate crime, the perpetrator had never met him, there was no interaction between the two of them and as quickly as three shots can be fired his life was ended and the murderer was gone, all in less than three seconds. Not that it would have mattered but the young black man that wanted to kill a white person had no idea that my brothers best friend and previous roommate for two years was black, that two of his pallbearers would be black and that half of a very large funeral precession would be friends of the family who were black. My mother prayed for comfort to come to the family of the young black man that was so close to my brothers age and would soon be going to jail for a very long time. I was glad the police were on the job.

There can never be an excuse for rude or inappropriate behavior by police officers or any entity within the criminal justice system or anybody else for that matter. Naturally we like to hold law enforcement to a higher standard as well we should. However, the absolute truth is that while our system of justice falls way short of being perfect it’s still far better than the rest of the world.

The human element that exists within us all makes each of us fallible; and with no desire whatsoever to delve into the spiritual beliefs of anyone one else here my book points out very quickly that I fall quite short of the glory of God.

And 5:42 AM if I sound a little judgmental it’s because I probably am; so I’m going to ask for a little forgiveness right now and I’m fairly certain I will need another dose of forgiveness or two before this day is done.

Not sure this subject merits much of anything Grits. See there, forgive me Lord I did it again.

Anonymous said...

I drive a lot, I tend to speed, and I have been stopped by police all over Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico. In not one single encounter have I ever been treated rudely by any police officer. They have always been courteous, professional and pleasant. It might have to do with the fact that I am always cooperative and pleasant to them. It also might have to do with the fact that I am a middle aged white woman and and no threat to them. I'm pretty sure that if I started cursing them or being hostile or not following their instructions, the outcome might be different. In any case, I shall continue to be polite and courteous to them and I expect they will do the same.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 10:31

"I’ve had bad nurses, bad doctors, bad teachers, bad A/C repairmen and bad doughnuts. I’ve read way more than my share of bad journalism. I still eat doughnuts and I’m still thankful when the good nurse comes in to check on my elderly mother."

Sure, we all have. The difference is that cops carry deadly weapons, are authorized to use them on you at their discretion, can arrest and/or detain you and a host of other things that none among those you listed above may do. THAT is the difference. We place tremendous power in the hands of police with VERY LITTLE oversight in relation to the amount of power. So yes...I demand a higher standard from those who choose to be LEOs. When a teacher is stressed and has a bad day, you may not get all out of that history lesson that you had hoped. When a cop is stressed and has a bad day, he can permanently ruin someone's life.

Also, about those search statistics that Anon @ 9:09 posted...I'd like to see similar data from CITY police stops/searches...not just DPS.

Anonymous said...

As I stated, “Naturally we like to hold law enforcement to a higher standard as well we should.” They are also human beings and as capable as having a bad day as the butcher, the baker etc.

Yes they have weapons and yes they have power, (its law enforcement), and if you or I were police officers we would want to be armed and we would expect to have the power to enforce the law too.

So I’m not sure I understand your point; I damn sure do not want to be on the other end of law enforcement in most other parts of the world I know that.

Anonymous said...

I think it's pretty simple. The more people interact with leos, the less they like/trust them. I also don't dial 911, Charlie O.