Neighbourhood Policing and Collective Efficacy (NPACE): Tackling Serious Violent Crime

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Security and Crime Science


Despite recent concerns that cuts to neighbourhood policing have contributed to a surge in serious violent crime - in the first 100 days of 2018, 52 people were killed as a result of serious violence in London - there is little evidence that neighbourhood policing is effective at tackling these issues. Furthermore, there is no clear theoretical understanding of the underlying mechanisms of how neighbourhood policing might influence outcomes such as serious violent crime.

The aim of this project is to develop a greater understanding of how neighbourhood policing works, specifically in terms of its role in building strong and cohesive communities, and whether this type of policing can be used effectively to tackle serious violent crime. The research has three specific objectives: 1) to develop a logic model specifying how neighbourhood policing should work to increase collective efficacy within communities; 2) to assess the practices of London's Safer Neighbourhood Teams operating in disadvantaged communities; 3) to provide evidence on the effectiveness, or not, of neighbourhood policing in increasing collective efficacy and tackling serious violent crime.

The research will address the theoretical gaps identified in the literature as well as feeding into the policy process of police and other agencies.

Planned Impact

The proposed research has a number of beneficiaries, both within and outside academia.
Beneficiaries outside academia include stakeholders from the public sector, police forces, professional policing bodies, police officers and the wider public. The main stakeholders to benefit from this research have been identified as the College of Policing, the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS; and other police forces in the UK and overseas) and the Mayor's Office for Policing And Crime (MOPAC).

The research has direct relevance to the work of the College of Policing who are currently developing national guidelines for effective neighbourhood policing. Through engaging the College throughout the project, the research will feed into and influence future iterations of their guidelines, as well as add to their knowledge base on how neighbourhood policing works.

The research aligns with a number of priority policy areas outlined in the Mayor of London's 2017-2021 Police and Crime Plan (e.g. a focus on local policing and serious youth violence). Engagement with MOPAC will enable the findings of the research to reach relevant decision-makers and to influence policy development in these areas.

For the MPS - the site of this project - the findings of the research will provide learning for the organisation about the practices of their neighbourhood policing teams, and whether (and how) their officers may be able to contribute to building stronger and more cohesive communities and, ultimately, tackle serious violent crime. It will also benefit individual police officers involved in the research through increasing their understanding of the ways in which they could maximise their own impact to reduce violence.

Within academia, beneficiaries include those conducting research into policing, and other areas of criminology and sociology. In particular, the research will fill substantial theoretical gaps in the literature on neighbourhood policing and how this style of policing could work to increase collective efficacy within communities, as well as provide empirical evidence on the effectiveness, or not, of neighbourhood policing.

Alongside stakeholder and academic impact, London's diverse communities are one of the most important beneficiaries of this research. Through investigating the link between police activity and serious violent crime, the research has the potential to make the lives of those living in the UK safer and more secure.


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Description The work funded through this award focused on the extent to which police activity and behaviour impacts neighbourhood social processes, such as collective efficacy. Collective efficacy refers to the extent to which neighbourhood residents know and trust one another and are willing to take collective action to address local issues.

A systematic review and meta-analysis was conducted to synthesise the empirical evidence base on policing and collective efficacy. Overall, findings from the systematic review showed that trust in police, particularly across the dimensions of effectiveness and procedural justice, was the aspect of policing most strongly associated with collective efficacy. In other words, when people feel the police are an effective and supportive resource, they may be more inclined to take collective action. Police legitimacy, on the other hand, was relatively unrelated to collective efficacy. This finding suggests that perceptions of police linked to the 'action' of individual officers may be more enabling of collective efficacy than perceptions of the policing institution as a whole (e.g. a sense of duty to obey).

An empirical study was also carried out as part of this award using data from the Mayor's Office for Policing and Crime's (MOPAC) Public Attitudes Survey. The study used three waves of data and found that levels of police visibility (how much Londoners report seeing their local police) predicted neighbourhood levels of collective efficacy indirectly, through trust in police fairness. In other words, when the police are more present in neighbourhoods, perceptions of fairness are higher, which, in turn, enhances perceptions of collective efficacy. These findings indicate a potential link between neighbourhood policing and the protection against crime provided by cohesive, resilient communities.
Exploitation Route There are a number of ways the outcomes of this funding could be taken forward and put to use by others. First, outcomes from the systematic review can be used to guide further research and inquiry into the mechanisms that link police activity with collective efficacy. For example, findings from the review seemed to suggest that perceptions of police linked to 'action' and to individual officers were more compelling enablers of collective efficacy than perceptions of legitimacy. These findings suggest that any benefits on collective efficacy of changes to policy or practice are likely to come from the actions and behaviour of individual officers, as opposed to the policing institution as a whole. These outcomes can be taken forward by other researchers and policing practitioners to more comprehensively capture the causal mechanisms of police activity and officer behaviour on neighbourhood collective efficacy (e.g. through conducting field experiments and/or longitudinal surveys), which would have implications for policing policy.

Second, outcomes from the empirical study underline the importance of fairness. It is this aspect of police behaviour that appears most likely to engage citizens in the task of order production and maintenance. This finding suggests that fairness should be at the top of police priorities, despite common beliefs amongst police leaders and policy makers that effectiveness is more important. The study also showed that police presence was important - neighbourhoods where the police were more visible tended to be significantly higher in trust. Therefore, withdrawing police from the majority of neighbourhoods to focus on a relatively small number of high-crime locations - a common approach in policing - may have negative longer-term effects. Further research is needed to explore these issues but outcomes from this award could be using as a starting point for future inquiry.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Other