Concern about crime and confidence in the police: Reassurance or accountability?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)301-318
Number of pages18
JournalPolice Quarterly
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Contact
  • Fear
  • Public opinion
  • Satisfaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Law


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