Police Satisfaction and the Structural Determinants of Collective Efficacy: Formal Contributions to Informal Social Control

Eric Silver, The Pennsylvania State University
Lisa L. Miller, The Pennsylvania State University

Research and theory in the ecological tradition have focused largely on informal social processes that enhance a neighborhood's capacity to control deviance, including social ties to neighbors and, more recently, collective efficacy. However, few ecological studies have attempted to measure whether formal control processes contribute to informal social controls in neighborhoods (e.g., collective efficacy). To fill this gap, the current study examines the effect of police satisfaction on neighborhood levels of collective efficacy using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods (PHDCN) (n = 7,061 subjects nested within 342 neighborhood clusters). We hypothesize that neighborhoods in which residents are generally satisfied with the social controls provided by police will be those in which residents are more willing to behave in a collectively efficacious manner. Using multilevel regression methods and controlling for a host of theoretically relevant variables, we find that neighborhoods in which residents perceive the police as satisfactorily dealing with local issues, such as preventing crime, responding to victims of crime, and maintaining order on the streets, have higher levels of collective efficacy. Moreover, police satisfaction mediates much of the effect of neighborhood disadvantage on collective efficacy. Thus, satisfaction with formal controls (e.g., police) makes a potentially important contribution to neighborhood levels of collective efficacy.

(Return to Program Resources)

Updated 05/20/2006