Areal Policing and Public Perceptions in a Non-Urban Setting: One Size Fits One

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Purpose – A neighborhood-based notion of the distribution of policing services is a hallmark of community policing philosophy. The purpose of this research is to focus on two policy issues: are there significant differences in important policing issues among the different communities, and what factors within the Sheriff’s control might account for these differences?

Design/methodology/approach – In 2002, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO), servicing the area around Boise, Idaho, carried out a survey of citizens stratified across four areas: two contract communities, one non-contract community, and the unincorporated remainder of the county.

Findings – The survey found significant variation in perceptions of crime and disorder, in perceptions of safety, in social cohesion, and in attitudes toward deputies and to the sheriffs office. Findings suggested the importance of local policy through the tailoring of services to local needs. However, some community factors appeared to provide limits on the extent to which the police could respond to dissatisfaction with their services, regardless of adaptive strategy.

Originality/value – Only limited empirical research has studied neighborhood variation in citizens’ perceptions of differences pertinent to policing services, and virtually no such research has been carried out outside urban areas. This research fills this gap.