Policy-makers have called for community engagement to be made central to police operations in England and Wales, yet little empirical investigation has been undertaken in this context to support its efficacy. This article uses a quasi-experimental research design to review a community engagement intervention that aimed to develop citizens’ perceptions of social capital in their community, improve their perceptions the police, and reduce fear of crime and antisocial behaviour (ASB) incidents. We also develop and test a conceptual model that explores the mechanisms by which social capital may influence citizens’ fear of crime and perceptions of the police, positing that local area potency; the belief that a group can be effective in achieving its goals, may be an important mediating mechanism. Results of independent samples t-tests indicate that the intervention was successful in meeting its objectives in the area it was trialled. There were significant increases in social capital, local area potency, confidence in the police and perceptions of police community focus, and decreases in fear of crime and ASB. These results were generally not evident in a control area. Structural equation modelling results supported the hypothesized model, indicating that local area potency mediates the relationships between social capital and the project outcomes. These findings contribute to the limited empirical evidence in support of the positive influence of community engagement in the United Kingdom, and indicate that social capital and local area potency are important antecedents of citizens’ positive attitudes toward crime and the police.
|Number of pages||13|
|Journal||International Journal of Police Science and Management|
|Early online date||30 Jun 2019|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Sep 2019|