Researchers Studying Community-Police Relations In Urbana

Anna Casey/Illinois Public Media

Researchers from the University of Illinois have received funding from the National Institute of Justice to study relations between police and community members in Urbana. The university’s Police Training Institute, anthropology department and business and law schools are all collaborating on the project.

Melissa Haynes, a crime analyst with the Urbana Police Department who is assisting the researchers on the Urbana Community-Police Relations Study, said survey requests were recently sent to 1,500 homes in higher crime areas of the city. Researchers hope to gauge residents’ perceptions of the police, their experiences with law enforcement and how safe they feel in their neighborhood.

“This is a larger effort to hopefully improve police-community relations throughout Urbana,” Haynes said.

The next phase of the study, which is dependent on additional grant funding, will measure whether different policing strategies in areas of higher crime affect perceptions of Urbana police.

Some studies have shown that increasing police resources in areas of higher crime, or “hot spots policing,” is an effective way to reduce crime, Haynes said, but it often doesn’t take into account how that policing strategy impacts the relationship between the community and law enforcement.

“Areas of high crime typically have lower perceptions of the police anyway,” Haynes said. “So if we’re going to be spending more time there, why don’t we do it better… if we’re sending extra officers there, can we engage with the community more rather than just being a presence?"

Residents who received a request to participate in the survey can do so until late September. The Survey Research Laboratory of the University of Illinois at Chicago is responsible for data collection. The survey interview lasts approximately 20 minutes and is conducted by phone. Participants will receive a $10 gift card for their time.

Story source: WILL