Community engagement initiatives in the Global South are not working effectively, new research showsFriday 26 Nov 2021
Lack of trust in law enforcement can be a barrier to reducing crime. Initiatives to increase police community engagement have been put forward as a solution: they offer the chance for residents to work together with local police officers to reduce crime in their areas. But do these initiatives work? New research published today in Science analyses the effectiveness of community policing in the Global South.
Results from a large-scale experiment across six countries in the southern hemisphere show that community engagement does not increase trust in the police and does not reduce crime.
The study conducted randomised control trials of community policing initiatives implemented in: Santa Catarina State, Brazil; Medellín, Colombia; Monrovia, Liberia; Sorsogon Province, Philippines; Ugandan rural areas; and two Punjab province districts, Pakistan.
After interviewing over 18,000 citizens and close to 900 police officers involved in the experiment over six years, the researchers found that neither police trust nor crime levels had been affected by the community policing programme.
Limited resources, a lack of prioritisation of the reform and the rapid rotation of officers are all possible reasons why the policy was ineffective in these Global South contexts – when they are known to have been successful in countries like the US.
The research was compiled by an international group of 17 authors, including Professor Thiemo Fetzer and Dr Pedro Souza from CAGE and the University of Warwick. Their recent research has also analysed the effectiveness of policy body-worn cameras in Santa Catarina, Brazil, and found that body-worn cameras were effective at reducing police brutality.