A United States Department of Justice grant between the Portland Police Bureau and Portland State University has demonstrated through data that trust between police and the community improves when there is follow-up contact to victims of crimes and when police provide non-enforcement walking beats.
Research has found that criminal victimization leads to the development of negative attitudes toward the police. This is particularly true among people who use online systems to report their crime. Most law enforcement agencies send a single automated email back to the victim with an incident number for use with insurance claims. North Precinct began addressing this through this grant by adding enhanced victim follow-up contacts. Officers try to contact each victim via phone or email two weeks after their initial report. Using a script based on the concepts of procedural justice, they communicated concern for the victim, gave the victim an opportunity to voice complaints about their experience, and they offer guidance on preventing re-victimization. The team’s data analysis showed satisfaction for the police rose from around 15% before the follow-up intervention to around 45% after the intervention, which is a significant achievement.
PPB's North Precinct and Portland State University (PSU) applied for and received the grant in 2018. With its team of Bureau members and researchers in PSU’s Criminology and Criminal Justice Department, this grant brought a strategic approach that leveraged the knowledge of neighborhood residents. The focus was to discover if police could improve community satisfaction and trust through different interventions in the Parkrose and Hollywood neighborhoods.
Unfortunately, the pandemic and the civil unrest in 2020 impacted the grant team’s ability to perform these proposed interventions as previously developed during the planning phase. Therefore the grant team pivoted its plan into the follow-up calls and walking beats. Even during the challenges of these times for the law enforcement profession, data collected during this project suggests police can improve community trust one conversation at a time during victim follow-up or when walking with community members in their neighborhoods.
“I am proud of our Bureau members who continued to work on this project under sometimes difficult and stressful circumstances,” said Deputy Chief Mike Frome. “I also appreciate the continued partnership with Portland State University and their researches. And of course, without community involvement from the two neighborhood associations, this grant would have never be able to produce this type of quality work.”
The grant team thanks the Parkrose and Hollywood neighborhood associations and their community members who engaged in this project and helped strengthen the bond between police and community over the lifespan of this project.