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We make us safe: Alternatives to policing in a Latinx immigrant inner-ring suburb

NCJ Number
Journal of Urban Affairs Dated: 2022
Date Published

The results of this study indicated that the traditional policing approach to drug use-related crime did not reduce arrests or incarceration and was associated with a risk of future overdose fatalities. The authors describe the impact of traditional policing approach to drug use-related crime on future recidivism, incarceration, and overdoses. Using a local Police Department (PD) database, the authors identified individuals with a police contact with probable cause to arrest for a drug use-related crime (“index contact”), including for an opioid-related overdose, between September 1, 2015, and August 31, 2016 (Group 1, N = 52). Data on police contacts, arrests, and incarceration 12 months before and after the index contact were extracted and compared using Fisher’s exact or Wilcoxon signed-rank tests. County-level data on fatal overdoses and estimates of time spent by PD officers in index contact-related responses were also collected. To determine whether crime-related outcomes changed over time, the authors identified a second group (Group 2, N = 263) whose index contact occurred between September 1, 2017, and August 31, 2020, and extracted data on police contacts, arrests, and incarceration during the 12 months prior to their index contact. Pre-index contact data between Groups 1 and 2 were compared with Fisher’s exact or Mann–Whitney U tests. Comparison of data during 12 months before and 12 months after the index contact showed Group 1 increased their total number of overdose-related police contacts, incarceration rate, and average incarceration duration per person. In the six years following the index contact, 9.6% sustained a fatal opioid-related overdose. For Group 1, an average of 4.7 officers were involved, devoting an average total of 7.2 h per index contact. Comparison of pre-index contact data between Groups 1 and 2 showed similar rates of overdose-related police contacts and arrests. (Published Abstract Provided)


In a 4-year collaborative community-based crime reduction project, this case study investigates how uneven development policies and underdevelopment in a low-income Latinx inner-ring suburb gave rise to and supported racialized policing and safety concerns. The authors also assess the possibilities of addressing community safety by investing in community building and revitalization. This study shows how the legacy of neighborhood disinvestment and deprivation contributed to a lack of quality affordable housing, public spaces, healthcare, employment, and other conditions that support residents’ well-being—and thereby challenged public safety. Inner-ring suburbs have experienced disinvestment, White flight and concentrated poverty alongside increasingly racialized, anti-immigrant policing. Yet scholarship has tended to overlook these neighborhoods as sites of violent policing or models of community safety. Activities focused on community building and revitalization offered a positive and impactful alternative to community policing. While activities that invested in community policing demonstrated few successes, efforts focused on strengthening community knowledge, connecting residents to resources, engaging residents in community placemaking, and investing in youth had far better and potentially long-lasting results. The study suggests avenues to improve neighborhood safety in immigrant, Latinx, and declining suburbs without new investments in policing that too often puts residents at risk. (Published Abstract Provided)

Date Published: January 1, 2022