of Crimird Justice Vol. 19, PP. 293-305 (I 9YI) All rights reserved. Printed in U.S.A.
0047-2352/91 $3.00 + .OO Copyright 01991 Pergamon Press plc
CRIME-VICTIM EVALUATION OF POLICE INVESTIGATIVE PERFORMANCE*
STEVEN G. BRANDL and FRANK HORVATH School of Criminal Justice Michigan State University East Lansing, Michigan 48824
ABSTRACT The purpose of this study was to determine whether demographic characteristics of victims und the nature of the police investigative response were related to victim satisfaction. The data were obtained through self-administered questionnaires completed by a random sample of 436/685 (64 percent) crime victims in a medium-sized midwestern city. Respondents were victims of personal (N = 79). serious properv (N = 165). and minor property crimes (N = 192). Analysis showed that the education, gender, and income of the victims were not related to satisfaction for any of the crime-victim categories. Younger victims were less likely to be satisfied than older victims but only in the case of serious property crimes. Expectation of response time was most strongly related to victim satisfaction in serious (personal and property) offenses; victims who reported a faster than expected response time were more likely to be satisfied than those who reported a slower than expected response time. When there was a high degree of investigative effort, victims in both property-crime categories were more likely to be satisfied than when the effort was minimal. Police professionalism had the greatest effect on victim satisfaction; a high degree of professionalism was positively related with satisfaction for all crime types. The findings generally show that the type of criminal victimization is an important consideration in victim evaluation research.
lice dependence on the public is perhaps nowhere more apparent than in the areas of law enforcement and crime control, arguably the primary domains of police organizations (Manning, 1977). Crime victims, for example, report incidents to the police and provide information essential to the identification and apprehension of offenders (Skogan and Antunes, 1979). Without such assistance, the capabilities of the police in controlling crime would be greatly reduced, to say nothing of the difficulties that would arise in the other components of the justice system.
In order to be effective, police agencies, like other organizations, depend on support and resources from their environment (Pfeffer and Salancik, 1978; Thompson, 1967). One particularly important component of the environment of police organizations is the public (Decker, 1981; Holden, 1986; Kelling, 1978; Skolnick and Bayley, 1986). Po*Editor’s Note: Due to a production error, an important table was missing from this article when it was printed in Volume 19, Number 2 (pp. 109-121) of the Journal of Criminal Justice. The article in its entirety is reprinted here to include that table.
Because of the dependency on the public, police agencies need to be aware of how the public views their practices and policies. In many cases, feedback from the public is obtained largely on an informal basis, often filtered through the media or political machinery. At other times the feedback may be more formalized and systematic; it may come from community surveys or from police officers who have direct contact with the public, as in community policing programs (Trojanowicz, 1983). How the public formulates its views of the police, on the other hand, and, in particular, how these views may be related to police policy and practice, is not clearly established, although there has been considerable research in this area. Research on public support can be conceptualized as measuring either “diffuse” or “specific” support (Easton, 1965; Dennis, 1976). Measurement of diffuse support entails assessments of general attitudes toward an institution or, more accurately, toward the ideological foundation of the institution (Dennis, 1976). Measurement of specific support, on the other hand, involves evaluations of particular role incumbents within an institution (Dennis, 1976). Both of these approaches have been used in research on the police. As an example of the first, there are a number of studies in which respondents’ views about the police as a social institution were examined (Apple and O’Brien, 1983; Koenig, 1980; Smith and Hawkins, 1973; Thomas and Hyman, 1977; Zamble and Annesley, 1987). Because the results of this research have been so general, these studies have been discounted as a means of informing, guiding, and provoking police policy decisions (Mastrofski, 1984; White and Menke, 1982; Charles, 1980). In the second type of study, specific support research, respondents express their views about particular incidents of actual contact with the police and, in many cases, evaluate particular officers (Carlson and Sutton, 1979; Kansas City Police Department, 1977; Furstenberg and Wellford, 1973). Because these studies involve ratings made on the basis of a direct contact with a specific police officer
or officers, they are referred to here as “citizen-evaluation” research. These studies have the potential to be useful in police policymaking (Mastrofski, 1984). A primary limitation on their usefulness, however, is that in most cases there are no distinctions made among categories of respondents. Consequently, these studies have failed to account for important differences between the needs and expectations of, for instance, crime victims versus persons who merely witness an event or whose views are not colored by victimization. The limitations of much citizen-evaluation research has led some researchers to focus more specifically on a certain category of citizen, the crime victim. This research is based on the premise that evaluations of the police by crime victims, unlike evaluations by citizens generally or those who have diverse forms of contact with the police, will permit more accurate, informed, and policy-relevant assessments of police practices. Crime victims, as a group, may share needs and expectations that differ from those of the general public and, because of their victimization, they are more likely to base evaluations on similar factors. Hence, such studies may provide data specifically relevant to improvements in police practices. Additionally, these studies serve as an indicator of performance in the “crime control” function of the police which, from the public’s perspective, is the primary responsibility of the police (Wilson, 1983). Crime-Victim
Three previous studies have been conducted. In the earliest, Poister and McDavid (1978) interviewed 111 persons who had reported criminal victimization while being questioned as part of a larger sample of households in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. In this study, the victims were asked if they were satisfied, overall, with what the police did in their cases. Forty-six percent of the victims expressed satisfaction. More importantly, however, Poister and McDavid ( 1978) found that satisfaction declined with higher levels
of income but was not affected by the age, race, or sex of the victim. The activities of the police officer during the initial investigation did not have a significant impact on satisfaction levels although there was a tendency for respondents to express more satisfaction when the police conducted a general investigation as opposed to just talking with victims or asking questions. Neither a follow-up investigation nor the victim’s awareness of an arrest in relation to the incident were related to satisfaction levels. On the other hand, victims who reported a short response time from the police were more likely to be satisfied than those who reported longer times. Furthermore, the seriousness of the reported crime had a significant impact on overall satisfaction; victims of serious crimes (Part I personal crimes) were more satisfied than those who were victims of other types of crimes (Part I property crimes and Part II crimes). Another study, reported by Percy (1980), involved analyses of two separate data sets. The first consisted of responses obtained in telephone interviews with a random sample of 12,000 residents of Rochester, Tampa-St. Petersburg, and St. Louis. Of the 5,000 victimization incidents mentioned in the interviews, 2,100 had been reported to the police and could be used in the analysis. The second data set consisted of responses obtained in telephone interviews with 474 crime victims whose names were obtained from police records and who were interviewed within a few days of their police contact. The respondents in both samples were asked about their overall satisfaction. In Percy’s (1980) study, younger, nonwhite, male victims were less satisfied than were older, white, female victims. Neither education nor family income were related to satisfaction. Those who reported a faster than expected response time were significantly more likely to be satisfied than those who reported a slower than expected response. Some police activities-making an arrest, comforting someone, and providing crime prevention information-were related to satisfaction, while others-questioning witnesses and making out a report-were not.
The third study was reported by Shapland (1983). In this research, personal interviews were conducted with 287 victims of violent crime from two unspecified towns in England as their cases progressed through the justice system. The first interview focused specifically on evaluation of police performance and was conducted approximately two weeks after the initial contact with the police. Shapland (1983) found that over 70 percent of the victims expressed satisfaction with the police and that feedback on the status of the case was associated with higher satisfaction levels. In addition, she reported that those police officers who appeared to be interested in what victims said, took the time to listen to them, and seemed to take them seriously promoted feelings of satisfaction in the victims. Several major shortcomings are evident in these “victim-evaluation” studies. First, they relied exclusively on either personal or telephone interviews of crime victims. Although there are clearly some advantages to these methods, an alternative means, such as a mailed questionnaire, could provide data which crime victims would be reluctant to reveal in an interview (Babbie, 1990). Second, only two studies attempted to determine the effect of specific police practices on victim evaluations. Furthermore, in both of these studies the range of police activities examined was quite limited (Percy, 1980; Poister and McDavid, 1978). This restricts the options available to the police to adjust their practices to conform with research findings. Third, none of the previous studies examined the impact of crime seriousness on the overall assessment and evaluation of police performance. It is reasonable to expect that victims of serious crimes might have different needs and expectations than those involved in less serious offenses. For instance, a victim of a personal crime such as rape or robbery would be expected to judge the performance of the police by different criteria than, say, a victim of a property offense. Because victim evaluation studies may be informative of a need for changes in policy and
practice, it is important that data be collected specific to victimization categories. Finally, research in this area is not extensive and, perhaps for that reason, has produced a number of inconsistent and incomplete findings. For instance, the age, race, and gender of victims, specific activities of officers, and the feedback to victims have not been reliably related to satisfaction levels (Poister and McDavid, 1978; Percy, 1980; Shapland, 1983). The purpose of the present study was to replicate and extend previous victim evaluation studies. In particular, the study examined the effects of different types of crimes on evaluations of the police investigative response and victim satisfaction. The investigative response included the investigating officer’s degree of professionalism, the amount of investigative effort shown at the scene, feedback provided to the victim, and the police response time to the victim’s call. Concerning response time, it is important to recognize that accurate estimates of actual response time (Schneider, 1978) are problematic, and expectations of response time have been found to be more important in determining citizen satisfaction (Kansas City Police Department, 1977; Pate et al., 1976). Hence, expectation of response time, as opposed to actual response time, was examined. Finally, because findings of previous studies on the relationship between demographic characteristics of victims and satisfaction with police performance have been conflicting, this relationship was reexamined here.
METHOD The data for this study were obtained questionnaires self-administered through mailed to crime victims whose names were drawn from official complainant records of a medium-sized police department in central Wisconsin. This department consisted of eighty-four sworn officers and served a population of 50,889 (98 percent white). During the study period, the crime rate for all per-
sonal offenses (aggravated battery, nonaggravated battery, rape, other sexual assault. and robbery) was 42 1 per 100,000 population; for all property offenses (burglary, larceny theft, and motor vehicle theft) the crime rate was 5,988 per 100,000. The complaint records in the department were filed according to the nature of the criminal offense reported and were in chronological order. An initial search of the records was made in order to select only cases which involved: 1) aggravated battery, burglary, larceny theft (excluding retail theft“shoplifting”), motor vehicle theft, nonaggravated battery, rape, other sexual assault, or robbery; 2) a victim who was at least 18 years of age at the time of the offense (this protected the confidentiality of juveniles); and 3) a crime that occurred between June 1986 and June 1987. The cases meeting these criteria were stratified into three groups on the basis of the seriousness of the crime indicated in the complaint. The first category consisted of crimes; these were aggravated “personal” battery, nonaggravated battery. rape, other sexual assault, and robbery. There were 142 such cases in the files, and, since that was a relatively small number, all were included in the sample. The second category consisted of “serious property” crimes-burglary and auto theft. From the possible 532 cases which met the criteria for inclusion, a systematic sample was drawn by selecting every second case for the sample; this resulted in 266 cases. The third category consisted of “minor property” crimes--larceny theft. The selection of every fifth case frorn the 1,385 cases produced a sample of 277 cases. Hence, the sampling procedure resulted in the selection of a total of 685 persons who reported a criminal victimization during the period of interest. Each of these 685 persons was mailed a questionnaire prepared for the study. The tirst mailing included an introductory letter from the project director and the Chief of Police of the department involved, a questionnaire, and a self-addressed, postage-paid return envelope. Second and third mailings were made in those instances in which a response was
not received within a specified time period. The mailings were spaced about three weeks apart, the first occurring six weeks after the cutoff date for the inclusion of crimes in the sample. In all mailings police department letterhead and envelopes were used. To facilitate follow-up mailings, each questionnaire had an identification number, which was clearly apparent to respondents. In all, the mailings yielded 436 usable questionnaires, a response rate of 64 percent. In the “personal” crime sample, 79 of the 142 questionnaires were returned, a response rate of 56 percent. In the “serious property” crime sample, 165 of the 266 questionnaires were returned, producing a response rate of 62 percent. Finally, of the questionnaires sent to the 277 “minor property” crime victims, I92 (69 percent) were returned. The questionnaire used in this study. developed after a review of pertinent research, was initially pretested on a sample of police officers and crime victims. Based on the comments of that group, changes and modifications were made, and the resulting questionnaire was again pretested with a second sample and then drafted into final form. In general, the questionnaire sought information from crime victims on their perceptions of police officer activities and their degree of satisfaction with the manner in which their cases were investigated. To measure the major dependent variable, overall satisfaction, victims were asked: “Overall, how satisfied were you with how the police officer(s) handled the incident? The responses were restricted to: “very satisfied,” “satisfied,” “unand “very dissatiscertain, ” “dissatisfied,” fied.” For analytic purposes, the response categories were dichotomized into “satisfied” (satisfied and very satisfied) and “not satisdissatisfied, and very fied” (uncertain, dissatisfied). The independent variables pertaining to victim characteristics examined here were those identified in previous research as being related to satisfaction with police performance; these were: age (young, 24 years or less; older, 25 or more), race (white; nonwhite), gender, educational attainment (high
school or less; some college or more), total family income (low, less than $14,999; middle, $1.5,000-24,999; high, $25,00Oormore), and type of victim (individual or business). Because there were very few victims who were nonwhite (9/436) and very few businesses that were victimized in the sample (58/436), those variables were excluded from the analyses. Victims indicated in the questionnaires their perceptions of the “police investigative response,” including items about the police officer’s professional behavior (e.g., courteous, concerned, and so forth) and investigative effort (e.g., search crime scene, examine evidence, etc.), their perceptions of the police response time (slower, same, or faster than expected), whether there was a recontact for further questioning (yes/no), and whether there was a recontact about the status of the investigation (yes/no). Because the concepts of “professionalism” effort” are somewhat and “investigative complex and difficult to capture in single items, they were measured through combining responses to several related items. For instance, the variable Professionalism was created by summing the number of affirmative responses to four items related to officers’ behavior. The items were: Were the police understanding? conofficers courteous? cerned? competent? Three or more affirmative answers were scored as “high;” fewer than Efthree, “low. ” The variable Investigative fort was scored as high if affirmative answers were given to at least three of the following four items: Did the police officer(s) search the crime scene’? examine evidence? attempt to locate or question witnesses‘? make out a report’? If not, the amount of effort was scored as low. Bivariate and multivariate analyses were used in this study. Bivariate statistical analyses were carried out by using chi-square tests of independence to determine if there was a statistical relationship between the variables of interest. The gamma (G) coefficient was used to estimate the degree of relationship between variables. Multivariate analyses were conducted through the use of a multipleregression procedure. In all analyses, the .05
level was used as the criterion significance.
of Police Investigative
presented in tabular form, ysis of victim characteristics Police Investigative
and further analis not reported.)
RESULTS Because the primary interest in this study was the effect of crime seriousness (crime type) on the assessment and evaluation of police investigative performance, relationships between the independent and dependent variables were examined separately for each of the crime categories. The bivariate analyses are presented first, followed by the multivariate analyses. Victim Satisfaction Before presenting relationships between variables, it is of interest to consider victims’ overall satisfaction with police performance. It was found that 61 percent (48/79) of the “personal” crime victims expressed satisfaction with how the police handled the incident. This compares to 67 percent (111/165) for the “serious property” victims and 74 percent ( 142/ 192) for the “minor property” victims. Although these results show that the more serious the crime, the less likely the victim was to be satisfied, the relationship was not significant [X’ (2) = 4.9, y = .08]. Victim Demographic
Analyses of the relationships between victim characteristics and satisfaction showed that, with one exception, none of the demographic variables was significantly related to satisfaction levels within a crime type. The only exception to this general finding was that in the “serious property” crime category 71 percent of the older victims expressed satisfaction with the police response whereas only 46 percent of the younger victims did so [X’ (1) = 5.8, p = .Ol; G = ,481. Hence, in general there was no relationship between the education, gender, or income of the victim and satisfaction with the police. The age of the victim was related to satisfaction levels, but only for victims of “serious property” crimes. (For this reason, these results are not
Table 1 shows the relationships between victim satisfaction with police performance and the various measures of the police investigative response for all victims of personal crimes. Corresponding data for victims of serious property crimes are shown in Table 2 and for victims of minor property crimes in Table 3. In Table 1 it can be seen that the victim’s expectation of the response time was strongly associated with satisfaction with the police; if the police response time was faster than expected, the victim was more likely to be satisfied [X’ = 13.6 (2)~ = .OOl; G = .88]. A similar finding is evident in the data pertinent to victims of serious property offenses [Table 2; X” (2) = 24.7, p = ,000; G = ,761 but not in the data for victims of minor property crimes [Table 3; X’ (2) = 4.6; p = .lO]. As displayed in Table 1, only 18 percent of the victims of personal crimes who stated that the police officer(s) showed “low” professionalism were satisfied. However, 84 percent of victims who stated that the police officers were highly professional expressed satisfaction with the police performance. This relationship was quite strong [X’ (1) = 32.8, p = ,000; G = .92] for personal crime victims and, as shown in Tables 2 and 3, for victims of serious property crimes (X’ (1) = 73.2, p = .OOO; G = ,951 and minor property crimes ]X’ (1) = 42.8, p = ,000; G = ,821. Thus, for all three crime types there was a strong and dependable relationship between the degree of professionalism perceived to have been exhibited by the investigating police officer and victim satisfaction; the more professional (courteous, understanding, concerned, and competent the officer was seen to be), the greater the likelihood of victim satisfaction. For victims of personal crimes, the amount of investigative effort spent by the police was not related to victim satisfaction [X’ (1) = 2.5, p = ,111. This finding is shown in Table 1. In contrast, there was a moderately strong
TABLE 1 RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN VICTIM SATISFACTION AND POLICE INVESTIGATIVE RESWNSE ITEMS FOR THE VICTIMS OF PERSONAL CRIMES
Police Response Expectation of response time Slower Same Faster Professionalism Low High Investigative effort Low High Recontacted for questions No Yes Recontacted with status of investigation No Yes *p <
% Not Satisfied
9 32 12
78 37 00
22 63 100
relationship between the amount of investigative effort and victim satisfaction for victims of both categories of property offenses. For the serious property crime victims, 85 percent of those who reported “high” effort were satisfied, whereas 55 percent reporting “low” effort were not satisfied [X2 (1) = 28.1, p = .OOO; G = .74]. These data are shown in Table 2. In Table 3, it can be seen that among victims of minor property offenses, 31 percent of those who perceived “low” investigative effort were not satisfied, whereas 87 percent of those who reported “high” effort were satisfied [X2 (1) = 6.3, p = .Ol; G = .49]. Tables 1, 2, and 3 also show the relationships between victim recontacts (for additional questions or to be told the status of the investigation) and victim satisfaction. As shown in these tables, there was generally no statistically significant relationship between these variables, irrespective of the crime type. The only exception to this was in the serious property crime category, in which greater satisfaction (83 percent) was expressed by
those who were told the status of the investigation than by those who were not (61 percent). This association, although statistically significant, was of only moderate strength [X2 (1) = 5.7, p = .02; G = ,511. To determine whether the perception of police response actually differed among the crime types irrespective of victim satisfaction, an index of “Professionalism” was created by scoring each respondent’s answers to the “professionalism” items. This was done by counting the number of ‘yes” answers each respondent gave to the four items. If there were no “yes” answers, a score of 1 was assigned; for each “yes” answer, the score was increased by 1. Thus, each respondent received a score ranging between 1 (no “yes” answers) and 5 (four “yes” answers). In a similar way, the respondents’ perceptions of the amount of investigative effort were scored from 1 to 5. To determine if the Professionalism and Investigative Effort indices were intercorrelated (i.e., assessed the same dimension of police behavior), Pearson’s r was calculated between the scores for the two
of Police Investigative
TABLE 2 RELATIONSHIPSBETWEEN VICTIM SATISFACTIONAND POLICE INVESIKATIVE RESPONSE I-EMS FOK‘I‘HEVICTIMS OF SERIWS PROPERTY CRIMES
x’ C(g) Expectation of response time Slower Same Faster Professionalism Low High Investigative effort Low High Recontacted for questions No Yes Recontacted with status of investigation No Yes “p
@/o Not Sutisjied
.76 20 99 28
75 31 7
25 69 93
TABLE 3 RELATIONSHIPSBETWEEN VICTIM SATISFACTIONAND POLICE INVESTIGATIVERESPONSEITEMS FOR THE VICTIMS OF MINOR PROPERTYCRIMES
X’ Cdf) Expectation of response time Slower Same Faster Professionalism Low High Investigative Effort Low High Recontacted for questions No Yes Recontacted with status of investigation No Yes *p < .05; **I, < .01
.37 17 96 38
29 27 10
71 73 90
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of response time were significantly related to with professionalism victim satisfaction, clearly being the more influential. For the two property crime categories, professionalism was again the most important factor in satisfaction, but, in contrast to the findings for personal crimes, for which investigative effort was not seen to be significant, a greater proportion of victim satisfaction was explained by investigative effort than by expectation of response time. In addition, only in the serious property crime category was a recontact of the victim with the status of the investigation significantly related to victim satisfaction. In short, the multivariate and bivariate analyses indicated that different aspects of the police response make different contributions to victim satisfaction within and across crime types. DISCUSSION Although the present findings supplement those previously reported, it is difficult to reconcile the disparities regarding the effect of victim demographics on satisfaction with police performance. In the present study there was generally no relationship between age, income, gender, or educational background and satisfaction. Percy (1980) found that age and gender were related to satisfaction but education and income were not. In contrast, Poister and McDavid ( 1978) reported that income was related to satisfaction but age and gender were not. Hence, it is not possible to specify precisely how or to what degree victim demographic characteristics are important determinants of satisfaction with police investigative performance. Nevertheless, all of the research, considered together, suggests that victim demographics explain less of the variation in satisfaction with police performance than does the nature of the criminal offense and the behavior and activities of police officers. Among those factors found by the present study to have an impact on victim satisfaction, certainly professionalism of officers was one of the most robust. This aspect of police performance was consistently and strongly related to victim satisfaction for each of the
three types of criminal offenses examined here. Moreover, these results show that irrespective of victim satisfaction, police professionalism (or, more precisely, victim perceptions of it) differed as a function of the type of criminal victimization. Hence, there clearly is justification for the position that the type of victimization must be considered in victim evaluation research. As it was operationalized, professionalism reflected the officer’s display of understanding, concern, courtesy, and a good grasp of what was required in performing the initial investigation. Crime victims, in short, have expectations about their treatment by the police and about the “proper conduct” of the responding police officer(s). The basis for these expectations and how they are constructed cannot be addressed with the data here. Nevertheless, the items making up the professionalism scale do not appear on their face to represent unreasonable demands. In fact, they are clearly consistent with the prescriptive behaviors noted in many of the recent research studies on police investigations. As Ericson ( 198 1) pointed out, when conducting an initial investigation, for example, an officer must not only reconstruct the incident but also must determine the legitimacy of the complaint. Police conduct in such situations can easily be interpreted by the victim as a disregard for objectivity and “professionalism.” As Wilson (1968) explained: “A genuine victim . . is irritated because the police do not instantly and fully accept his version of what happened. To him, a serious matter is being mishandled or even lightly dismissed” (25). The police must avoid seeming to be calloused (Eck, 1983). Fortunately, the literature increasingly is emphasizing the need for greater sensitivity in personal interactions between the police and the public, especially crime victims (Davis, 1987). It is for this reason that a growing number of police training programs include in their regimen increased exposure to issues of interpersonal interaction and their importance in police work. Given the data here, improved understanding of the relationship between the police and crime victims is a welcome development.
Aside from the officer’s professional demeanor, the amount of investigative effort shown is also important in satisfying victims. However, the data here show that this may be affected by victim expectations about what is appropriate behavior. That is, police effort was related to satisfaction of victims of property crimes but not of those involved in personal crimes. These differences seem likely to be a result of the fact that personal crimes typically occur between acquaintances (U.S. Department of Justice, 1988). In such incidents there is little need for, or at least a decreased victim expectation of, “investigative effort. ” The victim often knows the identity of the offender and expects the police merely to make an arrest, not to carry out an investigation to determine who committed the offense. In property crimes, however, victims “expect the police to take an intensive interest in the incident . . . and employ all the techniques that citizens have come to associate with [police] work” (Goldstein, 1977:57). In such crimes, victims believe there may be a great deal of evidence available to warrant increased investigative effort. In reality, of course, there is often little the police can do to solve many property crimes (Wilson, 1968). Perhaps this is one of the reasons why property crimes receive less attention than personal crimes (Eck, 1983; Greenwood et al., 1977). A number of studies have shown that in many of these situations there is little relationship between investigative activities and the likelihood of an arrest (Block and Bell, 1976; Conklin and Bittner, 1973; Greenwood et al., 1977; Skogan and Antunes, 1979). It could be argued, therefore, that victims’ expectations in this regard are unrealistic and require unnecessary expenditure of resources. However, victim perceptions of appropriate police behavior are not necessarily grounded in reality and may, in fact, be more strongly related to images portrayed by the popular media (Garofalo, 1981; Greene and Bynum, 1982). Viewed from this perspective, and in light of the need for improving relationships between the police and the public, police investigative effort may well be worth the cost. For better
or for worse, a prerequisite for the apprehension of offenders may be a better relationship between the police and the public. Investigative effort, then, however unfruitful it may appear to be in certain types of incidents (e.g., “cold burglaries”), is an important aspect of police work. The managerial dilemma in criminal investigations is to balance concerns for efficiency with victim satisfaction. Like the findings regarding investigative effort, expectation of response time was most strongly related to victim satisfaction in serious offenses. Victims of serious crimes suffer emotional traumas, regardless of whether or not the incident actually involves a “life or death” matter. As a result of the emotionally charged circumstances, victims of serious offenses may expect immediate police attention. While a rapid police response may not improve the rate of criminal apprehensions (Spelman and Brown, 1984; Kansas City Police Department, 1977), these findings suggest that it is, nevertheless, an important element of police operations, at least with respect to the public-relations aspect of police service, and it ought not to be ignored. Indeed, it is fortunate that, although it is not yet commonplace, dispatchers in some police agencies, as a matter of policy, provide crime victims with an estimate of the time before police will arrive on the scene (Percy, 1980). As shown in the Kansas City Police Department study, “public relations could further be enhanced by ensuring that officers always arrive before expected” (1977:28). It is of some interest to note that police contact with the victim after the initial inwhether to seek further inforvestigation, mation or to inform the victim of the status of the case, generally was not related to victim satisfaction. This is consistent with other research, which has shown that not only is reinterviewing nonproductive in gaining additional information (Eck, 1983), but, more importantly, it disrupts the victim’s life and does not improve victims’ perceptions of the police response. In the present study, in fact, the only recontact which was related to victim satisfaction was advising the victim of the status of the investigation, and this only helped in the serious property crime category. It might
well be that in these cases, victims believe that, for example, the case is sufficiently serious to warrant continual police effort to identify the offender (from fingerprints, physical evidence, and so forth). Moreover, there may be an expectation of the recovery and return of stolen property, which, from the victim’s perspective, is sufficiently valuable to maintain interest. In less serious property offenses, the value of goods is minimal and of less concern to the victim. Similarly, in personal crimes, the offender is often known, and, therefore, a recontact by the police is of little consequence to the victim. From the victim’s perspective it may be a conviction. not the status of an investigation, that is significant. Thus, unless from the point of view of the victim there is some legitimacy in additional contacts by the police. crime victims have little regard for such police efforts. It must be emphasized that although the present findings clearly show that crime victim evaluation research should not fail to consider the type of crime. nevertheless the present study involved relatively small sample sizes. The samples were insufficient to permit an exploration of several important issues. For instance, victim demographic characteristics. particularly racial identification. which consistently has been shown to be important in the studies of diffuse support, might well play a role in victim evaluation studies. It is not unreasonable to suppose that the race of the victim. as well as other demographic characteristics, might have a direct effect on or may interact with other variables to influence victim perceptions of police investigative performance. Given that minorities generally are victimized more often and more seriously than nonminorities. analysis of this factor in relation to victim satisfaction would be useful. In addition, whether or not the victim is aware of the outcome of the investigation (i.e.. was the crime solved). is a variable which may influence victim satisfaction. Since further exploration of these issues was not possible in the present study, future research should take this into account. Second, an inherent limitation of the survey method is the possibility of nonresponse bias. Although the 64-percent response rate
in this study is certainly acceptable and was comparable to those of other recent studies (Babbie, 1990) and it was higher than those obtained with similar populations (Norton, 1983), the extent of nonresponse bias is unknown and remains problematic. It is also of interest to note here that none of the previous “victim evaluation” studies reported a response rate. Finally, it may be beneficial to observe the interactions between crime victims and police officers and investigators. The features of those interactions that may form the basis for victim evaluations are important to identify. Since some of these salient features may not be discerned in interviews or questionnaires, observational approaches might provide a more complete understanding of these interactions, which, in turn, would permit improvements in the nature of the police response to victims.
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