Policing community problems: Exploring the role of formal social control in shaping collective efficacy

Elise Sargeant, Rebecca Wickes, Lorraine Mazerolle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


Research finds police-led crime control interventions focusing on places and involving partnerships tend to yield positive crime control outcomes. Some scholars argue that these positive outcomes are achieved when police use place-based, partnership-oriented interventions to facilitate and encourage collective efficacy (CE), the corollary being that these CE-enhancing efforts lead to less crime. Nevertheless, differentiating the police activities that impact CE across different types of communities is not well understood. This paper examines the role of police in shaping CE in two contrasting communities. Using in-depth interviews with residents and key informants we find that police are most likely to enhance CE when they foster a sense of effectiveness, use inclusive and partnership-oriented strategies and when they implement strategies in a manner that encourages perceptions of police legitimacy. Moreover, if police can maintain or cultivate a sense of empowerment among community residents, they are more likely to foster CE. Yet the role of police in enhancing CE is different in different community types. We discuss the implications of these findings for policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-87
Number of pages18
JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • collective efficacy
  • formal control
  • informal social control
  • police effectiveness
  • police legitimacy
  • police strategies

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