Improving Citizen Contact with Police Through Information Technology

Researcher: Nico Ravanilla (GPS)
Student Researchers: Dotan Haim, Matthew Nanes
Location: Philippines

Sorgoson Province police hotline posterExisting research suggests that increases in communication between the community and the police lead to improved police service provision and higher levels of public safety. The police cannot be everywhere at all times, so they depend on members of the community to provide them with information about suspicious activities, tips regarding potential suspects, and reports of crimes that have occurred. Direct, face-to-face police-community engagement (CEP) paired with problem-oriented policing to address community needs can help bridge the gap between citizens and state police forces. However, the effects of increased engagement by officers are likely to be short lived if citizens are not empowered to provide regular, low-cost feedback to the police. How can community oriented policing be implemented in a way that sustains regular, meaningful contact between officers and citizens?

Researchers are evaluating the effectiveness of direct officer-citizen engagement through the One Sorsogon project in Sorsogon Province, the Philippines. As part of this project implemented by the Philippine National Police (PNP), officers speak directly with at least ten citizens per day to relay information about ongoing crime-reduction efforts and gather information from citizens about the most pressing problems in their community. The experimental rollout of this intervention, paired with extensive surveys, allow us to evaluate the effect of this direct engagement program on the development of citizen trust, reporting rates, and crime.

In addition to the overall effects of the One Sorsogon community engagement project, researchers are also evaluating ways in which the program can be implemented to achieve more sustainable results. Even if citizens have a positive experience with officers during the program, the effects are unlikely to last if citizens do not feel empowered to provide regular feedback about issues in their community. To address this challenge, researchers are conducting an intervention that increases access to the PNP’s SMS hotline through an awareness campaign.

Results

Preliminary results indicate that citizens in villages where the CEP program was implemented were more likely to report improved perception of the PNP. In addition, we detect a significant increase in citizen perception that the government is effective and fair at providing necessary services.