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Back to Archives | Back to November 2013 Contents 

Situational Policing in Rural Areas

By Joseph C. Corkrean, MS, Chief of Police, Granville, West Virginia; James Nolan, PhD, Associate Professor Sociology and Anthropology, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia; and Amber Wilburn, Public Administration Graduate Student, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia


The Town of Granville, which is located in Monongalia County, West Virginia, has approximately 1,700 residents and a large business area. As of May 2013, the Granville Police Department consists of eleven full-time sworn officers and two part-time sworn officers. In April of 2013, Chief Craig Corkrean of the Granville Police Department in Granville, West Virginia, in conjunction with Dr. James Nolan of West Virginia University, wanted to examine neighborhood safety in Granville. They created a mostly quantitative survey that was mailed to households in all residential areas of Granville. The residents were given one month to complete and submit the surveys. They mailed 332 total surveys, received 132 total completed surveys, and 47 were returned to sender. The overall goal of this survey was to confirm and identify neighborhood types based on Dr. Nolan’s Situational Policing Theory. The survey questions were based on situational policing theories about different neighborhood dynamics. According to Nolan, the three stages of neighborhood development are dependence, conflict, and interdependence. Dependence occurs when residents rely on the police to solve problems of public order. Conflict occurs when residents are in conflict with the police because they perceive them as being ineffective in maintaining public order. Interdependence occurs when residents rely on each other to ensure enforcement of community values, norms, and laws. These terms helped to identify the relationship the residents have with the police and help to predict the behavior of residents within these neighborhoods. These survey results helped to reinforce the theory of situational policing.1

In Granville, there are four police zones separated by physical barriers and neighborhood differences. Figure 1 is an illustration of these police zones. These zones were designated based on Chief Corkrean’s experience as a patrol officer. Zone 1, a residential section, was perceived to be a dependence neighborhood where the residents depend on the police by using formal responses (calling 9-1-1) and generally do not intervene in an informal manner. Zone 2, a residential section, was perceived to be an interdependence neighborhood because the residents look out for one another and take care of neighborhood problems and issues informally (confront the individual). Zone 3, which mostly consists of West Virginia University student housing, was perceived to be a conflict neighborhood because of the negative relationship the department has with the residents. Zone 4, a business section, was not included in this research.

A specific section of questions designed to confirm whether the perceived neighborhood types in the respective zones were correct was included in the survey.

The questions and data analysis are as follows:

If a group of neighborhood children were skipping school and hanging out in a public place, how do you think your neighbors would respond?

  1. Confront the children alone
  2. Confront them with neighbor(s)
  3. Call parents or guardians
  4. Call neighbors (organize meeting)
  5. Call authorities (police, school, mayor)
  6. Nothing, they would not intervene.
  7. Other: ____________________________

According to the data in Table 1, interdependence neighborhoods are nearly two times more likely to respond informally (along or with neighbors) than do nothing. Dependence neighborhoods are nearly two times more likely to respond formally. Finally, although not statically significant, conflict neighborhoods are equally likely to do nothing as to call the police or respond informally.

Table 1: Skipping School Parameter Estimates
95% Confidence
Interval for
Exp(B)
 Skip
School*
BStd.
Error
Wald df Sig. Exp(B)Lower
Bound
Upper
Bound
Informal
response
Intercept-1.207.29916.3391.000   
Interdependence.619.3044.1381.0421.8571.0233.371
Conflict.233.280.6911.4061.262.7292.185
Dependence.071.281.0631.8021.073.6181.863
Formal
response
Intercept-1.371.32318.0661.000   
Interdependence.360.3091.3631.2431.434.7832.626
Conflict-.282.307.8411.359.755.4131.377
Dependence.666.3054.7811.0291.9461.0713.535
* The reference category is “Do nothing.”


If one of your neighbors was heard talking about killing himself/herself, what do you think your neighbors would do?

  1. Confront person(s) alone
  2. Confront person(s) with neighbor(s)
  3. Call parents or guardians
  4. Call neighbors (organize meeting)
  5. Call authorities (police, school, mayor)
  6. Nothing, they would not intervene.
  7. Other: ____________________________

According to the data in Table 2, interdependence neighborhoods are almost three times more likely to respond informally and formally than to do nothing in a serious situation such as suicide. Although not statistically significant, conflict neighborhoods are more likely do to nothing than respond at all, informally or formally.

Table 2: Suicide Parameter Estimates
95% Confidence
Interval for
Exp(B)
 Suicide*BStd.
Error
Wald df Sig. Exp(B)Lower
Bound
Upper
Bound
Informal
response
Intercept1.678.47712.3551.000
Interdependence1.336.5565.7681.0163.8041.27911.317
Conflict-.354.368.9231.337.702.3411.444
Dependence.157.347.2061.6501.171.5932.312
Formal
response
Intercept1.533.48310.0911.001
Interdependence1.288.5615.2781.0223.6241.20810.874
Conflict-.236.375.3961.529.790.3791.646
Dependence.638.3573.1991.0741.892.9413.806
* The reference category is “Do nothing.”


If one of your neighbors is being beaten or threatened by a current or ex-spouse, how do you think your neighbors would respond?

  1. Confront person(s) alone
  2. Confront person(s) with neighbor(s)
  3. Call victim’s relatives for assistance
  4. Call neighbors (organize meeting)
  5. Call authorities (police, school, mayor)
  6. Nothing, they would not intervene.
  7. Other: ____________________________

According to the data in Table 3, although not statically significant, interdependence neighborhoods are two times more likely to have an informal response than to do nothing to domestic violence. Dependence neighborhoods are more likely to call the police than do nothing and are less likely to have an informal response than to do nothing.

Table 3: Spousal Violence Parameter Estimates
95% Confidence
Interval for
Exp(B)
 Spousal
Violence*
BStd.
Error
Wald df Sig. Exp(B)Lower
Bound
Upper
Bound
Informal
response
Intercept.272.740.1351.713
Interdependence.867.6901.5801.2092.381.6169.206
Conflict-.142.572.0621.803.867.2832.660
Dependence-.519.568.8351.361.595.1951.813
Formal
response
Intercept2.825.56125.3641.000
Interdependence-.043.602.0051.944.958.2943.121
Conflict-.642.4901.7191.190.526.2021.374
Dependence.476.4651.0471.3061.610.6474.008
* The reference category is “Do nothing.”


If a child was showing disrespect to an adult, how likely is it that people in your neighborhood would scold that child?

  1. Confront the children alone
  2. Confront them with neighbor(s)
  3. Call parents or guardians
  4. Call neighbors (organize meeting)
  5. Call authorities (police, school, mayor)
  6. Nothing, they would not intervene.
  7. Other: ____________________________

According to the data in Table 4, although not statistically significant, dependence neighborhoods are more likely to call the police than do nothing when a child is disrespectful; and conflict neighborhoods, although not statistically significant, would be less likely to do nothing than have an informal or formal response.

Table 4: Disrespectful Child Parameter Estimates
95% Confidence
Interval for
Exp(B)
 Disrespectful
Child*
BStd.
Error
Wald df Sig. Exp(B)Lower
Bound
Upper
Bound
Informal
response
Intercept-.566.2415.5071.019
Interdependence.014.253.0031.9551.014.6171.667
Conflict-.252.2381.1211.290.777.4881.239
Dependence.375.2432.3821.1231.455.9042.344
Formal
response
Intercept-2.527.56719.8821.000
Interdependence.024.490.0021.9611.024.3922.673
Conflict-.199.475.1761.675.819.3232.080
Dependence.826.4772.9951.0842.283.8965.817
* The reference category is “Do nothing.”


If there was a fight in front of your house and someone was being beaten or threatened, how would your neighbors likely respond?

  1. Confront them alone
  2. Confront them with neighbor(s)
  3. Call relatives
  4. Call neighbors (organize meeting)
  5. Call authorities (police, school, mayor)
  6. Nothing, they would not intervene.
  7. Other: ____________________________

According to the data in Table 5, although not statistically significant, interdependence neighborhoods are two times more likely to have informal or formal response to fighting than to do nothing. The conflict neighborhoods are more likely to do nothing than have any type of response, while the dependence neighborhoods are more than twice as likely to have an informal response and three times as likely to have a formal response.

Table 5: Fight Parameter Estimates
95% Confidence
Interval for
Exp(B)
 Fight*BStd.
Error
Wald df Sig. Exp(B)Lower
Bound
Upper
Bound
Informal
response
Intercept1.7021.1112.3461.126
Interdependence.972.8661.2601.2622.643.48414.424
Conflict-.691.722.9161.338.501.1222.063
Dependence.162.606.0721.7891.176.3583.860
Formal
response
Intercept3.9671.03514.6831.000
Interdependence.716.834.7371.3902.047.39910.499
Conflict-1.282.6883.4751.062.277.0721.068
Dependence1.169.5913.9141.0483.2181.01110.243
* The reference category is “Do nothing.”

The survey data were then correlated with the participants’ response to what zone in which they resided. The zone neighborhood types, which were categorized by Chief Corkrean’s experience prior to this research, were confirmed by the data: Zone 1–Dependence, Zone 2–Interdependence, and Zone 3–Conflict. Once this confirmation was made, crime statistics were analyzed and correlated to the survey data.

The following charts display the number of incidents in Zones 1, 2, and 3 from May 1, 2012 to May 1, 2013. More crimes were reported in Zone 1 than Zones 2 and 3 combined. Zone 1’s high amount of crime further suggests Zone 1 is a dependence neighborhood because it frequently has formal responses to incidents. The crime statistics also support the data from the surveys, which defined Zone 1 as more likely to make formal responses than to do nothing when an incident occurs.

Zone 2 was perceived to be an interdependence neighborhood. (See Figure 3.) The low number of incidents in Zone 2 suggests that neighbors works together using informal methods to help prevent crime and keep their neighborhood safe. Zone 2 in comparison to Zones 1 and 3 has very few patrols, which means the neighborhood is not as dependent on the police as the other neighborhoods. These crime statistics support the data from the survey because residents use formal responses in serious situations and informal responses in less serious situations.

Zone 3 was perceived to be a conflict neighborhood. (See Figure 4.) Many incidents occurred in Zone 3, which is mostly comprised of college-aged students. A majority of the incidents in Zone 3 are self-initiated by the police on patrol, which means that the officers are not being dispatched by 9-1-1. According to the survey data, residents of Zone 3 are more likely to do nothing than make a formal or informal response in most situations, which is what the crime data suggest. This is representative of a negative relationship between the residents of Zone 3 and the police department.

As a result of this data analysis, it is clear that the goal of the police should be to develop and maintain a positive working relationship with the community in order to establish interdependence neighborhoods, as seen in Zone 2. As a result of this research, Chief Corkrean is assigning two officers to each zone to further the transition to interdependence in every zone. Community activities such as meetings and recreational activities can provide the platform for positive and constructive dialogue between the police and community.

Zone 1, a dependence neighborhood, must evolve into an interdependence neighborhood by not relying so heavily on formal responses and starting to rely on informal responses to less serious incidents. Neighborhood meetings that establish a dialogue among residents is the first step in transitioning to interdependence. Once these residents develop and maintain a relationship with one another, they too will start policing the neighborhood, thus relying less on formal responses from the police themselves.

Zone 3, a conflict neighborhood, will be a challenge to transition to interdependence, but it is not impossible. Because Zone 3 consists mostly of a transient population (college students), there must be constant efforts to positively interact with the residents in order to achieve interdependence. ♦

Note:
1James Nolan, Ronald Althouse, Rachel E. Stein, and Susie Bennet, Situational Policing Neighborhood Survey (SPNS) (West Virginia University, 2007).

Please cite as:

Joseph C. Corkrean, James Nolan, and Amber Wilburn, “Situational Policing in Rural Areas,” The Police Chief 80 (November 2013): 36–38.

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From The Police Chief, vol. LXXX, no. 11, November 2013. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.








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