WASHINGTON – A majority of Americans living in struggling communities say they have respect for and confidence in the police who patrol their neighborhoods, according to a survey released Sunday.
More than 7 in 10 Americans who live in these communities said they have some or a lot of confidence in the police who patrol their neighborhoods, according to the State of Opportunity in America survey. The numbers go up even higher when asked about respect for the police: 86 percent of people in struggling neighborhoods said they had some or a lot of respect for their local police.
The survey looks at the relationship between police and "fragile" communities, described as locations with high proportions of people struggling in their daily lives who also have limited opportunities for social mobility.
Those same neighborhoods used to be called disadvantaged and at-risk, noted Gerard Robinson, executive director of the Center for Advancing Opportunity. The term "fragile" is a better descriptor, Robinson said.
"You're not so much talking about a person or a people, but a situation," Robinson said.
The survey, conducted from May to August 2017, was mailed to 28,000 people in both urban and rural areas of the United States to get 6,000 completed surveys.
There were racial and ethnic differences on the police question for residents of these struggling communities.
Almost 2 in 5 of black residents of fragile neighborhoods — 39 percent — said they had little to no confidence in police, which is higher than the 26 percent of Hispanic residents and 21 percent of white residents. The same differences can be seen for respect for the police, where 19 percent of blacks said they had little or no respect for the police, compared with 11 percent of whites and 9 percent of Hispanics.
Despite the respect and confidence for police, vast majorities of residents of struggling communities say they would rather see money spent on social and economic problems that lead to crime rather than spending more money on law enforcement. The survey found 84 percent of those asked said they want more money spent on better education and job training rather than on improving law enforcement by increasing the number of prisons, police and judges.
This is despite crime continuing to be a problem in these neighborhoods. Just about half the people in the survey conducted by Gallup, the Center for Advancing Opportunity and the Charles Koch Foundation — 51 percent — say they see crime increasing in their neighborhoods. By comparison, only 40 percent of Americans nationwide said there was more crime in America in October 2017 than there was the year before.
About six out of 10 people in fragile neighborhoods say they would like to relocate if they had the opportunity, and crime was the most commonly cited reason.
"One of the great things about this report is that it broadens the narrative of what people in fragile communities think about the police," Robinson said.