Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Criminology and Criminal Justice

First Advisor

Kochel, Tammy


Research on public perceptions of the police has identified various individual characteristics that have been found to influence police legitimacy. These individual characteristics often reflect demographic factors such as race/ethnicity, age and socioeconomic status. In addition to demographic factors, process-based factors such as procedural justice and fairness have also been found to influence individual perceptions of legitimacy. What has not been fully established within the literature on public perceptions of police is the extent to which neighborhood characteristics and context shape neighborhood assessments of police legitimacy. This thesis seeks to fill in the gap on public perceptions of police by examining whether expressive concerns and accumulated experiences with police at the neighborhood-level influence legitimacy judgments across high-crime areas. Using baseline survey data collected for the St. Louis County Hot Spots in Residential Areas (SCHIRA) project between March and May of 2012, residents in St. Louis County, Missouri are aggregated to 71 crime hot spots. Findings suggest that neighborhood-level expressive concerns and accumulated experiences do not influence legitimacy judgments across the high-crime areas. However, low neighborhood cohesion predicts the percentage of residents in the area having a recent negative experience with police. Implications for future research and police practice are discussed.




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