Our proposed intervention attempts to address the challenge of building trust and co- operation between police and citizens in Medellín, Colombia, a metropolitan area of more than 3.7 million people, and a place with long history of violence, pressing threats to citizen security, and improving—but still fragile—police-community relations. Lack of trust in the police and the consequent lack of communication between citizens and officers is a clear problem in Medellín; in a recent citywide survey, 48% of residents said that they trust the police “only a little” or “not at all.” And though aspects of community policing have been in place since 2010, less than half of Medellín citizens are familiar with the program.
Intervention Date: July 2018 – June 2019
We propose to use a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the effect of two treatments—police-community dialogues, and provision of information related to citizen security—on citizen attitudes toward the police, police perceptions of citizens, and rates of reporting of crimes and of suspicious activity. Each of approximately 400 neighborhoods will be randomly assigned to one of four groups: control (no intervention), police-community dialogues only, information provision only, or both dialogues and information provision. In addition to administrative data on crime reporting, we will use surveys to understand whether and how the dialogues and the provision of information affect community attitudes and police perceptions.
We expect that both contact with police officers (through police-community dialogues) and facts about crime rates and police activity (through information provision) will change citizens’ beliefs about—and behavior toward—the police and the state.