New Research Suggests Perceived Familiarity with Officers Reduces Crime

New Research Suggests Perceived Familiarity with Officers Reduces Crime


Coffee-with-a-cop, fitness challenges, and ride-alongs are some of the efforts made to bring law enforcement and citizens together in community-oriented policing. This increasingly common practice has been studied at length in the past four decades and is a central component of 21st Century Policing. While community policing isn’t new, emerging insights may change the way agencies approach it.

New research from the RAND Corporation suggests that familiarity, even perceived, reduces crime. In the study recently published in Nature Magazine, researchers Elicia John and Shawn Bushway showed that providing personal information about community police officers through a direct mail campaign lowered crime rates. This, they suggest, might be a result of something called ‘information symmetry,’ which improved the behavior of citizens who felt a personal connection to the officers.

Agencies looking to tap into grant money set aside for community policing may not need to send out direct-mail campaigns to accomplish familiarity. As a matter of fact, many agencies using MILO simulators to train their community police officers are already doing it.

Chief Larry Klaus was a pioneer in Lansing PD in the early 90s and recently shared with us a little about his experience as part of a small cadre of police officers on what was considered then to be a “new concept” called community policing.

“The initiative was developed under the direction of Michigan State University, Dr. Robert Trojanowicz and the LPD command staff.  Officers were assigned to a ten-block neighborhood beat. The officers interacted with their assigned communities on a daily basis.  The results of the experiment resulted in both the officers and community developing mutual respect and trust in each other.  It further provided an opportunity for both officers and community members to be humanized. In many neighborhoods, the officers and community members developed lifelong friendships. I was one of those officers, and my experience also resulted into developing some lifelong friendships. It also evolved into developing compassion for many of the people who lived in the community.” 

Larry’s leadership in Community Policing continues with his campus work at Central Michigan University, where he trains his officers on a 180-degree MILO Theater. Bringing his community members into the MILO room to train together helps further establish that trust and leads to an increased level of familiarity. 

To learn more about how to use your MILO for community policing efforts, or to engage with other members of your community in positive ways, click here for a copy of our free toolkit. Already making efforts and curious about your effectiveness? Consider an evaluation tool like Central™ to help determine the level of mutual trust that’s established with your MILO training efforts.