Staying Out of Sight? Concentrated Policing and Local Political Action


Amy E. Lerman and Vesla Weaver

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Amy E. Lerman and Vesla Weaver (2014). Staying out of Sight? Concentrated Policing and Local Political Action, The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 651(1): 202-219. doi: 10.1177/0002716213503085
In some urban neighborhoods, encounters with police have become one of the primary points of contact between disadvantaged citizens and their government. Yet extant scholarship has only just begun to explore how criminal justice interventions help to shape the political lives of the urban poor. In this article, we ask: What are the consequences of the increased use of stop-and-frisks (Terry stops) in disadvantaged neighborhoods for communities’ engagement with the state? Relying on a novel measure of local citizen engagement (311 calls for service) and more than one million police stops, we find that it is not concentrated police surveillance per se that matters but, rather, the character of police contact. The concentration of police stops overall is associated with higher levels of community engagement, while at the same time, a high degree of stops that feature searches or the use of force, especially when they do not result in an arrest, have a chilling effect on neighborhood-level outreach to local government. Our article marks a first step toward understanding what concentrated policing means for the democratic life and political agency of American communities.
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