Introduction: Communities and the Enforcement of Lower Level Offenses

The intensive enforcement of lower level offenses and the concomitant increase in contact between law enforcement and community members has received significant public scrutiny in recent years. High‐profile incidents, such as the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, have highlighted the sometimes grave consequences of these policing practices. Additionally, while declining, the scale of this enforcement is massive. An approximate 13 million misdemeanor cases are processed each year (Natapoff, 2018)—and this does not account for the vast array of other lower level enforcement mechanisms such as citations, summonses, and stops (traffic and pedestrian). A small but growing body of literature has emerged to document the scale of lower level enforcement (Chauhan & Travis, 2018) and its impact on community safety (Piza, 2018), the use of fines and fees (Martin, 2018), issues around court representation and case processing (Harvey, Rosenfeld, & Tomascak, 2018; Ostrom, Hanson, & Kleiman, 2018; Worden, Morgan, Shteynberg, & Davies, 2018), and the adjudication of justice more broadly (Kohler‐Hausmann, 2018; Natapoff, 2018). This special issue builds upon this literature by examining the correlates of community characteristics and lower level enforcement as well as the way in which enforcement impacts individuals and communities, ultimately examining the reciprocal interplay of policing practices and community well‐being.

The papers in this special issue fall into three broad categories of inquiry: (a) How do community characteristics relate to police enforcement of lower level offenses? (b) How does enforcement relate to community perceptions of police legitimacy, legal cynicism, and procedural justice? (c) How can resources in the community modify the use of the criminal justice system?