Examining the Community Consequences of Arrests for Low‐Level Criminal Activity

This study was designed to examine the effects of arrests for low‐level criminal activity on key features of police–community relations and the capacity of the neighborhood to regulate behavior of residents. Multilevel mixed‐effects modeling was used with residents (N = 826) living in police beats (N = 51) in Chicago to test the hypotheses that higher arrest rates were associated with less police legitimacy, less willingness to work with the police and less neighborhood informal social control. The results indicated that more aggressive enforcement was associated with less capacity for informal social control. The findings also suggested that higher arrest rates were directly related to more legitimacy and indirectly related to less legitimacy through residents’ negative experiences with police. For residents affected by crime and disorder but not burdened by aggressive enforcement, the use of arrests to reduce incivilities may be viewed positively and related to stronger beliefs about legitimacy. In contrast, trust and confidence in police may be reduced for those residents who experience the costs associated with low‐level arrests. Regardless of the short‐term effects, if aggressive low‐level policing undermines the effectiveness of social control systems in the neighborhood, communities will be less safe in the long term.