How Safe do patrolling Police Officers Make You Feel?


Have you noticed an increased number of police in your area recently? How does this make you feel? Nervous? Safe? Unsafe?

The reason for this change is to reassure the public of police presence, and deter criminal activity. However, this has not always been the case in some people. Evelien van de Veer and colleagues looked into the negative effects that increased police on patrol can have on the general public. After interviewing over 200 Amsterdam residents in a shopping centre about how they currently felt, they found that in male participants the presences of more police officers at the time of questioning came hand in hand with feeling less safe.

A second experiment involved student looking at a street scene, and rating how safe it seemed. Surprisingly enough, an alleyway covered in graffiti was deemed to be far safer when there was a police officer present. However, interestingly a residential area with the presence of a police officer was rated as less safe.

Two explanations were proposed for this;

1.) The presence of the police officer could act as a warning signal to possible danger in the area.

2.) The sight of a police officer causes a trigger of mental associations that are linked to policemen – many of them negative, such as crime and violence.

But why were only men found to show this preference in the first study? Men are more often the victim of violent crimes, state the researchers, so they are more often the cause of police being called to the scene. However, this needs further exploration, as the description is vague.

But it has been concluded that an increase in number of police patrollers on the streets may not have the desired affect.


Written by: Philippa Berry

Information taken from:

Posted on: 19 February 2013

Photograph Source: