Understanding the Relationship Between Perception and Reality Related to Public Safety: A Case Study of Public Opinion on Local Law Enforcement in Andover, MA
(1) Doherty Middle School, Andover, Massachusetts
Living in a small town with low crime rates and relatively high education levels usually gives the perception of a safe and comfortable community. In many, but not in all ways, that perception reflects reality. The following study tries to understand the connection between the perception, as defined by the collected public opinion, and the reality, as defined by the crime data reported by the US census and FBI data. The public opinion on property crime, violent crime, drug related crime, general feeling of safety, and on assessment of local law enforcement was collected from the Massachusetts community of Andover. The study tested the hypothesis that the opinion of the participants reflects the crime data and that citizens of Andover feel safe and are confident that local law enforcement works well. According to the results of the survey, people in Andover indeed have a positive view of the police department. The majority believe that the crime rates to be relatively low and, in general, most participants feel safe in the town. The findings also indicate that there are a few areas where public opinion does not match the FBI data, with the issues of property crime and drug usage possibly being of concern.