Community Survey Best Practices

Summary & Limitations

This request was made with the focus on using victim surveys as a tool to improve community policing and responsiveness at the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO). CCSO was interested in using surveys to gauge victims’ experiences throughout the investigative process from initial response to case closure. Additionally, CCSO was interested in the effect of community surveys on staff morale.

There are a number of articles and guidebooks available to agencies regarding the design and implementation of community surveys. These resources are listed below, includign a few summaries. Any articles that are publicly available are hyperlinked in the citation.

For the purposes of this request, the Crime Victimization Survey (CVS) and the Community Survey conducted in Bend, Oregon are probably the most useful examples of examining community perceptions of how police are doing at their job. Emailing the primary investigators for Bend and Parkrose surveys conducted here in Oregon would be highly recommended.


Articles & Reports

Sinclair, Martha, et al. “Comparison of response rates and cost-effectiveness for a community-based survey: postal, internet and telephone modes with generic or personalised recruitment approaches.” BMC medical research methodology 12.1 (2012): 132.

This article offers a good summary of the cost effectiveness of various survey methods. Postal was the most cost effective and telephone was the least cost effective. However, the telephone survey garnered the highest percentage of responses. The authors do note that a multi-modal approach may be more effective (e.g. a postal contact with a link to an internet survey). Also, there is evidence that a follow-up with non-responders using a different mode increases response rate (e.g. initial postal contact with a follow-up phone call). One item of note for any mode to increase the response rate and the diversity of responses is to have the ability to allow access to questionnaires in alternative languages.

Weisel, Deborah Lamm. Conducting community surveys: A practical guide for law enforcement agencies. US department of Justice, 1999.

This guide takes practitioners through the steps of conducting a local-level crime victimization survey. Specifically, this guide cites the use of a local-level version of the National Crime Victimization Survey. This will offer an example of questions for crime victims. While this is a specific survey conducted via telephone, the general advice of this guide is useful to the police practitioner.

Yim, Youngyol, and Bryan D. Schafer. “Police and their perceived image: How community influence officers’ job satisfaction.” Police Practice and Research: An International Journal 10.1 (2009): 17.29.

This article demonstrates that the lower the officer perceives community satisfaction to be, the lower their job satisfaction is. However, it should be noted that time on the job significantly impacts these two variables. The longer on the job, the lower the perception of community policing. For the purposes of this report, it seems that while the results of the community survey may have an effect on staff morale, there are a number of factors at play beyond the results of a survey.