Neighborhood context, police legitimacy and willingness to help the police in Shanghai, China

Siyu Liu (School of Public Affairs, Penn State Harrisburg, Middletown, Pennsylvania, USA)
Yuning Wu (Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, USA)
Ivan Sun (Department of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware, Newark, Delaware, USA)
Feng Li (Department of Sociology, East China University of Political Science and Law, Shanghai, China)

Policing: An International Journal

ISSN: 1363-951X

Publication date: 23 October 2020



Following social disorganization theory and the process-based model of policing, the present study aims to examine how characteristics of communities are meaningful in shaping citizens' willingness to work with the police in urban China.


Based on survey data from Shanghai, China, the study adopts a generalized hierarchical linear modeling (GHLM) approach to examine the effects of both individual- and neighborhood-level predictors on the outcome, while taking into consideration the unobserved additional neighborhood-level variations.


Results suggest potential need of the process-based model to be modified in a Chinese context in that while police presence matters, measures on legitimacy are nonsignificant in shaping willingness to help the police, after controlling for neighborhood characteristics. More importantly, collective efficacy at the neighborhood level is related positively to residents' willingness to work with the police. Constant attention should be paid to the promotion of a collaborative and collectively caring environment, which can contribute to better coordination with the police, and greater willingness to be part of the larger cause of public safety.


The paper advances the scholarship with multi-level modeling and the role of communities in building stronger relationship with the police.



Liu, S., Wu, Y., Sun, I. and Li, F. (2020), "Neighborhood context, police legitimacy and willingness to help the police in Shanghai, China", Policing: An International Journal, Vol. 43 No. 6, pp. 947-962.

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