Public policing in Northern Ireland has gone through a process of reform and governance change in reaction to the peace process and the requirement to shift from a police force, largely engaged in conflict-centred policing, to a policing service dedicated to civil policing and normalisation. During the past decade, Northern Ireland has witnessed a significant decline in recorded sectarian crime. This decline in ethnic conflict has been accompanied by a growth in support for the police, especially within the Catholic community. However, information pertaining to support for public policing is determined at national level and we know little about how residents of sites of previously high levels of political and sectarian conflict feel about policing reform and delivery. In this paper we show that the perception of sectarian crime is much greater than recorded sectarian crime. Moreover, the perception of sectarian crime is a significant predictor of negative attitudes regarding police performance. The paper offers a unique quantitative insight into perceptions of sectarian crime and posits a predicament that is not discussed or debated with regard to the delivery of community policing. The evidence presented offers a benchmark upon which such a debate could occur. We argue that knowledge of sectarian hate crime should not be centred at the national level, but at the more discrete scale of neighbourhood. Perceptions, whether linked to reality, signal or prejudice, can at times destabilise the peace-building process, yet are rarely attended to or discussed. Knowing the difference between recorded and perceived crime as either sectarian exaggeration or actuality would aid localised police-community interaction. Here we provide a statistical basis to stimulate such enquiry.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Political Science and International Relations